Sreeni N.

As Interviewed by Aishwarya S., March 17, 2018

Sreeni N.: In His Own Words

I’m interviewing my dad Sreeni about the reservation system in India while he was growing up.

Growing up, did you or any of your classmates face any discrimination?

The discrimination came in the form of reservation system. The caste-based reservation system started impacting me during my high school years, where we had to choose our future study path. In the state I grew, there was 69% reservation for backward castes and I had to compete in the open category where everyone including the backward caste can compete for getting admitted into colleges with professional degrees like medicine and engineering. I felt the level playing field was not fair. One of my friends who belonged to a backward caste got admitted into an engineering school with a lower score than me. I believed that my fate, my future was based more on my caste than the merit of my grades.

What is the Mandal commission?

The Mandal Commission was established by the Janata Party government… in late 1970s. It was setup to study the condition and representation of socially or educationally backward castes and recommended steps for their advancement. The commission also recommended certain percentages reserved for backward class people for jobs and education.

How did people react to the implementation of the Mandal commission?

In spite of the original idea to help the economically backward classes, the commission argued that caste was the main indicator for backwardness. While some welcomed the commission’s idea, it was opposed by others -- and they were visibly upset and opposed by protesting.

Did any protests ever affect your daily life?

Yes, very much. I was saddened to see the students trying to self-immolate. Rallies were being held, roads were blocked, and youngsters were involved in vandalism. As a school student, I felt I should be part of this movement though I did not clearly understand what it stood for.

Was there specific voice you had from your community or school that spoke up against the Mandal commission?

There were lots of protests in the northern part of India. As I recall, a Medical student self-immolated, though he survived. Polarization of the vote of a particular-named community was achieved by caste-based reservation in government jobs and admissions to professional colleges.

What do you think India should do to further eliminate remnants of caste systems and discrimination?

Reservations based on caste system is not correct. Things should be based on merit. Even reservation based on economic status is wrong -- economically weak people have to be trained properly so that they are also able to compete with others equally. Reservation is not a way to solve problems, but it itself is a way to create problems. Providing reservation to a particular caste will not only limit the country’s growth but also obstruct deserving people from achieving greater heights.