Vantage point

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A Bit About Reservations

The current anti-reservation agitation has very frankly left me cold. The disappointment is on several levels.

Most intensely, it is in the manner of the protests. Until they were rallies and marches, one could understand. With the decision of doctors to strike work however, they lost me.

By striking work on an ideological issue, the anti-reservationists doctors have committed the same mistake of punishing Peter for Paul's mistake. I fail to see how inconveniencing thousands and thousands of patients is fair when the folly is from the government's side.

I have always found strikes by unions in airports, banks, and public transport to be idiotic and immoral measures. Applying the same standards, I find the strike by medicos in Delhi to be no less idiotic and immoral. They deserve to lose their jobs, just like bank employees and AAI workers did.

Reservations in government-owned institutions are something I oppose, not on philosophical grounds, but on utilitarian grounds. i.e I do not question the government's right to reserve 22 or 49.5 or even 95% seats in entities it owns. I just question whether the stated objective for doing so is met, since the implementation process has so many gaping holes which persist even 55 years later.

However reservations in privately owned institutions is something I vehemently oppose on philosophical grounds. And I continue to be disappointed that this flagrant violation of freedom is not getting even an iota of attention because everyone is obsessed with the IITs and IIMs.

Sanctity of private ownership, or property rights, is a cornerstone of any free society. The 104th amendment strikes at that cornerstone by saying that the government can dictate quotas in privately owned entities.

I wonder if anyone has filed a PIL against the amendment. I would really like to see if the amendment has complete constitutional validity.

If such a PIL is rejected, and the amendment is upheld, it will further strengthen my belief that the Indian constitution is, in letter as well as in spirit, socialist, and has scant respect for private ownership and individual rights.