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Caste Blind

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It was never the intention that reservations of any kind be a permanent feature of the Constitution; in fact these have been in place much longer than originally envisaged. However, nobody would deny that affirmative action is a must and a primary objective of any government. There is, at the same time, a strong section of opinion that believes it can be done in better ways and for a larger number of the Dalits. For instance, China has raised a far larger number of its people above the poverty line without favouring one or the other section. It did not feel the need to identify the ‘especially’ poor on any lines, as it was providing education, food and medical facilities for all. In fact, reservations have actually led to considerable complacency among the establishment that the ‘needful’ has been done, but this approach has amounted to little more than tokenism. There is absolutely no doubt that a very narrow section of the Scheduled Castes has benefited, and as the ‘creamy layer’ determination remains ridiculously high, this is getting even narrower. It is not a secret that certain castes and tribes have benefited disproportionately from the reservation policy, which has led to the demand for reservations within reservations. Actually, it can also be stated that the allegation of ‘continued discrimination’ has become the staple of those who have developed a vested interest in continuation of reservations, as well as the inclusion of ‘Christian’ and ‘Muslim’ Dalits among the beneficiaries. Who would admit that discrimination is going down – even if it were – if it would mean giving up a permanent slice of the cake on a non-competitive basis? As such, ‘inclusion’ in the final analysis should mean eventually dropping the caste identity. It is not that an alternative does not exist. It has also not depended on government largesse, nor has it benefited particularly from its policies. It has been done by the Dalits, themselves, with demonstrable success – the path of entrepreneurship. After all, to be truly integrated, why should the Dalits aspire for merely government jobs and salaries? Why should they not be among the burgeoning number of millionaires and billionaires? And, to begin with, have the confidence to be self-employed, competing with others on an equal footing, particularly in sectors where they already have the edge because their castes have been related to those occupations. Entrepreneurship is not necessarily learned in schools and colleges – it is, fortunately, one of the inherent characteristics of a human being, such as an aptitude for music or painting. All it needs is a conducive atmosphere and, in the Indian context, the bringing down of certain barriers. The government would do well to concentrate on these aspects more in the coming years. This would be in line with the general need for India’s burgeoning number of job-seekers to become self-reliant through their own start-ups by riding the tide of demand for services and industry in the days to come. Ideally, government jobs should be low on the priorities of the youth, as has already become the case with the talented and better-off sections. For instance, a presentable member of the human species can earn considerably more in a career of five to ten years as a model than even the most highly paid government servant (bribes excluded). An increasing number of occupations of this sort are ‘caste-blind’ and give rise to the hope the day will come when one’s caste will become very irrelevant to what one does in life.