October 20, 2005

Stop Pretending

The Telegraph, 20.10.05

It is hard to believe the levels Indian politics can sink to. Are we now expected to think that the solution to all caste-related problems is abolishing surnames (“Slash surname to kill caste”, Oct 15)? The National Commission for Scheduled Castes seems to have lost all sense of direction. There are ample laws and policies for backward castes enshrined in our Constitution and guaranteed by our courts. The commission should be lobbying with the government to implement these laws in far-flung rural areas and to make them more effective, rather than come up with ridiculous ideas. Will social hierarchies automatically vanish if a low-caste person suddenly drops his surname? Discriminations will continue, and the only way to resolve them is through institutional reform and the introduction of market-friendly policies that would ensure that only the best are hired by employers, irrespective of their caste status. For reservations contribute to the social exclusion of low-caste people, who are seen to make it through the backdoor. More fundamentally, the emancipation of one cannot lie in the deprivation of another.

What is frustrating is that the Congress has reportedly accepted the proposal “on principle”. Even the Bharatiya Janata Party has not been as emphatic in its rejection. Indians would make themselves the laughing stock of the world if they flaunt this kind of social egalitarianism.

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