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RESERVATIONS AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
INTRODUCTION: The issue of reservations has ignored one vital aspect—the impact it would have on the development of the Indian economy.
DEVELOPMENT OF THOUGHTS: During pre-independence period India went on under developing as the technological gap between it and the core, capitalist countries went on widening The entire post-independence development strategy in India as based on the reduction of this technological gap and thus structurally transforming the Indian economy. To cope with the new economic situation, to develop our economy to give a reasonable standard of life to our people, it is, of course, necessary to make institutional and organizational changes in our economy and society. Reservation policy will boost all these efforts and also push ahead of the economic development: it can only lead to the development of all sections of the country. The answer lies in reforming the present education system and effective implementation of the policy of uplifting the socially and economically drown trodden sections of society.
CONCLUSION: It is not the conspiracy of the forward castes but rather the lack of proper educational environment and economic constraints, that is responsible for educational backwardness. The solution, therefore, is to create a mere equitable and just democratic social order.
The long-range and far-reaching results that the reservation policy has inflicted on the Indian economy in the present world setting are being missed by both ‘reservationists’ and ‘anti-reservationists’.
It is axiomatic that India has been trying hard for the last 60 years to overcome the historical backwardness bequeathed to it by 200 years of colonialism. But wherein lay the basic colonial or peripheral character of India’s backwardness? And what are the basic processes and policies thr6ugh which this backwardness is to be overcome? In more recent parlance, how is the transition from a peripheral to an independent, developing economy to be made?
According to the 19th and 20th century Indian critics of colonialism, the basic aspect of the colonialization or peripheralization of India was its reduction to a producer of raw materials and importer of manufactures. This meant that India as a periphery of the world economy was assigned a specific role in the international division of labour: it was to produce low-technology, low-productivity, low-wage and low-profit products while the developed or core countries were to produce high-technology, high-productivity, high-wage and high-profit products. This international division of labour inevitably led to an unequal relation between India and other colonies and peripheral countries on the one side and the ‘developed, core countries on the other and to the inevitable underdevelopment of the former.
In this respect, it is to be clearly understood that periphery or the colonial character of the economy relates to the unequal character of its relationship with the core economies and not to the production of any particular products. This inequality is basic, but the type of products through which it manifests has no fixity—They undergo continuous changes.
What has happened in India in the last 200 years? The first Industrial Revolution was based on the revolution in agriculture and on basically artisanal innovations in textile production and Watt’s steam engine and a few other products. We missed this revolution. The second Industrial Revolution during the first half of the 19th century was based on capital goods industry when machines to manufacture machines and locomotives were developed. We failed to be a part of this change.
During the last quarter of the 19th century, in the third phase, science was joined with technology. The result was that steel, the internal combustion engine, electricity, and petroleum became the engines of economic growth. These engines of growth played a lithe little role in the Indian economy. Petrochemicals electronics and nuclear energy developed after the First World War, ushering in the fourth phase. Throughout these four phases, India went on under-developing as the technological gap between it and the core, capitalist countries went on widening.
The entire post-independence strategy in India was based on the reduction of this technological gap by simultaneously compressing the second, third and fourth Industrial Revolutions and thus structurally transforming the Indian economy. The strategy was to rapidly raise the technological and productivity levels of Indian agriculture and industry to those of the most advanced sectors of world capitalist economy and not merely to increase production on the basis of existing, low-level techniques.
We have achieved a certain success in our efforts Indian industry has grown physically as well as undergone basic structural transformation. Industrial production is today 10 times more than in 1951. A major reversal has occurred in terms of the growth of basic woods and capital goods’ share in total industrial production. Between 1956 and 1980 the share of basic goods and capital goods has gone up from 22.13 per cent and 4.71 per cent to 39.42 per cent and 16.43 per cent respectively. Similarly, there has been a more or less satisfactory agricultural growth 2.54 per cent per year from 1950 to 1984 and nearly 3.5 per cent a year from 1985 to 1989.
We have, however, not only failed to catch up with the advanced parts of the world but while we have been trying to do so the latter has entered another phase of the Industrial Revolution. Moreover, there has been a growing technological dependence on the core countries.
In fact, we have entered a new momentous phase in the economic history of the humankind. Science is today so transforming the world that the traditional distinction between core-like and periphery-like activities is becoming irrelevant. In simpler terms, the thrust areas of the world economy today are those of the microchip, biotechnology and new sources of energy. In more scientific terms, the current phase of development is, to quote Andre Gunder Frank, that of “the production of technology by technology, the production of productive techniques.”
The situation is even more clearly delineated by Aright and Drangal. The advanced—the core—part of the world increasingly controls “strategic decision-making, control and administration, Research and Development.” Thus, it “tends to become the locus of the ‘brain’ activities of corporate capital.” Activities of pure execution, including the production of consumer and producers’ goods, are shared with the rest of the world. The peripheral countries—euphemistically described as the Third World—are expected “to become the locus of the ‘muscle and nerves’ activities.”
Moreover, it is not only science and technology, which are involved. In the new core activities, control and administration, strategic economic decision-making, and service sector activities are no less important.
In today’s world and the coming world, ‘brain power’ is emerging as the crucial factor in development. To some extent, this has always been so ever since science was married to technology in the last quarter of the 19th century. Development of education, both lower and higher, was the major factor in Germany’s leap over Britain at the end of the 19th century. The Japanese and Korean ‘miracles’ in the last 20-30 years have been based on massive efforts to develop the ‘brain power’ of their societies. The Swedes assign their economic breakthrough in the first half of the 20th century to a few ‘lucky’ inventions which gave them an edge in a few products on a world scale. On the other hand, the Chinese now fully acknowledge that the Cultural Revolution by attacking and undermining China’s ‘brain power’ set back China by two decades or more. And, of course, Nazi Germany paid heavily for its policy of attacking Jews and expelling and exterminating them for the crime of having occupied too large a part of the field in professions, academics, politics and economy. If nothing else, they lost the ‘race for mastering atomic power.
To cope with the new economic situation, to develop our economy, to give a reasonable standard of life to our people, it is, of course, necessary to make institutional and organizational changes in our economy and society. We can, debate the character of these changes and hold divergent views. But one thing is clear. Whatever the nature of social and economic structures and institutions, the ‘brain power’ and ‘brain activity’ will be crucial to their success. Nothing can be achieved .without them. They are a necessary though not a sufficient condition for successful development.
And it is precisely at the ‘brain power’ that the policy of reservations strikes, thus pushing us back into the colonial-type or peripheral underdevelopment. At one blow, in the name of equity and the righting of historical wrongs, it sets back instead of pulling us forward. This it does in several ways.
It will openly keep sections of existing ‘brain power’ out of its needed places. It marginalizes those who want to develop their ‘brain power’ and instead glorifies ‘muscle and nerves’ activities. It openly proclaims that power to make decisions is to be put in the hands of those who are far less qualified than others to exercise it. Can there be a better recipe for economic disaster and for `achievement’ of the `underdevelopment’?
This demoralization of our brain power is likely to have another very negative consequence, which we are afraid to talk or write about. Already, for various reasons, India has been subjected to large scale brain drain to the USA and Europe. More than foreign and NRI capital, we need the presence of the carriers of this brain power inside India. Thoughtful Indians have been trying to find ways and means of checking and reversing this brain drain. Reservation policy will not only nullify all these efforts but will surely push—one might even say expel—many more from the country. But with the same, it is pertinent to note here that economy of India has been getting boost and leaps and bounds progress since when these OBC’s, SC’s and ST’s have started contributing in enhancing the purchasing power, which they have got only through the reservation.
Of course, India also suffers from massive ‘internal brain drain’. For various institutional and structural reasons, including those pertaining to class and caste, Indian brain power is at the present drawn from a small percentage – say 10 per cent of the population. The potential brain power of crores is not utilised and is, in fact, suppressed.
Crucial in this respect is the role of the present system of education. The need for wider education is accepted by all. But there is an equal, if not greater, need for improving the quality of education. It is at the school stage that most often the spark is extinguished. And it is also, above all, at this stage that measures to supplement education should be taken to upgrade it in the case of the socially, economically and educationally backward sections. The urban upper and middle-class children, of all castes, are better educated because of the educational environment in the family. In the case of the poor and the deprived, of all castes, it is the absence of this environment, along with economic constraints, and not any conspiracy by the ‘forward’ castes, that is responsible for educational backwardness and the consequent inability to compete for jobs in the public and private sectors. No reservations but better and special facilities in the form of scholarships, residential schools, supplementary education, and better use of television and video and other media are the real answer in the short run. The long-run answer is, of course, a more equitable and just and democratic social Order and not the congealing of one of the worst features of Indian civilization.