Saturday, March 31, 2007

Reservations -The Real Debate

The debate on the reservations for backward classes has suddenly been accentuated with the Supreme Court's stay order. The BJP blames the UPA Government for not having put the case to the judiciary well (an upper caste ,right wing party also wants the share of the OBC vote you see,…..) , the DMK is shocked - what happens to its Adi-Dravida vote bank , the CPI(M) expressed grief –after all it has been the messiah of the downtrodden in West Bengal …and by implementing its strategy of rampant industrial strikes has succesfully crippled the state to an extent that people who had decent jobs even a decade and half ago have become downtrodden , so that their supporter base continues to increase …..and finally Mr VP Singh’s comment “ all people issues are political…and therefore the reservation issue is bound to be politicized… is evidence enough that all the players in the political firmament of India want a share in the electoral pie of the reservation game .

The reservation process as Mr Arjun Singh would like us to believe is a surgical correction to bring the Other Backward Castes (OBC) into the limelight by providing opportunities for economic and educational growth… the extent of sacrificing meritocracy as a principle .

I would like to draw the attention of my reader on some fundamental issues of reservation as a social engineering process.

a) One cannot argue that some form of subsidy needs to be given to backward and poorer sections of society, so I agree that reservation in some form is probably not a bad thing.

b) Poverty in India is endemic ,and it's a flawed assumption to believe that if one is backward one has to be poor or vice -versa . I am not too sure if there is a direct correlation between poverty and being backward . The protagonists of the reservation process demand reservation based on this fundamentally flawed assumption......I have lived in Karnataka and some of my Vokaliga and Lingayat friends are extremely affluent in spite of being OBC’s , similarly in Maharastra -where I presently reside ,there are many examples of rich OBC’s. A supporter of the OBC reservation would like to dismiss this by saying that yes there is a creamy layer in the OBC’s and we can exclude them from the reservation process …however the implementation of reservation is incomplete if its restricted to the OBC’s alone …which raises the second question , what are the principles of reservation in our country ..!!!. I am tempted to believe that the design of the reservation program is not to empower people of weaker sections (both OBC’s and non-OBC’s) but a diabolical attempt to build a vote bank for political parties. Mr VP Singh- The Raja of Mandya (and now the Czar of Mandal…) when asked this question responded by saying “I agree , there must be 10% reservation for upper castes as well….” Thank you Mr Singh by being so considerate, but what is the basis of this 10% ….and obviously Mr Singh would have no rationale to offer..!!

The Role of Judiciary in the process

After the Parliament's approval of the OBC reservation, I had given up all hope of redressal and rationale in the system. I was extremely agitated that neither the media nor the public was asking the right questions of our elected representatives (though I admired the resistance that the Youth For Equality-YFE provided) . However my faith in Indian democracy has been rekindled after the Supreme Court’s interim order asking the UPA government to provide more data before the issue is closed once for all. The SC judgment opined that the last caste base census happened in 1931 and has requested the government to come back with more contemporary data with statistics that correlate poverty with caste backwardness. I am hopeful that there are enough checks and balances in our democracy which will ensure that the creative minds in the UPA government cannot conjure up data which proves that one is poor because he is backward by caste.

I have written about the implications of the reservations in a previous post which might be of interest to you as well

I continue to live in hope that good sense will prevail….are you as hopeful as I am?

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