India has long had a series of reservations and quotas for varied classes. Dalits – formerly the untouchables – have long had privileges in access to university and government jobs for example. Over time, as such political systems do, the list of those classes privileged has grown.
Obviously enough, as such political systems do work, a major cause of unrest has been further classes, castes and groupings demanding that they be added to the list of groups that receive such privileges. And given electoral cycles that list has grown. The cynic will not be surprised to find that the surest method of a group being added to the list is to be the swing vote in a hotly contested election. We’re not talking about purity of motive here.
Of course, such a system eats away at the nation – we get into that communal division of the spoils rather than the lovely capitalist and free market game of increasing the spoils to be argued over. Which leaves us with a certain problem, leaves India with a certain problem.
Quite obviously the abolition of the entire system would be best for all concerned. Well, other than the politicians with their now diminishing ability to buy votes. But it’s not going to be the easiest of tasks to abolish said system. So, how to do it?
India has long affirmative-action-like programs for members of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes (yes, that is the official name). The programs typically reserve a certain number of political seats, government jobs, and educational placements for members of historically disadvantaged and discriminated against groups, hence the the term reservations. Over time, the number of reservations has been increased and the category expanded to more and more groups. In fact, under a new reservation program just announced, virtually everyone will be covered by one reservation or another!
If everyone’s covered by a reservation, if all are so privileged, then sure, we’ve an inefficient system still but we have also effectively abolished the value of having a reservation, a privilege. Thus the solution, the end game. So devalue the privilege as to make it effectively not exist by extending it to everyone.
Hey, may not be emotionally or morally satisfying but it does work – and that is how India will, in the fullness of time, abolish the reservations system. The political cost of doing so overtly is too high so it’ll happen as with inflation driving the paise out of circulation, by devaluing it.