Quota In Perpetuity
By Poonam I Kaushish
With elections round the corner, quotas and queues are back on the political platter as the BJP-led NDA Government and Opposition ruled States are falling over themselves by unleashing this bhrahmastra. All to reap political dividend in the garb of meting out social justice via their electorally strong communities. After all, people don’t cast their vote, they vote their caste. Sic.
What Modi Sarkar does, its rivals can do one better. Post, the Centre granting 10% reservation for the economically weaker sections (EWS), in the hope this would help consolidate its core poor upper caste voters specially in the Hindi heartland, Chandrababu Naidu’s Andhra decided to split the 10% EWS quota, 5% to it and the balance 5% to upper caste Kapus.
Gehlot’s Rajasthan followed suit by ceding Gujjars, Banjaras, Gadia Lohars, Raikas and Gadaria their demand for 5% reservation in jobs and educational institutes. No matter this 5% is above the OBC quota of 21%, thereby taking the total to 26%. Central-ruled J&K Governor Malik gave his nod to the J&K Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2014, providing reservation to Paharis, who constitute 20% of the population and are scattered in Punch and Rajouri in Jammu and Baramula and Kupwara in Kashmir.
Last November, Maharashtra’s Fadnavis Government ceded 16% reservation for Marathas who account for 30% population and can swing votes for the BJP. Earlier, Haryana’s BJP Sarkar provided 6% reservation for Jats and four other castes in Government posts and learning establishments. And another 10% for the five castes in class 3 and 4 Sarkari jobs and educational institutions.
For Telangana’s TRS Government which wants to give 12% reservations to Muslims, the Centre’s decision to provide 10% quota in education and employment to EWS has come as a blessing in disguise. Now, it would be easy for it to plead its case as the Centre itself is taking the reservation percentage to 60 which is 10% more than the permitted level.
The only State to have protected its reservation in excess of 50% is Tamil Nadu, which placed a law guaranteeing 69% quota in the Constitution’s Ninth Schedule, which acts as a shield against judicial review. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and BSP’s Mayawati went one step further. Both are pitching for Dalits and OBC job reservation in the private sector.
Questionably, can reservations be in perpetuity? Is it fair that a meritorious person is denied admission or job because his quota is full? Where does he head? When does backwardness supercede equality guaranteed by our Constitution and equal opportunities in public employment? Has anyone assessed whether those provided reservation have gained or continue to lose?
Does it make sense if someone with 90% in engineering sells medicines while a Dalit with 40% becomes a doctor, thanks to reservation? What purpose does quota serve when a student or officer is unable to cope with the decision-making process? Are caste-based reservations the answer for maintaining India’s social fabric and harmony? How does it better the lot of the SC/ST if a few get jobs?
Certainly, social justice is a desirable and laudable goal and it is the Government’s fundamental mission to uplift the poor and backward classes, educate and provide them equal opportunities. Moreover, reservation for the ‘economically backward and weak’ is important against the backdrop of their abysmal representation in education, Government jobs and denial of promotion in the upper echelons of service where decision-taking power vests.
Indeed, one would forgive our netas their one-upmanship, populist bravado and reckless ad hocism if it bettered the lot of the downtrodden and poor. However experience shows that no amount of legislation has bettered the lot of the deprived if a few get jobs and admission in educational institutes. Reservation is not the sole panacea for eradicating poverty. Moreover, it is dangerous to indulge in stoking rivalries on the facetious reason that it to uplift the down-trodden.
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.
Quotas by themselves will not transform village society whose social structure is built on an edifice of illiteracy and ignorance which in turn perpetuates an iniquitous caste system. Besides, this is unconstitutional as it breaches Article 14 that espouses equality. Remember, reservation was to be made in exceptional circumstances and there are various legal precedents for this. The 1992 judgment capped reservation at 50% allowing for a hike only in case of ‘extraordinary and exceptional’ circumstances,’’
Pertinently, the danger in imposing arbitrary education and job quotas is three-fold. One, quality of excellence standards would be crippled by ineptitude, ineffiency and incapacity. Two, in the long run merit would be compromised. Three, any deterioration in the quality of education and governance would short-change the NDA’s quest to market Brand India’s economic growth. Whose USP lies in the brain, skills and expertise of its educated and skilled manpower.
Clearly, 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. Also, one cannot put a cap on human development.
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.
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 3.5% annually, employment is rising by 2.3% resulting in increasing joblessness.
Over 6000 have applied for 10 joint secretary jobs advertised by the Modi Government. 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?
Time to remember Ambedkar’s wise words against reservations and the hidden monsters. “If you want different societies to come together, reservation should be done away with because it becomes a hindrance to development.”
In the ultimate, our petty power-at all-cost polity has to think beyond vote-bank politics and quotas which are divisive and self-defeating whereby struggle between backwards and forwards is more meaningful than Left and Right in politics. They must not be allowed to continue recklessly and play havoc with India’s progress. Our leaders must look at the long-term implications and end this evil.
Time now to rethink the entire reservation policy and stop the blind application of quotas. No longer will young India accept that power in privilege can be transformed through electoral competition into power in numbers. Else reconcile to becoming a nation of mediocrity! —— INFA