27 May 2006

A happening government

The following is from my mail to a friend who had written to me about the ongoing medical students' protest against reservation:

Reservation is probably the easiest way to gain political mileage. Each time a fresh quota is announced, there's so much protest by the people and posturing by the government that it pretty much stays in public memory. And the government, the Congress in this instance, can beat its drums in the next election saying how they championed the rights of the downtrodden.

You have touched upon the merit factor. So, I won’t repeat it. Some other issues:

Quite a lot of jobs reserved in the government either remain empty or are taken up by the creamy layer. Does the government have any way of ensuring that the creamy layer doesn’t get creamier? Second, why do these seats remain empty? Does the poorest of the person for which this reservation is made, have two meals to eat, and clean water to drink? If he/she doesn’t, why not?

Most of the rural poor today are in a much worse condition than ever before. Migrating to the city is the only hope. But it is not a solution, of course, because once in the city, theey join the ranks of the urban poor.

So, why are the rural poor so poor? My answer would be: inequities in land ownership. That is ONE big reason why India's poor are gettin poorer. No party anywhere wants to talk about land reforms. Why not? For that matter, poverty is not an issue nowadays. It's mostly infrastructure, more employment, etc. (Mind you, to avail these 'employment' benefits, you still have to come to a city. If you are a villager, you are more or less doomed.)

You might be wondering why I went from reservation to land reforms and rural poverty. Take some poorest districts in India like kalahandi in Orissa. How many people have benefitted from reservation in higher education in that district? (Indeed, I think a study should be done on the effects of reservation in India's poorest districts.) Or, to frame the question in a different way, does reservation in higher education address the problems the people are facing in Kalahandi?

Kalahandi is the rice bowl of Orissa, yet the farmers there survive on things like mango kernels. Reason: debt. Reason for debt: inequitable land distribution which will never be set right.

But land reform is not a fashionable political issue. Industrial development is. Infrastructure is. Reservation, definitely is.

Oh, do I hear some people to the left, saying 'We're different. We're the only people who've brought about land reforms.' Then how come people in their state (West Bengal, where else) too die hunger deaths? Why is it that farmers protesting land takeover by Tata Motors are considered insane by the ex-chief minister? [More about this in another post.]

Anyways, you know all of that. To cap what I've gone on and on about: reservation is just one of the ways to address poverty. But politicians would have us believe it's the only way. Now why get into messy things like improving primary education, health access, etc?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i think that u have whole hospitals of docs letting ppl die just to vent some juice blows their cover - why did they take to their profession? - theyre answering all doubts. just look at the first line of their oath:
"will follow that system or regimen which, according to my ability and judgement, I consider to be for the benfit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deletirious and mischevous." Unless ofcourse suffering is to the benefit of patients.