Sunday, June 03, 2007

Building the Perfect Self Licking Ice Cream Cone

Fighting their way to the bottom: Indian shephards demand quota benefits of the lowest caste.

Oroborous and David believe preferential affirmative action quotes for officially aggrieved groups are a good thing.

Reality says otherwise.

NEW DELHI: A fight for the right to be downwardly mobile exploded this week in north India, as a powerful community of Indian shepherds asserted that the best way to rise up in modern society was to take a step down in the regimented class hierarchy.


This was not the usual show of anger at the ever-prevalent discrimination faced by members of lower-caste groups. Instead, it stemmed from controversy over a demand from the Gujjar community of farmers and shepherds to have their low caste status officially downgraded, relegating them to the bottom classification in the caste ladder.

If Gujjars were to be shunted into the Scheduled Caste category, a classification that includes [Untouchables], they would qualify for greater privileges under India's affirmative action program, which was designed to lift up those groups that for centuries were viewed as "pollutants," ostracized by mainstream society and prevented from accumulating wealth.

Since affirmative action amounts to a spoils system, fighting over the feed bag should come as no surprise.

Worse, though, is the inevitable knock-on effect: establishing quotas serves to perpetuate the divisions the quotas are intended to ameliorate.

India has more than 6,000 castes and subcastes, 3,743 of which are designated "backward" on the grounds of social and educational deprivation. Scheduled castes represent around 25 percent of the total population. Designed originally to abolish caste divisions by helping the Dalits and tribal communities to escape destitution, the quota system was expanded in the early 1990s to assist the Other Backward Classes, those who were less well placed in the ancient hierarchy.

Opponents of the expanded quota system argue that instead of eliminating caste consciousness, it has further entrenched it, making society more aware of divisions and more resentful of rival castes.

Wow. Sure didn't see that coming.



Blogger Duck said...

No good deed goes unpunished.

June 05, 2007 12:56 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Old story. At least 20 years ago, I read a WSJ story about high-caste,
high-income youngsters faking harijan status, because half of all spots in
Indian universities are reserved.

June 05, 2007 9:18 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Since affirmative action amounts to a spoils system, fighting over the feed bag should come as no surprise.

Except that the "feed bag" is the entire society, including politics, economics, and social status, and all human cultures fight over that at all times.

Setting up a "spoils system" for the downtrodden is mere meta-justice.

For instance, given Harry's example, the "high caste, high-income" youngsters could simply, you know, COMPETE for the half of university slots open to them.

But that would be too much like real life, the kind of existence that low-caste, low income people face daily. Much better to lie, cheat, and steal, anything to avoid having to measure up.

June 08, 2007 7:30 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home