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Reservations conundrum

Reservations conundrum
Highlights

Rampant violence marked the Jats quota agitation in Haryana. Such agitations centered on reservations pose a serious challenge to Indian society and polity in particular. Jats, Gujjars, Patels, Kapus. many other social groups are rising in protest or in defense of quota policy.

Rampant violence marked the Jats quota agitation in Haryana. Such agitations centered on reservations pose a serious challenge to Indian society and polity in particular. Jats, Gujjars, Patels, Kapus. many other social groups are rising in protest or in defense of quota policy.

At the outset, such agitations are fuelled by competitive political populism coupled with double speak of parties. Political parties are divided or pretend to have been divided on caste lines. Different leaders are appealing to distinct caste groups with an objective of ensuring aggregate political dividend for their party.

In a scant regard to constitutional rationale, jurisprudence, social amity, political parties’ voice demands and make promises of providing reservations for various caste groups with a sole aim of building vote banks on caste lines. In an electoral democracy, such divisive issues always provide fodder for politically unemployed and politically ambitious.

The crisis enveloping different parts of the country with politically organised castes asserting their strength is manifestation of accumulated unrest over shrinking job opportunities due to jobless growth on one side and the changing character of economy making many unemployable. Divisive slogans are used as opium to divert people’s attention from fundamental issues that can unite them.

Politics is art of ruling and rallying people by dividing them rather than forging unity. The Indian jurisprudence has made it clear time and again the constitutional position on the question of reservations. The apex court verdicts pan over decades. The policy of affirmative action through the scheme of positive discrimination in the form of reservations is a constitutionally permissive public policy measure.

Caste alone cannot be the criteria for according reservations for any social group. Caste is only the starting point. The reservations cannot exceed 50 per cent as there should be at least reasonable space left for the open category. The creamy layer needs to be implemented to leave out ineligible sections from the purview of benefits of reservations.

More specifically, the apex court explicitly made it clear that reservation for Jats is constitutionally impermissible. Supreme Court has also held that “a self-proclaimed socially backward class of citizens” cannot be a yardstick of determining policy on reservations. Possible wrong inclusions cannot be the basis for further inclusions and the gates (of reservation) would be opened only to permit the entry of the most distressed.

There are about eight crore Jats in as many as nine states. Thus they form significant vote bank for the politically expedient. Thus, they ignore what the Supreme Court said in regard to reservations for Jats. The court observed, “We cannot agree with the view taken by the Union government that Jats in the nine states are a backward community so as to be entitled to inclusion in the Central lists of OBCs for the states concerned”.

Still, vested political interests and parochial social groups continue to foment disharmony. Political slugfest and street mobilisation on constitutionally impermissible aspects are unwarranted and unacceptable.

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