Sunday, August 13, 2006

Making right an obligation

Making right an obligation

SANJAY PULIPAKA

Given an appropriate space, every student has a distinct possibility
of becoming a `meritorious student'


IN THE recent past, the Centre's decision to implement reservation for
Other Backward Castes (OBCs) in various institutes of `excellence'
prompted many to reflect on the necessity of having reservation to
address the problems associated with caste discrimination. Some
scholars have pointed out that reservation has become the only
paradigm of social justice in India. And they have argued that such
one-dimensional approach to social justice might in the long run
hamper the cause of social justice.
However, the question we need to ask is how come one-dimensional
approach dominates the discourse on social justice in India? Is the
political class solely responsible for this? If the politicians are
able to determine and define the discourse on social justice for their
partisan political ends, it is precisely because the space was vacated
by other segments of society. The failure in implementing multiple
approaches to ensure social equality was largely a consequence of
indifference displayed by the privileged towards the prevailing
inequalities and discrimination in society. Let me illustrate this
with an example.

Support centre

Currently, I am studying at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding,
Eastern Mennonite University, in the U.S. Many students with diverse
backgrounds come to the university to pursue their degrees. Given
their diverse backgrounds there is disparity in the communication
skills of the students. Instead of indulging in deprecatory statements
about the alleged low standards of in-coming students, the university
runs an academic support centre where the students are provided with
various services such as proof-reading and editing of their
term-papers.
Students visiting the academic support centre tend to build healthy
relationships with the professionals providing such services, and over
a span of time their communication skills tend to register a
remarkable improvement. All the students have access to employment
counsellors who help them in drafting their resumes apart from
providing employment counselling.
Persistent efforts are made to make the classroom space democratic.
The faculty and the students sit in a circle in the classroom to
negate the notion of hierarchy. Acknowledging the fact that there are
multiple levels of intelligence, students are given the option to
submit their assignments by using various methods such as role-plays
and other audio-visual mediums. All these measures are based on the
premise that given an appropriate space every student has a distinct
possibility of becoming a `meritorious student.'
This prompts me to raise a few important questions. How many
universities in India can claim that they are running academic support
centres that foster `excellence' among all students? How many
universities have made sincere efforts to make their classroom space
more democratic? Does all this require constitutional amendments by
Parliament? Can't a group of professionals committed to "fostering
merit" ensure that such changes are ushered in?
Language improvement sessions, employment counselling, and diverse
evaluation procedures might appear mundane for some. But such small
measures go a long way in building camaraderie among the members of
the campus community. And more importantly such an approach recognises
that merit is a consequence of interplay of social factors and has
many forms.

Greater malaise

The absence of such mechanisms in many Indian universities is
symptomatic of a greater malaise afflicting Indian society — a
persistent reluctance to think innovatively to address the problems
associated with social inequality and discrimination. There is very
little desire to foster merit in our institutions. The word `merit' is
thrown around flippantly only when there is a move to ensure
legitimate representation of disadvantaged sections.
I am not singing paeans of an American university. Rather, I am only
pointing out that there are various ways by which social equality can
be ensured and if there is yearning in society, even we can come up
with our own approaches/mechanisms for ensuring social equality. In
this context it is pertinent to note that many international
educational foundations in India, supported by big businesses from
outside, are making conscious efforts to ensure that the socially
disadvantaged are adequately represented in the fellowships they are
offering.
The anti-reservationists apart from their "nay-saying" do not have a
clearly defined agenda for a positive social change. Given the apathy
towards social inequality and discrimination, giving up reservation
would be the last thing to do. We should move away from this
"nay-saying" and explore the various measures that we need to take,
along with reservation, for ushering in social equality at a rapid
pace.

(The writer is a Fulbright Fellow in Conflict Transformation
Programme, Eastern Mennonite University. He can be reached at
pulipaka.sanjay@...)

7 Comments:

At 10:14 PM, Blogger Polite Indian said...

The anti-reservationists apart from their "nay-saying" do not have a
clearly defined agenda for a positive social change. Given the apathy
towards social inequality and discrimination, giving up reservation
would be the last thing to do. We should move away from this
"nay-saying" and explore the various measures that we need to take,
along with reservation, for ushering in social equality at a rapid
pace.


This is very true. The "nay-saying" do not have an alternate solution or even an approach.
But is it necessary that such solution come from the "nay sayers"? What about the "Yay sayers"? Do they really think that reservation is the right solution? Or even one of the right solutions?

I am of the view that there is very little sense of social responsibility amongst the UCs. Even India Inc. doesn't shoulder their social responsibilities but the biggest problem is that the politicians not only are not socially responsible but sometimes even harmful to the society.

In my view the solution is to implement what Ambedkar wanted i.e. "Annihilation of the castes". In my view that is the only way to achieve the social justice. If you remove the basis on which the injustices have been done i.e. caste, then it might get a lot easier to get rid of the social evil.
Assuming that the caste get abolished by the consitution today, it might take just a couple of generations to be freed from this evil caste system.

I may be too naive in my thinking but as of now I think that is the only thing that can provide the much needed social justice. A mass movement to annhilate caste

 
At 12:05 AM, Blogger mineguruji said...

well said polite Indian, where were you earlier. welcome and long live the revolution.

 
At 2:12 AM, Blogger general caste said...

long live revolution...haha
yea, right. ur shit is not proving anything. reservations for poor=fair, reservations for well off OBCs(like u)=shit. goddit? i am NOT saying that we dont need reservations, but now it is just ctossing the friggin line! think! im pretty sure u r well off, u dun need a quota, but my brahmin friend who is not so well to do peobably does, but he doesnt get it. let it be based on economic status!!!not on ur caste. caste system is shit, it treats most people badly, why revive it in reverse...dun think u guys r takin revenge...its just shit!

 
At 9:15 PM, Blogger obc voice said...

'Given the apathy
towards social inequality and discrimination, giving up reservation
would be the last thing to do.'

apathy? i'd call it active opposition..look at the doctors from AIIMS and elsewhere trying their old nautanki again on the streets of delhi..

 
At 8:47 PM, Blogger mineguruji said...

Hey guys congrats that the bill has been introduced in the parliament, despite the upper caste congress.

 
At 11:22 AM, Blogger SikhsRus said...

Well, this is an interesting blog! I loved your article post on Casteism in non-Hindu religions. If I may, I would like say that let us not get so caste obsessed, there are a lot of good Hindus, Sikhs and others out there that don't care what caste someone belongs to. It is a cancer of India, and will probably never go away. When I go to our local Gurdwaras here, I start picking up trash and let everybody stare at me. I know how stupid and ignorant they look who question what I am doing.

 
At 7:37 AM, Blogger obc voice said...

sikhsrus,

'I start picking up trash and let everybody stare at me..'

noble idea..maybe that's what everyone needs to do.

 

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