Are The Concepts Of Reservation And Nepotism The Same In Indian Context?

By Divija Jain

Both nepotism and reservation are forms of discrimination. While reservation is a ‘positive’ form of discrimination for achieving social equality, nepotism is discriminatory in terms of your familial ties.

But reservation, too, benefits people from certain families, so are the concepts really that different?

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Their differences cannot be ignored. However, it is important to reflect on the impact they have in reality as well as the similarities between nepotism and reservation.

In what aspects are the two concepts similar

Reservation was initially a ‘positive’ form of discrimination aiming to alleviate the social standing of deprived or oppressed classes so they can compete based on their talent.

But over time the concept of reservation has become quite controversial because even among the lower castes there exists a creamy layer.

Only certain castes or families can reap the benefits of reservation causing many needy ones to be neglected.

Nepotism, too, benefits people from certain families. This is another aspect in which the concepts are similar. Only people from a few families are benefitted.

Impact of reservation

While the intent and concept of reservation is undoubtedly good, it has stopped working for the purpose it was initially designed for. Our leaders wanted reservation to uplift the suppressed and then eventually remove reservations. One can notice how it is moving in another direction and perpetrating more inequality.

Deepening caste and class-based division

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Caste-based discrimination among different classes of religion has increased in the last few decades.

In 2016, the Jat reservation agitation paralysed the state of Haryana for 10 days. Around 30 people were killed in the violence, others lost their livelihood and the losses cost around Rs. 340 billion, according to a report by the Times of India.

It is causing economic losses in the form of brain drain

A report based on the analysis of data from the UNESCO Institute of Statistics mentioned that the rate of Indian students going abroad for higher studies had an annual average growth rate of 22% from 2000–2016.

One of the major reasons for this is excessively high competition for a limited number of seats and lack of vacancies in prestigious universities.

It can be seen in the case of Delhi University where the cut-offs go as high as 98%-100% for certain courses and the cut-off lists close for the general category in the first one itself while it is still open for reserved classes till the fourth or fifth list.

The people who need it the most are still not getting it

A creamy layer within the lower castes exists which reaps all the benefits which has created a divide within one class. Besides that, many people forge fake caste certificates, ultimately denying the right of the reservation to lower caste people.

A 2017 report from Economic Times stated that 24,797 fake caste certificate complaints were pending in Maharashtra alone, while Tamil Nadu had 3251 reports and Odisha had 1010. So many more cases that might not have been reported exist, so is the system really helping the situation?

Impact of nepotism

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While the debate on nepotism in the film industry was sparked off yet again after the demise of Sushant Singh Rajput, it has been polluting many other industries.

There is no doubt that nepotism kills the potential diverse growth and denies entry of ‘outsiders’ in the industry but it doesn’t mean that all products of nepotism will necessarily be undeserving.

Hrithik Roshan, son of Rakesh Roshan, has made his place and name in the industry based on his talent and capability. Farhan Akhtar, too, has successfully utilised the privileges he got through his father Javed Akhtar’s name.

The concept of dynasty politics can also be clearly seen in Indian politics. Leaders of Congress have been from the Nehru or Gandhi family or their allies. No new leader has been able to rise through the party ranks.

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A surprising report by The Wire stated that even BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) is almost as dynastic as Congress.

Between 1999–2019, in Lok Sabha, 36 dynastic MPs (Member of Parliament) were elected from Congress and 31 MPs from BJP.

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Nepotism is even denser at the state level, Uttar Pradesh has 51 politicians who are products of nepotism and their links go back to the first election in 1952. Bihar follows Uttar Pradesh by 27 dynasty politicians.

The same report also highlighted a key aspect stating the correlation between caste-based politics and nepotism, the leader takes a particular community’s interests forward and the people start relating to the leader and their descendants as their representatives.

The attachment of the masses grows to the entire family of the politician, helping them secure seats in a particular constituency for generations.

It is nearly impossible for new leaders to emerge in such an environment.

So is it really fair when we suggest saving spots for the underprivileged ones, again suggesting reservation against nepotism? Is it really fair to kill one form of discrimination through another, trapping ourselves in the same cycle of problems all over again?

Originally published at https://edtimes.in on September 3, 2020.

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