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Failure of reservation policy? 72% adults in UP, and 52% in Delhi, haven't heard the term "aarakshan", says survey

Awareness of reservation policy (%)
By Our Representative
A recent “social attitudes and perceptions” survey has surprisingly revealed that though reservation system in India is prevalent in the country ever since the Constitution came into existence in 1950, a whopping 52% of 1,270 adults in Delhi and 72% of 1,473 adults in UP have not heard of the word “reservations” or “aarakshan”.
Revealing this, a Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (RICE) scholar, Nidhi Khurana, says, “Only 38% of women in Delhi and 16% of women in UP had heard of it, compared to 56% of men in Delhi and 39% of men in UP”, adding, “The gender difference in the awareness about government programmes such as reservation policies is a matter of great concern.”
“These serious gender disparities are compounded by educational differences”, Khurana notes, adding, “Among educated (beyond class X) adult men and women, 74% in Delhi and 61% in UP have heard of reservations. Among those who studied (up to class X or less), 29% of adults in Delhi and 20% of adults in UP have heard of reservations.”
“However”, Khurana points out, “the situation becomes more complicated and challenging when the beneficiaries are unaware of the benefits they are entitled to. In Delhi, only 37% of adult Dalit men and women have heard of reservations. UP also presents quite an abysmal situation. Only 19% of adult Dalit men and women have heard of reservation before.”
Yet, interestingly, says Khurana, reservations are “highly criticised on the grounds of merit, with those who oppose it seeing it as unqualified Dalits replacing meritorious candidates in all fields, which is doing more harm than good to the country.”
Thus, according to her, “Of those who have heard of reservations, 71% of adults in Delhi and 40% of adults in UP oppose the policy. Among people who have heard of reservations and oppose it, 24% of adults in Delhi and 32% of adults in UP say they do so on account of merit.
The survey, says Khurana, further found that “among people who have heard of caste-based reservations, 29% of adult men and women in Delhi and 60% of adult men and women in UP support caste-based reservations. Among those who have heard of reservations and support it, 18% of adults in Delhi and 17% of adults in UP do so for the development and welfare of reserved castes.”
The survey comes amidst social activists and experts already taking the view (click HERE) that there is a need to “drastically reform the present entitlement-based reservation policy”, pointing towards how it has only “helped create a new middle class among the Dalits”, with large sections simply left out.
Taking part in an Ahmedabad workshop two years ago, Gagan Sethi – heading Ahmedabad-based rights organisation Javnikas – insisted that a “vulnerability index” should be worked out to “identify the most vulnerable individuals and sections suffering because of social and caste-based discrimination.”
Sethi said, “A poor Brahmin widow is definitely more vulnerable than a Dalit IAS bureaucrat”, Sethi asserted, adding, “As of today, the only category of Dalits whose life has not changed even little, and continues with its caste-based occupation, and suffers untouchability is the Valmiki community, involved in the despicable practice of manual scavenging.”
Supporting the idea, Prof Ghanshyam Shah, well-known sociologist, added in the workshop, “Only those who have received education up to 10th or 12th take advantage of reservation, as for the rest – who form 90 per cent of the population – are nowhere part of it.”
A 2006 book by Shah and co-authors “Untouchability in Rural India”, taking a similar view, said that while there may have been important improvements in recent decades because of reservation, equal treatment has certainly not been achieved. There is a critical need to revise, refine and improve reservation policy in India depending upon its dynamic needs.

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