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CASTE AND RESERVATION
By Mohan Shenoy
        The Gowda Saraswath Brahmin (GSB) community supported providing discriminatory reservation when it was introduced by the government of India, to those belonging to SC, ST, and OBC categories in the fields of education, jobs, and many other spheres of life.But now after more than five decades of such positive action by the Government of India, the GSB people have become weary of this reservation policy.

        Although it is true that the GSB people enjoyed many benefits because of their caste in the past, the GSB community is no more placed at an advantage because of their caste at present.  GSB caste is not a Schedule Caste nor a Schedule tribe. It is not even an OBC i.e. Other Backward Caste. It is included in the general category which means the people belonging to this caste do not need the benefits of reservations. Often the people belonging to general category are 'Forward people'.Although GSBs are included in the general category there are many members in this community that are economically backward.

        The reservation policy pertains only to the economic backwardness and not to the racial backwardness. The race and the caste are inter-related if one goes deep in the history of evolution of different castes in India. The important castes in India were Brahmin, Kshathriya, Yaishya and Shoodra.

        The Kings who were from the Aryan race and many of the soldiers were included in the Kshathriya caste. The merchants and the land-owners who belonged to Aryan-like races were included in the Yaishya caste. Brahmin caste people also were from the Aryan-like races but the families belonging to the Brahmin caste were poor in terms of material assets but rich in knowledge. Shoodra is not a caste at present. Those belonging to the erstwhile Shoodra caste are now recognised by names which are included in the Schedule caste and Schedule tribe lists.

        The reservation policy was initiated in India after Independence and not before. After Independence in 1947, the Indian Parliament passed resolutions and made amendments to the Constitution passing Acts to facilitate reservations for backward people in education and in jobs.

        The government of India identified the names given to groups of people based on their occupation as the castes. These names were recognised as caste names. Most of the people who belonged to non-Brahmin and non-Kshathriya castes are in the list of Schedule castes (SC). Those groups who had avocations like live-stock breeding, forest produce business, black-smithy, washer man, oil-man, pot-making, hauler, cleaner, copper-brass utensils making, gun and gun-powder manufacture, and sundry labour usually belonged to the Schedule tribe (ST) list.

        Those non-Brahmin and non-Kshathriya castes who are not listed in the SC or ST lists are now proposed to be listed in the Other Backward Castes. The reservation policy of the government brought in a significant economic upward movement in the lives of SC, ST and OBC people. There was reservation introduced in the election of legislators for the central governing body known as the parliament and in the state governing body know as the state assembly.
        Later it was introduced in the lower governing bodies such as those of district, town, and village. This reservation policy resulted in the power of governance pass on to those people who belonged to SC, ST and OBC categories since they formed the majority among the population of India.

        Therefore the Brahmin and Kshathriya caste people retained their higher status only in name. Very few Brahmins or Kshathriyas were able to get the top posts in the central or state governments.

        Thus the Brahmin caste people had to compete with SC, ST and OBC people for seats in educational institutions, for jobs in government and for election as office bearers in local governing bodies. They commonly lost because of the reservation policy and not due to lack of merit.

        Although the SC, ST and OBC have risen to higher levels, and do not appear to need affirmative action, the reservation policy has not been discontinued. The policy-making is on democratic methods and therefore the SC, ST and OBC majority in policy-making bodies such as the parliament and state assemblies voted for continuing the reservation policy decade after decade. There is no chance that the reservation policy will be ended in future, even after a century, it seems, i.e., even in the year 2100.

        Now it is common knowledge that the Brahmins and Kshathriyas are not all 'forward people'. Only a name of the caste does not signify if there are any weaker members within the community.  There are many weaker members in the GSB community and if a survey is taken it will be realized that there are more weaker members in the GSB community now than there are in the SC, ST or OBC communities.

        Only a survey using the same parameters of living standards for all people regardless of their caste can reveal the truth.  The members in our GSB community now need support in the manner that SC, ST, and OBC communities are given.We take pride in being called a forward community and do not wish to seek reservation on the basis of our caste.

        But we do not want to be discriminated because of our caste, and not be counted for admission in educational institutions or for providing jobs, in spite of being eligible and being economically and educationally backward. The present generation of SC, ST and OBC communities have sufficiently advanced ahead of GSB people to compete with in seeking seats in educational institutions and in jobs, etc., owing to the reservation the former communities are granted. For example a SC student will get the seat if she or he has obtained 75% marks while a GSB student who has obtained 90% marks will be denied a seat because of reservation.

        Therefore instead of increasing quotas for those people who were formerly backward and weak, the reservation policy should be gradually tapered off and ended within a specified period of time.As I said before, it is unlikely that the majority of the SC, ST and OBC legislators and others who want their votes to stay in power will not scrap the reservation policy for years and years to come.


(Concluded)

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