As we get ready for one of the most important elections since independence, the core and probably the only topic at the center seems to be Corruption. But corruption is a multi-headed hydra. You cut one head and another rises in it’s place. You cannot simply sweep it off with a broom, but need a more comprehensive clean-out policies where we need to re-examine a lot of concepts which has shaped the last 60-70 odd years. Of course, there would be differing views, but a national debate needs to start on these concepts and thought processes and it is high time for our politicians to stop petty bickering and calling each other names and tell us their views on these topics. One of the topics which I have a very strong view off is the concept of Indian equality.
During the Civics classes in my school, I have been taught that India is a secular and democratic country and that all citizens of this country are equal. I felt a lot of pride while reading it and even believed in that until the reality hit me.
When it came to studies, a reality suddenly hit me that even if I study hard and get good marks, 50% of the engineering seats were not open to me. They were reserved for the unprivileged classes of the society. Fair enough. The only part was what is this unprivileged class of society that we talk about. During my schools, I saw some people belonging to this class who had a bigger house than ours, came to school in their own cars while all we could afford was a scooter. The irony was these so called under-privileged class members required only to pass their test to get a coveted engineering seat at a top class college, while I had to ensure that I get 90% plus scores and hope that not enough number of people had the same level of scores. Today the cost of a seat for doctor for a person from one of the privileged classes is in crores in payment seats if the person does not score over 95% in the tests. Imagine that in a country where we do not have enough doctors, there is a huge number of potential doctors who cannot fulfill the need, just because some one in the government has decided that this person is a privileged person because of his birth and he cannot therefore be eligible for 50% of the seats available!! All Indians are equal!!
Anyhow once the frustrations and struggles of getting through college got over, it was becoming clear that irrespective of what our constitution says we are not equal. The next natural step came when the search for job and again we realize that the government of this country has decided that the so called majority class of this country is not eligible for 50% of seats in the government by the same convoluted logic. The result of this is that the best brains in India are left with the only option of joining private sector jobs which are based on merit rather than birth or to simply settle down in other countries which tend to respect merit. Then we have some politician come out in the open talking about the Brain Drain. The reason is obvious, there is no equal opportunity for every Indian in the jobs within India. All Indians are equal!!
Going by the logic of these reservations, I am just wondering how far are we from reservations for hospital berths? 50% of the beds in all hospitals in India will be reserved for the under-privileged sections. So what if some of the privileged section die because though they belong to the privileged section they are not financially well off!! All Indians are equal!!
When it came time for my marriage, I came to know about another version of inequality. A certain section of Indians were allowed to marry four times, while the remaining Indians could only have one marriage. So to get this straight, it is a crime for certain sections to have more than one spouse, while to the other section they can have 4 spouses. And this is done based on the religion of the person as India is secular country. Now, as far as I have read my history and the historical epics of another of India’s religion, I see no reservation in that religion for polygamy. Most kings of the Sanatana Dharama had more than one wives due to various reasons like strengthening alliances, love and a need for children. To make it truly equal, the females of these societies have also been depicted with multiple husbands, the most famous example being one of Draupadi who lived with 5 husbands. So suddenly someone decides that if you are born in a family following the Sanatana Dharma you can only marry once, but if you are born in a family that follows Islam, you can marry 4 wives. If you are female, then tough luck!! You can only have one spouse. Actor Dharmendra found this very useful when he converted to Islam to marry his second wife!! But not sure whether his beliefs really changed or whether it was just to spook a finger in the eyes of the law. All Indians are equal!!
Personally, I do not care which law we pick, either from Islam or from Manu smriti. But whichever law we pick should be applicable equally to all Indians. So if you decide that there should be a limit of 4 spouses on individuals, then it should be 4 spouses irrespective of religion, caste, creed and gender!! Or if the lawmakers decide one should be sufficient, then that should be equally applicable to all Indians.
Some years back, BJP did put forward the concept of Uniform civil code and I was a big fan of that. It was one issue which mattered to me the most. I was least worried whether we have one more temple in the country as there are already enough and visiting them all is in itself an onerous task. Having one more temple really did not matter, but the concept of Uniform Civil Code really held out a charm for me. Unfortunately, it was one of the first casualty of the coalition dharma that they adopted.
In my humble opinion, time bound reservations based on economic conditions is fair enough. Any other types of reservation is just another way of implementing one of the evils of the medieval India when people were born higher caste or lower caste based on their birth. Now we have two classes, the privileged and the under- privileged. Of course, all privileges now are with the under-privileged.
Are we ready for a debate on this topic? Would this be one of the topic that actually the “Nation needs to know”? Unfortunately, in the skewed debates we are having on corruption, the real topics that are the root causes of corruption is getting ignored!!
PS: Kindly note that the views expressed here solely mine and do no represent the views of any organization I represent or work with.