Small talk on affirmative action.

Exercise of power has a sole purpose - to create exclusive right over resources. Like it or not - people will monopolise resources to the best of their abilities.

This explains the failure of communism. It expects people to share resources for common good. Even in a ‘post revolutionary’ society, this doesn’t happen. We saw this in USSR and China. Communism is agnostic to the ways of power. It stands on these shaky grounds - extrapolating human goodness to include everyone. This is not the case, unfortunately.

It is this power theory that made Caste System entrenched in Indian soil. State patronage to snob castes (Why would I categorise them ‘upper’, when they are the snob ones?) existed all through history. An exclusive monopoly over resources and violence was the norm.

Democracy alone cannot eradicate inequality. All members of snob castes aren’t Casteist anymore. But they pass on their property, social standing and other privileges to their heirs. This may be a legitimate process, but it helps in perpetuating inequality. Equity will elude us in this setting.

This lead to a common consensus during our freedom struggle. Well learned and scholastic men and women sat together and discussed this issue. They settled on affirmative action through a state sponsored redistribution mechanism. So they enshrined these ideals in our constitution. Then they made it unfeasible to amend this constitution in a partisan manner.

Even if someone pushes through these amendments, it has to withstand judicial scrutiny. Learned and exalted judges of higher judiciary test them for fairness and reasonableness. If they don’t pass principles of natural justice and constitutionality, they are invalid. Interested peeps can look up Indra Sawhney case, 1992.

I appreciate the enthusiasm of anti-caste crusaders who happen to decry affirmative action. But unfortunately, they are fighting against the cure than the reason.

I can see that nobody wouldn’t comment about String theory or Quantum Mechanics without knowing what it is. Caste system is an incredibly complex domain, subject to rigorous research. Over the last one fifty years or so, we have discovered a lot about its operation. Taking a stand without going through needed rigour invites derision.

Perpetuation of caste depends upon the existence of inequity and inequality. If you doubt constitutional interventions, you may test it against developmental metrics. We have achieved a lot with respect to IMR/MMR/Literacy rates/Life expectancy etc amongst our SC/ST population. Compare these against advances in general population and the trend would be clear.

Also, diversity in any organisational structure is necessary for its long-term survival. Our distinguished constitution alone doesn’t guarantee survival of the republic. We need robust mechanisms to share power across all social sections. Even when these divisions like caste and religion are undesirable, we can’t wish them away. Social transformation towards a unified national identity is a slow process.

We have to start by sharing power with everyone. This will lead to fair distribution of resources. This will weaken cartelization of business and administration along parochial identities. This is necessary to bring down primordial identities in the long run. You can’t simply ‘abolish’ identities by a dictum.

Affirmative action is based on sound theory and practice across the globe. Of course, they aren’t perfect solutions. We have miles to go in ensuring that the most deserving people are served first. We have to fix some inefficiencies in service delivery and the like. We need periodic reviews to fine tune the process. Unfortunately, all these nuances are lost in the melee around affirmative action.

P.S : An outstanding crop of learned men and women came together to draft our constitution many years ago. They discussed, debated and ransacked libraries across the globe in the process. Almost entire knowledge available to humanity was put to use by them. Then, we tweaked the process through more than seventy years in praxis. If you can come up with a better method to abolish caste, then you are indeed someone/something! The nation deserves to know your master plan. I prod you in all my earnestness to publish it for common good. Cheers!

Written on April 23, 2018