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It happens only in India: We struggle to remain "backward"

This is a post I have been wanting to write for the past six years, but have finally decided to shed inhibitions and write it now. Shed inhibitions? Be warned, this post is not politically correct; I have never strived to be politically correct, though I always wish to be morally correct.

Politics in India is dirty. There is no going around the fact. When given a choice to vote, I find myself between a rock and a hard place. None of the manifestos appeal to me. Some political party, which I shall not name, had in its manifesto declared that it shall ban computers from India. How can I, an educated person, and an aspiring engineer ever stand such blasphemy? No computers! Say goodbye to all transport, elevators, microwave ovens, mobile phones, and everything else associated with the past half-century, 'cause all of them rely on microprocessors, or as the layman calls, computers. Yet, in a country with a population over a billion, housing over a seventh of the world's population, such sentiment appeals to the millions who are without jobs. Instead of trying to improve, these people prefer to lay in utter dejection, blaming the government, blaming technology, blaming the rich, blaming the world for the fact that they are jobless. Appeal to their sentiments, and votes are guaranteed. If we cannot make the poor rich, at least make the rich poor. That's the logic that goes on.

Yet, it is not this prolific struggle to remain economically and technologically backward that troubles me the greatest. It does trouble me greatly, but not the most. What troubles me is the other aspect, caste. Yes, the stigma of the Indian society that tied a person's fortunes to the family he was born in, that dictated the course of his/her life. One would think that India should abolish caste distinctions completely, but I'm ashamed to state that the government of India, whose job it is to grant equality to all, has decided to sharpen the boundaries that define caste. For the government of India, in all its wisdom has declared that certain castes are backward, based on their history of exploitation for the past thousand years. The government has decided that the right to equality can be granted only by granting certain privileges to the so-called "backward classes." It has made a list of castes and tribes which are backward, and has decided to reserve some seats, in education as well as in jobs for people belonging to these castes and tribes. Not content with this list of people (perhaps they did not make up more than half the population for a landslide majority), the government added a list of "Other backward classes" and decided to give them the same privileges. Of course people protested. But what do the protests of a few selfish people mean to the government of India. We have to grant the right to equality in the country, otherwise we would violate the constitution.

However, some idiot who wanted to deny this right to equality pointed out that there were many poor people who were not from these castes/tribes/classes, while there were rich people from the backward tribes/castes/classes. So, the Supreme Court of the country, in its folly, decided to exclude the so called "creamy layer" from getting seats reserved for them. The argument of the court was that these people were not backward, or something to that effect. However, the court set a ridiculously low limit on the annual salary to define the creamy layer. It set the limit slightly higher than the average annual salary of a graduate student, and way above the definition of the poverty line in India. Ridiculous, isn't it? Clearly many more people earning much more have been denied their right to equality to come up to the level of people from the so called "upper castes" who are living lavishly by sweeping the streets. So, the government has decided to double the line defining the creamy layer. The right to equality should be granted. (Remember Boxer from "Animal Farm" with his Napoleon is always right thingy?)

At the same time, people are feeling left out of the lists of backward castes/classes/tribes. So, they have resorted to sitting on railway tracks, stopping trains for weeks, to coerce the government to list them as backward. Surprisingly, this definition of backward hardly entitles them to primary or secondary education, but kicks in only when they decide to get into undergraduate school, and when they apply for jobs. Who cares about primary education. We don't need schools, we just need people to graduate from the IITs.

Yet, even as I write, the poverty line is being shifted lower and lower, at least from the point of view of the cost of living index. The number of poor in India are being decreased, and progress is on the way, for the world to see. But the world does not recognise the line marking the "creamy layer", hence we have no qualms about increasing that line to declare more and more people as "backward."

Progress is here for sure.


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