In some form or the other, the question of reservation is raised from time to time. Either the implementation that is questioned or the very system is critiqued and scrutinized. However, every time the questioners end up swallowing their words with their pride. This happens only because of the unity among the lower castes and classes of society. Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Anupriya Patel believes that the people who raise such questions are akin to students who have not done the required homework. The students who do their homework will never raise such questions. Here are the edited excerpts from an interview:
Are you satisfied with the reservation system in its extant form?
Firstly, reservation needs to be understood. It is not charity but a protective system. The aim is to ensure that the lower classes of society reach the highest positions in government departments so that right strategies and policies can be prepared and implemented for the emancipation of the backward population. Efforts are being made in this direction. Yes, it is taking time, but we all believe that we will successfully fulfill the dream of Babasaheb. Continuous efforts are being made to bring the lower sections of society into the mainstream but it is also true that there is a need to further expedite these efforts.
If you were asked to give marks out of ten on how the reservation system has fared overall, what would you say?
While reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was implemented 68 years ago, for Other Backward Classes (OBC), reservation was approved only 28 years ago. But even today, their share is much less than what it should be. For example, if we look at the positions of the various ministries at the Centre, especially of the officer class, it is amply clear that it will take time to reach even a modicum of balance. It is evident from the records that SCs occupy only 8.63 per cent of these positions and OBCs only 5.40 per cent. However, we are hopeful that the process will now be accelerated because the central government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has granted constitutional status to the OBC Commission.
Do you think that the benefits of reservation are being reaped only by a privileged few? Even today, while one section is taking advantage of it, nothing is reaching the most marginalized castes and classes and they are languishing empty-handed.
It is natural that those who are a little more aware will get the benefits of any facility first. Now, gradually, people of all sections of society are becoming aware and starting to demand their dues and rights, they are slowly learning to use it to their advantage.
Even today, there are instances of violence and abuse against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes on a daily basis in our country. They are not allowed to climb the mare at wedding ceremonies. Women are abused. In fact, the statistics show that incidents of violence against them are consistently on the rise. In such a situation, it was necessary to bring a Bill immediately, and it was done. If further efforts are needed, they will also be made.
Recently, BHU students had blocked your way and had sloganeered for the removal of the SC-ST Act. What do you have to say about this incident?
Everyone has the freedom of speech in a democracy, but the recent incident in BHU was unfortunate. It appears that it was pursuant to a well-thought-out political strategy. I just want to say that no case against the innocent will be registered under the SC/ST Act.
You are a young leader. Your father, Sonelal Patel, had struggled for society throughout his political life. What is your strategy for advancing your father’s political heritage?
See, due to my father’s untimely demise, I was forced to enter political life. I am trying to follow the ideals enunciated by him. My father struggled for the rights of the Kamera caste, the poor, the farmers, the oppressed and the marginalized all his life. Today, he is not with us, but his ideology still guides us. I am trying to move forward with the same ideology. In the NDA government, our party Apna Dal (S) is included as a supporting party. Despite being a part of the government, we continue our own agenda of working for the Kamera caste, the poor, and the farmers and will always bring issues concerning their wellbeing and upliftment to the attention of the state and central governments.
Translation: Saumya, copy-editing: Zeeshan Ali
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