Rethink on quotas

Rethink on quotas

So the Andhra Pradesh Government blinked finally to provide five percent reservation to Kapus,  including Telaga, Ontari and Balijas in education and...

So the Andhra Pradesh Government blinked finally to provide five percent reservation to Kapus, including Telaga, Ontari and Balijas in education and employment. The Bill passed unanimously by the AP Assembly the other day in the absence of the main Opposition party, the YSRCP, would now reach the Raj Bhavan for the Governor's approval and then will be sent to the Union Home Ministry.

There would be arguments whether or not the provision would be accepted by the Centre. The Opposition is bound to blame the State Government for not explaining how it hopes to include the same without affecting the existing quota as the present move exceeds the 50 percent ceiling imposed by the Supreme Court. However, there is little that the State Governments' could do in the face of identity politics.

Take for instance, the case of Rajasthan's OBC Reservation Bill that was passed by the Vasundhara Raje Government out of political compulsions. The apex court refused to stay the Bill but insisted that the total could not exceed 50 percent and directed the officials to ensure the same. It’s fate is left hanging.

It should be recalled that the Supreme Court, in a 1992 order, had capped reservations in government jobs and education at 50 per cent. But in an order in July 2010, it allowed States to exceed the limit, provided they had solid scientific data to justify the increase.

Andhra Pradesh is not the only State to fall into this pattern nor would it be the last. The Congress has promised the Patidar community to provide reservations to it in Gujarat if sent to power in the upcoming elections. Telangana too saw passing of the Bill this year giving 12 per cent quota for socially and economically backward classes among the Muslims. It is pending.

Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao lobbed the reservation ball into the Centre's court and said it was its responsibility to ensure that the Bill was honoured. The Haryana Backward Classes (reservation in services and admission in educational institutions) Act, 2016, passed on 26 May 2016, gave 10 percent reservation to Jats and five other communities, including Jat Sikhs, Muslim Jats, Bishnois, Rors, and Tyagis, under the special backward class category.

It has given another 10 percent reservation to economically backward persons from the general category, which took the total reservation to 67 percent, exceeding the SC-imposed cap by an overwhelming 17 percent. The Punjab and Haryana High Court, on September 1, 2017, upheld the law ensuring 10 percent reservation for Jats and five other communities, but referred the decision on the extent of reservation to the State Backward Classes Commission.

It stayed the implementation of the proposed quotas till a commission finalised the quantum. The Commission has been given time till March 1, 2018. The fate of the AP Bill will not be any different. But there is little that the Government could do. The need of the hour is a healthy debate on the policy of reservations and a scientific study, not post-truth politics.

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