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Let me begin by first clearing one thing out. I’m not a card-carrying activist of the caste-superiority clan. My father is, but in this one respect at least, I’m not my father’s daughter. And I’m pretty damn proud of it.

So far, I’ve never generalized when it comes to any one group of people. Sure, I’ve made comments like “Why do all men have to be such arseholes?” but that’s just a manner of speaking. Since I’ve met exceptions to the rule, I don’t say that anymore. I say, “Why are most men such idiots?”

But, I digress.

The subject of this post, as you might have guessed from the poorly disguised pun in the title, is the reservation issue. The need for them being increased, in any case.

For those who came in late, a few weeks back the Hon. Arjun Singh, HRD Minister of India, decided to hike up the reserved seats for SC/ST/OBC members in medical schools, from 50% to 60%. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. For the past couple of weeks, protests, agitations, strikes and rallies are becoming a daily feature around India, with students from medicine, engineering and other faculties joining forces to make their voice heard. Both pro and anti reservations.

The media, always on the lookout for fresh kill has whipped up a virtual storm around the issue, covering everything happening everywhere, and establishing forums, polls and other ways to find out how much of the nation is annoyed by what side.

The point is – whose psychotic brain decided that it was good idea to hike the reservations? Obviously someone who donated part of it to science. Because it has to be someone who is blind to the sense of indignation that has plagued the so-called upper classes, for years. It has to be someone who hasn’t bothered to analyse the Constitution, choosing instead to follow its words blindly.

Which brings me to the Constitution of India. A document penned in 1950. A document that is full of self-contradictions – on one hand saying that every Indian enjoys a fundamental right of equal-opportunity employment, regardless of his/her religion, gender, caste or creed, and on the other hand asking the State to create reservations for minorities in terms of education and employment, thereby effectively discriminating against the other sections of society.

But the joke is on us. Because in an age where even Windows 98 (a software created less than 10 years ago) is considered outdated, we’re choosing to consider words written almost half a century ago as the best guidelines to govern a nation. Without bothering to amend or upgrade it in any way. Obviously, someone somewhere isn’t doing their job right.

Prejudiced people (my dad, for instance) might say that this someone probably belongs to the SC/ST/OBC categories. Me, I’d say that this someone probably belongs to that heinous category of small-minded people otherwise known as ‘politicians’.

And it’s not just me who’s saying it either. A poster held at a Delhi rally read ‘50% Reservations 100% Politics’. A student in a forum conducted by a major news channel asked where the politicians were in this debate – politicians who come rushing to console and convince anyone who goes on hunger strike for more than an hour. Why is it, she wondered, that these very same politicians were keeping their starched white khadi kurtas away from this particular debate, by adopting a decidedly uncomfortable perch on the fence?

Predictably enough, this query was met by a spate of political parties rushing to swear their allegiance to either side, vowing that should they come into power, this kind of madness shall never occur. These guys would probably take election mileage from their own grandmother’s funeral.

Every year, thousands of reserved medical seats around the country go vacant as nominees for these seats fail to make the grade, despite relaxed standards. Every year, thousands of meritorious students are forced to forgo their admission, because they’re not from the right caste. The irony is that eventually these upper-class students get into the colleges of their choice by furnishing fake caste-certificates. Poetic justice? Some might say so.

Possibly the same people who are in favour of hiking reservations, because their ancestors were kept away from education for centuries by Brahmins. Which, pardon me if I’m trivializing the issue, is the same as breaking off ties with relations and reveling in their misery today, because some great-great-grand-uncle of theirs was rude to yours.

They say history is recorded by victors. It’s their version of what happened. And pragmatically speaking, we may never know what did or did not happen centuries ago. What we do know is that isolating a community by reserving seats for them in an educational institution is a surefire way of discriminating them from the rest of society. If at an impressionable age, you find a seat you deserve by merit, being handed over to someone less meritorious than you, you will harbour ill-will towards that person, no matter what his background. And hatred only ripens with age.

But to come down to the core issue – hiking reservations in medical schools – my question to whoever supports this madness is this: Consider that a loved one, say your only daughter, is on her deathbed, and the only doctor available is someone who’s got into medical school not on the basis of merit, but reservation - would you trust her life in his hands without fear?
Think carefully before you answer. There’s going to be more than one life at stake.

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