Let’s try to remember the primary purpose, was it reservation or was it upliftment?

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.

Tamojit Ganguly, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

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The Mandal Commission was established in India in 1979 by the Janata Party government under Prime Minister Morarji Desai with a mandate to “identify the socially or educationally backward” classes in the country. Though the commission emphasizes on the words ‘socially or educationally backward’, yet some intellectual administrators recognising the fact that our country has a substantial section of the population who have been at the helm of wealth and luxury, at least when compared to the middle class Indian,  but have been perceived to be educationally backward, was wise enough in laying out eleven criteria for the classes to qualify as eligible benefactors of the Mandal Commission. Among these criteria, there are four criteria which emphasize on the economic condition of the classes and they promptly state

Castes/classes where the average value of family assets is at least 25 per cent below the state average.

Yet, many of our nationalist leaders, in the urge to score brownie political points have forgotten the above criteria and have fuelled agitations initiated by economically affluent classes demanding reservation on the pretext of being educationally backward classes. The recurrence of violent protests led by relatively well-off communities demanding reservation, be it Patidars in Gujarat last year or Jats in Haryana this year, is perplexing. The Jats are a relatively prosperous land-owning community in Haryana and are regarded as being high on the “social ladder” in the region. Their political and social might is even more evident in the influence they wield in rural areas and in the leadership of the dominant political parties in the State. The National Commission for Backward Classes had in the past come out with specific reasons against the inclusion of the Jats in Haryana in the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) list. This was overruled by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre through a notification in March 2014, promising a special quota for Jats over and beyond the 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in jobs and higher education. It was left to the Supreme Court in March 2015 to reiterate the reality and to quash the decision of the UPA to include Jats in nine States among OBCs, stating that “caste” alone could not be the criterion for determining socio-economic backwardness. Clearly, even if the demands do not make any constitutional or legal sense, the bipartisan consensus over extending reservations has emboldened protestors among the Jat community. After all, the Bharatiya Janata Party in power too had voiced support for the implementation of the March 2014 notification.

Let’s recognise the fact that we are moving light years away from the purpose with which such commission was established or with which reservations had been laid out for dalits and adivasis. By including economically well off classes under backward classes, we would not just be a boulder in the road for so called ‘lucky, educated and well-off’ section of the society but also an impediment to millions of Indians who actually need reservation.It’s high time that we should open our eyes to such issues with a pragmatic vision.

Reference:

 

The Times of India

The Hindu

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