- People in the know of the widely prevalent caste system in Indian society would present a resigned composure whenever the subject matter comes up for discussion. Mind you, none of the responsible citizens, profound thinkers, evolved souls, civil society members, and the intelligentsia would be speaking in favor of the caste-based quota system. Rather, they would vouch for meritocracy to be the guiding light offering a level playing field for everyone concerned irrespective of caste, creed, or race. On the other hand, the political parties and their leaders would not mind one bit to further exploring ways and means to impress upon the electorate through dangling of reservation/quota carrot.
PC: EB Bureau
- You see, what is at play here is the consolidation of assiduously built vote banks on the caste lines. As you are aware, no less than the Supreme Court had to step in to keep the reservation/quotas in government jobs and education sectors at 50%. Left to the politicos, the reservation and quota conundrum would have reached 100% by now. However, the political leaderships are always on the lookout to offer even more promises, assurances, inducements, and incentives to garner people’s support on caste lines. In this context, the Centre’s decision to grant ST status to the Hattie community in poll-bound Himachal Pradesh and the in-trouble Jharkhand government’s decision to expand OBC reservation to 27% are part of a long list of additions to official backwardness classifications.
- Of course, these additions don’t always go smoothly, and they are also piling up. Further, Hattees’ demand for ST status in HP is resented by Dalits in the region. You know how Gujjars in Rajasthan agitated for ST status driven by the grouse that Meenas benefited from it. Now they are slotted as the most backward class in a 5% bracket. Meanwhile, Maharasthra’s OBC quota in local body elections has been ratified by SC after the state satisfied the triple test laid down by the court to grant reservation. In the south, Tamil Nadu has mastered this dubious game like none. The resultant outcome courtesy of the practice is there for all to see. From the earlier formulation of reservation as an exception to the norm, the exception has begun to dwarf the norm. And politicians are complaining seriously to thwart such moves
- Moreover, the economically weaker section quota, currently before a constitution bench, tips central reservations well over the 50% line. And it’s not just that 77% of Jharkhand’s government jobs will now be in the reserved pool, many states are similarly inching towards the 100% mark, leaving little for merit in the bargain. Yes, many see quotas as avenues to ease their access to higher education, employment, and official schemes. However, reforms alone have brought about huge socio-economic change in the country pulling out millions from abject poverty in the last three decades. Thus, focusing on ushering in pragmatic and well-thought-out reforms in the crucial economic sectors would invariably lead to more employment opportunities. In such a scenario, why still harp on reservations and quotas? Would the politicians listen? No, of course.