Why aren’t the medical students in Tamil Nadu protesting? May 14, 2006Posted by scan man in caste, Life in India, Medicine, News, Politics, reservations.
I am distressed.
There has been an ominous silence in Tamil Nadu's usually spirited medical student community.
The Mumbai and Delhi chapters of the Indian Medical Association have called for strikes on Monday.
Why isn't there any noise in Tamil Nadu?
By all rights, Tamilians should be in the forefront of any anti-reservation protest. We have been at the receiving end the longest, and we have been hit the hardest by caste-based reservations.
The students in the northerns states are protesting the newly proposed 27% hike in the reservations in premier medical institutions for students from the Socially & Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC – more commonly known as OBC – Other Backward Classes). They claim that in addition to the existing 22.5% reservation (for Scheduled Castes / Scheduled Tribes & SEBCs) this will bring caste-based reservations in educational institutions to 49.5% of the available seats.
Here are some of the common anti-reservation arguments put forward by the protesting students (in no particular order):
- Caste-based reservations have gone on for long enough. Are 60 years of reservations not enough for uplifting the down-trodden.
- Unacceptably high percentage of reservations in the limited seats that are available in premier educational institutions.
- Build more institutions. Don't increase reservations.
- What happens to equal opportunity? Are we creating a new elite based on the backward classes?
- The death of merit.
- The real socially and educationally backward classes are not benefited.
- Caste should not be basis of reservations.
There are I am certain, an equal number of counter arguments. This is a debate that is akin to the Great American Abortion Debate, arousing fierce passions in India.
As a staunch opponent of caste-based reservations, I do not want to list the pro-reservation arguments here.
Back to my initial question. Why the silence in the student fraternity in Tamil Nadu?
Is it because they do not agree with the students in the north?
I don't think so.
Ask any student in Tamil Nadu about the current spate of anti-reservation protests and I am sure, one would get a surprised look and an answer such as this: "I don't know what those guys are protesting against. 49.5% reservation is nothing. We would welcome it."
Indeed 49.5% reservation would be welcome in Tamil Nadu.
For a state which has been chained to a repressive 69% caste-based reservation quota for all levels of higher education and employment in Government services, 49.5% would indeed be welcome.
It would be a relief.
Over the years I have come around to accepting reservations at the undergraduate level.
But to have 69% reservations at the post-graduate level, especially in medical and engineering colleges is criminal. It is nothing but vote-bank politics.
I am sure this post will generate some adverse comments from the pro-reservationists.
So here are some facts:
I belong to a caste which is officially classified an SEBC. My family was neither socially nor economically backward. I could have, but I did not take advantage of the reservation system. I got my medical undergraduate degree in a private medical college. I earned my postgraduate degree on merit through a competetive exam.
I agree with the views of the Indian communist parties that private colleges act as reservations for the rich. Isn't it time to ask the question, how many rich kids from the backward classes are abusing the reservations system instead of joining private colleges?
For the record I am not a right-wing nationalist. I strongly believe that all Indians should be treated as equals regardless of religion, caste, or region of origin.
The system of affirmative action that Gandhi, Ambedkar, Nehru et al devised for our country has been raped and abused beyond all recognition for narrow political gains by our political classes in the years since Independence. Affirmative action if it needs to be effective should begin at the primary school level with sustained effort by the government to really uplift the backward classes.
I think caste-based reservations and caste-based politics should be banned. In my opinion caste-based agitations should be equated with religious fundamentalism and should be tackled with the same kind of zero tolerance approach.
God save our country from its political class.