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Culture/Religion India

Merit-By–Birth theory trashed

We strongly condemn the stories inplanted in media by certain vested interests and anti social elements claiming merit by birth and insulting the majority of the people of India.

One of the age old characteristics of the Indian society has been the caste system. This system was based on the principle of assigning  a caste to every individual based on their birth and inturn limiting them to a profession associated with that caste. This system was followed for almost two millennia, resulting in a society with people at extreme ends of wealth and talent. While one individual was able to excel in one profession, he had no freedom or opportunity to pursue a different one even if he wished to do so. The caste system and segregation of people based on birth is one part of India’s history that we cannot feel proud of today.

Dr.B.R. Ambedkar, The architect of Indian constitution who ensured a provision for social justice and protected the interests of the downtrodden people including untouchables

Dr.B.R. Ambedkar, The architect of Indian constitution who ensured a provision for social justice and protected the interests of the downtrodden people including untouchables

Dr.B.R. Ambedkar: Caste has killed public spirit. Caste has destroyed the sense of public charity. Caste has made public opinion impossible… Virtue has become caste-ridden and morality has become caste-bound – Annihilation of caste 1936.

While  the constitution for the Republic of India was framed, the polarized nature of the different groups and the relative forward and backward status (educational, economic and social) of different castes was envisioned to be balanced by an affirmative action that provided reservation in education and employment opportunities created through national funds. Even though this policy could be interpreted as “discriminatory” by few, offered the best solution to address the imbalance caused by a two millennia practice. It was widely believed that it will be welcomed and accepted by all sections of the society as it offered hope for the country to move forward. 

In a democracy, while the individuals right to “freedom of expression” and the likes are guaranteed, it is also the norm that a system that is in place to bring a larger benefit to the nation, is allowed to curtail an individuals right. Thus with wide acceptance, the theories of Social Justice and Equality of Opportunity has come into stay in the Indian system of administration.

However it is sad to notice that even after the transformation of India into a democracy, few individuals and groups still seem to believe the teachings of “Varnashrama Dharma” and “Manu Smirithi” –  the religious documents that preach the core values of the caste system. Posing a threat to the very structure of the new Indian society, these teachings can only be viewed as anti national and anti social. Apart from programs to reform the individuals who believe in the caste system, we need to enforce stricter laws and punishments to those who practice and preach the same.

Those who are familiar with the history of India will agree that the southern state of Tamil Nadu has achieved a unique place in India. From ancient days Tamil Nadu has retained its language and culture. Alternative schools of thoughts in religion, philosophy and culture have been welcomed. The impact of religious values and Sanskrit language from the north of the peninsula can be largely felt even today.. The influence of Tamil culture over the rest of India has also been well acknowledged by scholars.

Talking about the caste system – the Tamil society is not behind in any means in following the caste system. The state is still plagued by untouchability and superstition. There are indications in Tamil literature that the caste system deeply entrenched in to the society ever since the Vedic religion took a foothold in this part of the country. However, there are no scriptures of the type of “Varnashrama Dharma” or “Manu Smirithi” which endorse religious authority to enforce the caste system.

There has also been wide exposure to the principles of democracy and education after the arrival of Europeans. There were widespread questioning of the religious authority promoting castes and the unequal distribution of wealth and opportunities.

Periyar EVR, the Architect of Self Respect Movement in Tamil nadu

Periyar EVR, the Architect of Self Respect Movement in Tamil nadu

Periyar EVR, the Architect of Self Respect Movement in Tamil nadu. Periyar brought social and political changes in Tamil nadu in favour of the backward sections of the society

The self respect movement spearheaded by E.V.R. Periar was against the inhuman practices based on religious authority and brought in a proportional representation and communal reservation in governance even before achieving independence from the British empire.

In Tamil Nadu a large quantum of reservations are provided to the backward classes, most backward classes and the scheduled castes. By this – most sections of the society participate in the administration of the state and the relationship of the government with the common man has been made easier, which promotes better administration and developmental activities. Here assessment of a qualification based only on the marks obtained in a theoretical examination is not the sole criteria for providing the opportunities. We do see some fringe groups insisting for such sole criteria since it is suitable for their preoccupied positions of social status. Their belief in “Merit By Birth” theories refuse to die.

The fact that Tamil Nadu is progressive is surprisingly well endorsed even by the magazine “India Today” which otherwise is known for its Anti Mandal (Anti Reservation) rhetorics. In September of each year, India Today publishes the “State of the States” cover story. The latest overall status of Tamil Nadu was surveyed by India Today in 2008 September. Tamil Nadu was placed in second position next only to Punjab among the big states of India.

India Today Survey 2008

India Today Survey 2008

India Today Survey 2008.

The methodology used in the survey of India Today is based on parameters such as Law and Order, Agriculture, Primary education, Primary health, Infrastructure, Consumer market, Investment, Environment, Budget and Prosperity. Each of these parameters are measured by various factors using analytical procedures.

Moreover according to the reports published in this month, Tamil Nadu is the most attractive state for foreign investments in India due to its better quality of infrastructure and governance. This is stated in compilation of “India – State index of attractive operating environments” by an Oxford-based consulting firm. Tamil Nadu is at the top of all the states in India in going global.

However we do see few elements in the print media making deliberate attempts to underplay the success of Backward class, Dalit members and that of the state as a whole. The recent news about the success of 100 candidates from the state in the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) was widely reported in the state print media. This figure constitutes 12.5% of the 791 selected candidates all over India. Among the successful candidates, eight had written the main examination in Tamil. In all 98 candidates had written the examination in Tamil and 19 of them have qualified for the interview. Despite a clear display of success by all sections of the society, one mainstream media group stated the following as its observation:

“Social scientists are examining whether those belonging to the progressive sections of the society who had earlier dominated the North and South Blocks in New Delhi have returned to a career in administration” 

And an anonymous observer went further by saying:

“Candidates belonging to the progressive sections of the society had in recent years moved to the Silicon Valley. Now that there are no jobs there, I suspect that they would have written the civil services last year.”

By these comments, it makes us wonder, if these so called “progressive section” has ever learned the lesson about the failure of the “Merit By Birth” policy. It is hard to construct and beleive that any real “Social scientist” would subscribe to this philosophy at this day and age. Studies based on scientific analysis have rejected the “Merit by Birth” system as to be detrimental to any progressive society. It is not just a recipe for a polarised society but also does not provide the progress that are offered by an inclusive society that rewards talents from all sections and builds its progress from the best of the brains.

The real social scientists have already analyzed the improving better performance of the candidates from Tamil Nadu from the past few years in the Civil Services Examination and have observed that the largest number of those selected has been form non-metro areas, who had studied through the Tamil medium of education.

It is already reported and on records that Tamil Nadu accounted for nearly a quarter of the OBC candidates selected at the all-India level in both 2004 and 2005. In 2006, it accounted for 15%, while Uttar Pradesh accounted for over 20% (One in every five selected OBC candidate were from UP). Tamil Nadu has the largest number of OBCs making it to the civil services, much ahead of other large states which have double the population of that of Tamil Nadu.

Whether it is Tamil Nadu or any other state, it is the Morality, Virtue, Righteousness, Equality and Justice along with the written constitution which should form the foundation of administering the people. We request our fellow citizens who still believe in their own status by birth, to burn their religious past and accept the concepts of Social justice and Inclusive Growth so that we all can march forward to a future Indian society that is built on a foundation of equality.

Birth is alike to all : Excellence can be classsified
Based on the diverse deeds .

( ThiruValluvar 972)

Written by Malarthamil

Malarthamil is a civil engineer and writer-poet inspired by Thirukkural – a classical Tamil poetry that expounds various aspects of life.