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One minor problem with Varun Grover’s arguments in favour of reservation.

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/reservation-vinod-kambli-dalits-varun-grover-6501257/

In the above article (really well articulated), Varun Grover picks up two main arguments that generally upper caste Hindus give against reservation. He then shows the flaw in both those arguments. I agree with ‘almost’ all that he says.

Upper caste Hindu argument against Reservation #1

Reservation enables bypassing of merit.

Any fair evaluation of ‘merit’ requires a level playing field. A Dalit kid from an underprivileged family with no access to clean water or regular electricity or healthcare, constantly living in fear of their identity being disclosed at school, or being bullied or discriminated against by their classmates and teachers could not be expected to excel in an academic system conflating merit with cramming skills.

-Varun Grover

Do reservations bypass merit? Yes, they do.

And yet Varun is right. It is absolutely okay for “less meritorious” people to go ahead in life, especially when the reason they seem to be less meritorious is not because they are any less smart / capable but because they were in a non-level game to begin with.

Upper caste Hindu argument against Reservation #2

Reservations should be given on the basis of economic status alone because otherwise “rich Dalits are taking undue advantage of the policy”.

I am an upper caste Hindu and I do believe that rich Dalits are indeed having an undue advantage over their poorer counterparts.

Reservations aim to bring something much more valuable than financial status — they bring dignity and representation.

-Varun Grover

This is a great perspective. I agree with it. Reservations are not necessarily about alleviating poverty (there are so many other schemes that exist for that purpose).

But if you go back and read his counter to the first argument (meritocracy), he himself paints the picture of a ‘poor’ Dalit – someone with ‘no access to clean water’. See the issue?

Varun gives examples of rich, successful and famous Dalits who regularly face discrimination. Yes, that’s a sad fact. So is reservation solving that problem? May be not as much. Will taking away reservation help? No, not at all (so I am totally with him when he says later in the article that just because reservations haven’t done enough in seven decades, does *not* mean there is a case for abolishing them).

But is it worth trying to modify the policy in a way that within the lower-caste populace, they are the poorer ones who get to benefit more than the richer ones? Yes I think so.

For this to happen, Dalits will probably have to split into two groups – the rich Dalits and the poorer Dalits (I have no idea if this already is the case in the Dalit community – I am guessing not so much).

As a group, they probably need to be united, be there for each other. And this also means that the poor Dalits would continue to lose out to the rich ones. Yes some good ones will pull others up – but it’s left to the ‘richer’ Dalits to decide who they can help. This is an issue.

The time for this issue to be addressed has just not come yet (and even when it comes, the Dalits need to decide how to improve the reservation policy, not the upper caste folks like me/Varun). Until then, at least what is there, should remain. And on that, well I guess Varun and I are anyway on the same page.

So, yeah that’s all. It’s funny though that a not so famous ‘Savarna’ dude who went to IIT but is in a creative field today is debating nuances of ‘reservation’ with another Savarna famous dude who went to IT-BHU and is in a creative field himself.

Keep writing Varun – the world needs your voice.

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