The full transcript of the BBC Hindi special programme Aapki Baat BBC Ke Saath with well-known social-scientist Yogendra Yadav and Dr K.K. Aggarwal president of Federation of National Capital Territory Doctor Association (FOND) on.
Nagendar Sharma : Is reservation helping the backward classes of society or is it merely dividing the society?
Dr KK Aggarwal : To discuss the very foundation and basics of reservation, I would like to take you into the history of hundreds of years and not merely the period since independence. It finds a mention in Bhagwad Gita, where Krishna told Arjun that classification of the society into four groups is according to work and not birth. Those who attained education were Brahmins, those in politics and administration were Kshatriyas, those in business Vaishnavs and those doing other types of works were Shudras. It is a similar classification in Brahmasutras. Historically also there was no question of identifying people by castes. Now, come to modern days: nobody is opposed to helping any section of the society, or providing them all kinds of assistance, including financial assistance, till class XII. But after that they should be able to compete on merit. In a country which wants rapid development, you cannot have doctors and professionals from among those people who score 40 percent marks. Give free and compulsory education to students belonging to the OBCs, but they would have to compete at some time in their lives, would you let those who have forty percent marks become pilots?
Yogendra Yadav : I am surprised and disappointed the way educated and otherwise wise people of the country have been talking on reservation. It appears as if they have limited or no knowledge about this society, this country, its history, its reality and about its figures. I feel both sides need to agree on two minimum things, and unfortunately that is not happening. First is, yes, merit is important and should be there. But merit is not merely scoring good marks in exams. In my view, merit is the gap covered by you in life since your starting point, it is where you are today from the point of your beginning.
Second is social justice, it is the fundamental basis and is enshrined in the constitution. Those who have a complaint with the Constitution, should find other ways of disagreeing with it. Reservation is one of the ways of implementing social justice - of course, it is not the only way. Better methods of social justice to replace reservation should be found, but the kind of vehement protest that has been launched against reservation by an urban, educated and well-to-do minority of the country has infact ended all scope for a healthy debate on this complex issue and this is a reason for my disappointment.
BBC listener from Shillong : I want to know from both the guests whether reservation is a solution to really removing discrimination from the country or is it adding to the divide? Why do politicians who have crossed the age of seventy be allowed to play havoc with the future of this country? Yogendraji, you are a Yadav, do you need reservation for your children?
Yogendra Yadav : I have no objection to your calling me by my caste, though the presenter has objected. You have asked about my child. My daughter does not need reservation by virtue of her birth and other virtues she has in life. Also let me tell you that as per the existing laws of the country, we are not entitled for reservation -- remember there is already a Supreme Court judgement on creamy layer.
Your question about future of the country has surprised me, because you are talking about a nation of the 21st Century without talking about justice for all. What would be the future of a country which cannot ensure social justice? Do you want a 21st century nation which has poverty, illiteracy, malnourishment and a nation which denies opportunities to all sections of the society? I fail to understand how would such a nation move forward?
Dr KK Aggarwal : Well, what I want to say is that if the latest reservation proposal for the OBCs is implemented, it would take the reservation to almost fifty percent. This means you have already kept half of the seats out of purview for the general category -- now out of the remaining seats for the general category, you say those who do not want reservation can compete in the open category, so you are allowing a luxury for some, while you are denying rights of others. If this continues, then this country would not be ever able to check the brain drain. People, especially professionals leave the country when merit is not honoured. On one hand you want a death sentence for fake medicines and everybody is careful about contaminated blood, but when it comes to the rights of those carrying out essential services you talk like this.
Nagendar Sharma : But Dr Aggarwal, the government has already assured striking medical students that general category seats would not be reduced, even if reservation for OBCs is implemented.
Dr KK Aggarwal : That is not the answer. What would happen after two years? See they are talking about fifty-fifty. The increase in number of seats is for OBCs, there is no solution when you increase seats for a particular community.
BBC listener from Florida: There is no denying the fact that social justice should be there, but why have reservation continuing for generations? Also why are we averse to the economic criterion? Actually isn’t the present set-up leading to social injustice towards those who really need it ?
Yogendra Yadav : I broadly agree with your question, but would just like to add that along with economic status, you should also consider caste. Poverty is an injustice, and caste adds to it. I agree that creamy layer should not be there - but it would be justified if the protests against this came from those among the Dalits and OBCs who were getting adversely affected due to this. When others point this out, it smacks of ulterior considerations. We can point out the flaws in reservation, but to say that the entire mechanism should be scrapped - that is totally unjustified.
Dr KK Aggarwal : Here I would like to say something on the economic criterion. What is happening in the country is that rich people have also created a reservation for themselves by the way of capitation fees colleges
Yogendra Yadav : I would like to interrupt you because I would like to know from you why have those who are holding anti-reservation banners not spoken anything against capitation fees? Can you tell me how many protests have you done in past years against this donation menace?
Dr KK Aggarwal : I am saying on behalf of my organisation and doctors community that we are opposed to capitation fees. We are saying that those who need assistance should be given all that is possible, but whether rich or poor, none can be, and should not be, allowed to kill merit. We want poor students to come to medical colleges and become good doctors, but on merit.
BBC listener from Patiala : Yogendraji, I agree with you that social justice should be there, but why should people get the benefit of reservation in job promotions also, since they already availed it for taking admissions?
Yogendra Yadav: I am aware that there are issues and concerns about reservations in promotions. But we would have to look at all the facts. It appears that reserved category candidates move upwards very fast in departmental promotions, and many times higher than the people of general category. The real reason for this is that so many seats of reserved category are vacant in so many departments. For example, out of a total number of seven hundred professors in Delhi University, there are a mere four dalit professors! Till the time seats of reserved categories remain vacant, a handful of those belonging to reserved categories would move fast upwards. It is time that the nation decided such seats should be filled. I think that is the solution!
Nagendar Sharma : But Mr Yogendra Yadav, it has been seen in professional colleges that students belonging to reserved categories remain totally silent and in many colleges even their hostels are separate. So isn’t their identity creating trouble for them and doesn't it seem as if reservation, instead of helping them, is proving counterproductive for them?
Yogendra Yadav : It is a very sad fact, but due to this I would not conclude that it is a loss for them. What happens is that when a dalit comes to urban areas, he/she face discrimination at every step. I am not saying this discrimination is about a glass of water, but it is the blunt verbal discrimination, it is the discrimination of calling them SCs. It is the discrimination of not talking to them and not being friendly with them. A lot has been written about it, but I fail to understand as to why the well-to-do upper caste section insensitive on this issue. It is a harsh life for those who belong to reserved categories, but due to this harshness, I am not in favour of withdrawing the little benefit they get.
Dr KK Aggarwal : Here I would like to point to the other side of the picture. For example, take a medical class of 100 students, here some are who have come after securing 90 percent marks and there are others who have come with 40 percent marks. Now those 90 percenters are happy with what is being taught in the class, whereas those with lower marks certainly say the lectures are not proper as they are not able to follow what is being taught. Even if they were to become doctors, what kind of doctors would they be?
Nagendar Sharma : But Dr Aggarwal, why is the entire merit discussion confined only to reserved category candidates? Even if they seek admission on a separate list, during five years of medical studies, they pass the same exam as others do.
Dr KK Aggarwal : Well, this argument is given by a lot of people. But see those who get in through donation seats and NRI quotas, thrive on their money power in later stages of life also. They pass exams through corrupt practices and those who come through reserved seats pass the exams on sympathy grounds.
Yogendra Yadav : I find a major contradiction in what Dr Aggarwal is saying. Who are those professors who are passing candidates through corrupt practices and on sympathetic considerations? They are professors who are a creation of the great merit criterion which has been decided by a handful of forward caste urban Indians. If they are doing such things then they are unethical and need to be brought to book for deceiving their profession as well as the country..