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Quota conundrum singes netas

Quota conundrum singes netas
Highlights

He who sups with the devil should have a long spoon. This adage has come to torment political India once again as it grapples with the reservation...

How does it better the lot of the mass of Jats or myriad castes and sub-castes lumped together as OBCs, if a few persons from these castes get jobs? Is it fair that a meritorious person is denied promotion because his promotion quota is full? It needs to be remembered that poverty exists in a family unit and not at the caste level per se.

One cannot ostracise those poor families belonging to castes not listed as ST, SC or OBC. Time to remember Dr Ambedkar’s wise words against reservations and the hidden monsters behind them. He said: “If you want different societies to come together, I think it is time that we decide that the use of the word ‘caste’ be banned in this country.”

He who sups with the devil should have a long spoon. This adage has come to torment political India once again as it grapples with the reservation Frankenstein in Haryana. Wherein, the Jats are creating merry hell torching malls, vehicles and blocking national highways demanding a slice of the education pie and government jobs. Indeed, a sad reflection of our times, where quotas and queues are the all-season favourites!

The tragedy of it all is that the Mandal fiend created by our leaders has come to bite them. Worse, given the level of dishonesty and irresponsibility which increasingly governs our political system, no leader is willing to look us in the eye and confess that we are the cause of this mess thanks to our fixation for self-satiation of vote-banks politics. All forgot that caste quotas become divisive and self-defeating whereby struggle between backwards and forwards is more meaningful than the Left and the Right in politics.

According to a former Chairman of the National Commission on Backward Classes, “The politicians have converted reservation into a circus.” Think. No study has been done to find out whether post reservations, any effort is made to build up the morale of the backward classes to bring them into the mainstream. There are neither any welfare programmes for them or quality education.

Questionably, is reservation an end in itself? Not at all! Has anyone assessed whether those provided reservation have gained or continue to lose? No. Are caste quotas the answer for maintaining India’s social fabric? Never, as it only divides people and harms national unity. How does it better the lot of the mass of Jats or myriad castes and sub-castes lumped together as OBCs, if a few persons from these castes get jobs?

When does backwardness supercede equality assured by our Constitution under Article 15(1)? Is it fair that a meritorious person is denied promotion because his promotion quota is full? What purposes does reservation serve when an officer is unable to cope with the decision-making process? How is the government going to avoid reverse discrimination?

True, it is the government’s fundamental mission to uplift the poor and backward classes, educate and provide them equal opportunities. At the same time, it is equally dangerous to indulge in stoking caste rivalries on the facetious reason that it will uplift the down trodden. Undoubtedly, many backward castes families are poverty-stricken. But it needs to be remembered that poverty exists in a family unit and not at the caste level per se. If one has to eradicate poverty, then all poor families belonging to a caste should be eligible for State privileges. One cannot ostracise those poor families belonging to castes not listed as ST, SC or OBC.

Unfortunately, ground realities and make-believes sociology do not always correspond. Reservations by themselves will not transform the village society whose social structure is built upon an edifice of illiteracy and ignorance which in turn perpetuates an iniquitous caste system. Pertinently, reservation is not the sole panacea for eradicating poverty, nor is it a guarantee that members of castes will get government jobs or seats in Parliament and State Assemblies.

By that token, the whole social reform movement will become meaningless. Our leaders should remember that universalisation of reservation will mean goodbye to excellence and standards – a ‘must’ for any modern nation that wishes to forge ahead.

Undeniably, social justice is a desirable and laudable goal. But it cannot be at the cost of nurturing mediocrity. Remember, there is no place for double standards or the Orwellian concept of ‘more equal than others’ in a democracy. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The fundamental rights provide for equal opportunities for all irrespective of caste, creed or sex. Let’s not fudge or forget this.

How will the government respond if each caste begins to complain of non-representation in parties or government departments? Unsurprisingly, merit has been replaced by casteism and by domicile. Forget government jobs, demands have now come up for quotas in private and public sector employment, too. Not satisfied with a benchmark of 50 per cent, set by the Supreme Court, our polity continues to bask in thoughtless adhocism, by hiking the percentage at the drop of a hat. Ranging from 69 per cent in Tamil Nadu to 80 per cent in Bihar and Karnataka.

Time to take note of last March’s Supreme Court’s judgment wherein it struck down the Centre’s notification to include Jats in the Central list of OBCs in nine States. Stating, “caste” and “historical injustice” cannot blind a State in according backward status to a community, it added that new emerging groups such as transgenders and other socially backwards must be identified for quota benefits which should be a “continuous evolution.”

Additionally, “self-proclaimed” backwardness would no longer be the yardstick, it laid new norms for identification of backward classes for reservation and redefined the concept of affirmative action by the government and held the principle of reservation under the Constitution obligated it “to reach out to the most deserving” class.

India of 2016 is not the India of 1989 where a young 18-year old student, Rajiv Goswami, immolated himself in public. Today our polity has to realise that it has to deal with a savvy Rang de Basanti generation aged between 18-35 years who constitute 50% population and believe in action not reaction. They seek jobs on merit in an over-crowed employment market where the labour force is growing 2.5% annually, employment is rising by 2.3% resulting in increasing joblessness.

Thus, none has given thought to the challenge of absorbing new entrants to the job market, 12 million every year and clearing the backlog. In this scenario where do quotas fit? Clearly, the government has to end this evil of casteism which is eating into our democracy’s vitals. Reservations are no answer for fulfilling people’s aspirations. These will not only further divide them on caste lines but come in the way of narrowing India’s burgeoning divide between the haves and the have-nots.

No longer will young India accept that power in privilege can be transformed through electoral competition into power in numbers. After all, supposing, reservations were made for a community or communities and the total came to 70 per cent of the posts under the State and only 30% remained as unreserved, would anybody say that this would be satisfactory from the point of giving effect to the principle that there shall be an equality of opportunity?

It cannot be. Time to remember Ambedkar’s wise words against reservations and the hidden monsters behind them. He said: “If you want different societies to come together, I think it is time that we decide that the use of the word ‘caste’ be banned in this country.”

Adding, “Reservation too should be done away with because it becomes a hindrance to development.” The government must rethink the entire reservation policy and stop the blind application of quotas. Time to think beyond quotes and queues and put our foot down and assert: Reservations cannot do!

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