On Reservation(s)

On Reservation(s)
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Affirmative Action(AA), a policy prong of which are reservations in domains as employment, education and so on, has not proven to be a bane, wherever these have been employed and instrumentalized. Often times, the policy of reservations, is taken recourse to as a political tool for populist reasons. But, let us take affirmative action on its face value and tease out whether it is an effective policy measure that actually helps, by either leveling the playing field or assisting the underprivileged, to succeed. The best way to illustrate the nature of Affirmative Action(AA) is perhaps by way of an example. In the United States, this policy was aimed to both elevate and redeem the conditions of African Americans who, as both as a class and “race”, have been historically underprivileged and thereby hard done by. Has or did AA actually redeem African Americans? And, did it make them at par with the white superstructure of the United States? The answer is a clear No. AA, in the United States, has marginally helped African Americans and has not lived up to its promise. The reasons, which can be applicable elsewhere, are manifold. The major ones are institutional, historical and cultural. AA places additional pressures on the institutional resources of a given society. Historically, the peoples or the section of society, AA is addressed to and at, might or might not be prepared structurally to take advantage of AA. This reasons blends and melds into culture. Given these broad reasons, AA might not be as beneficial and salubrious as it is made out to be. There is also the factor that the beneficiaries of AA become a class in itself. That is, a vested interest who can, at times, abuse the privilege granted to them. This is not to demean and discredit AA but to put it into perspective. If then AA is not the answer to level the playing and create opportunity for all, what is? The answer lies in creating conditions of or for equality of opportunity for all. This laudable objective is not impossible. It has been tried and tested in many European countries and has been a resounding success. Broken down, it means creating and developing equal access to education at all levels and also enhancing the educational infrastructure of society. There is an input and output dimension to all this. That is, if the quality of inputs (soft and hard infrastructure of education) is dramatically enhanced, the output will be superior , and effective. It is on these variables that the focus should be on instead of AA for one or a few underprivileged sections. Society, as a whole, will be better off.

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