The quota row might hit the country again following the judgment given by the honourable Supreme Court today. With this verdict, the court’s interim order of March 29, 2007, staying the implementation of the quota has now been lifted.
The highlights of the verdict are:
· Supreme Court upholds 27 per cent Other Backward Caste (OBC) quota in educational institutions
· No to creamy layer in 27 per cent OBC quota
· Reservations in educational institutions now 49.5 per cent
· No decision on OBC quota in private colleges
· No harm in implementing OBC quota this year
· Review of OBC quota list every five years
· Children of former, current MPs and MLAs to be excluded from quota
Youth for Equality, petitioners who challenged the move of the government to introduce OBC Quota are not really ecstatic with the verdict, but they are not disappointed as well. The reason being that many things that have been challenged need to be vindicated in the verdict. Most of you must not be aware, what happened exactly in the case and what arguments were put up by the government and the petitioners. The petitioners forwarded the following arguments.
1. The 2006 quota law was unconstitutional as the government went ahead with reservation for OBCs without identifying the intended beneficiaries.
2. Non-exclusion of creamy layer from the purview of OBC quota law violated Supreme Court’s verdicts on the issue and went in favour of the well off among the OBCs.
3. Caste cannot be the sole basis for identifying the socially and educationally backwards for the purpose of reservation as it ran contrary to the constitutional objective of achieving an egalitarian society.
4. Reservation cannot be for an unlimited period.
The verdict has clearly mentioned the exclusion of creamy layer from the ambit of the reservation. This is remarkable because the government was never ever ready to exclude them. I guess the reservations were mainly intended for them otherwise, the government could have given up on this demand themselves. This exclusion of the creamy layer was so because the well off among the backward classes become like the upper class people and avail of the benefits of the reservation, much to the disadvantage of the most backward segment of the OBC, which actually deserves the fruits of reservation policy.
However, now there is a problem as to who will decide what constitutes the creamy layer. It would not be a good thing if the government is given this power because the government will then do all it can to subvert the SC verdict. In Maharashtra, the limit for creamy layer is an annual salary of four lakh rupees per annum (which is considerable because before the pay commission report, this was not the annual salary of high rank IAS and government officials). The other good thing is that the children of former and current MPs and MLAs have been excluded as well. This decision makes sense because if you have all facilities, which are entitled to a MLA or MP, then there is no need for the reservations.
The verdict of the Supreme Court is very good and Youth for Equality will see that all the recommendations of the apex body are met. Yet, the battle is still far from being over. The petitioners also say that the revision of OBC quota should not be done by the government, but an independent body if we really want to get rid of this reservation eventually.
The arguments forwarded by the government in the process of the verdict were:
1. The OBC quota law as being completely in tune with the constitutional requirements.
2. Caste is a reality of the Indian society and it should, like in the case of reservation in public employment, form the sole basis for the identification of backwardness among the OBCs.
3. There cannot be any time limit for reservation.
4. The government also defended the inclusion of creamy layer in the OBC quota law, but said it was for the court to take a final view on it.
There are a few points that appear so brazen in the arguments forwarded by the government. The government said that the caste is a reality of Indian society. Agreed. We have so many instances where people of one caste have been targeted by another. But, then if the government says that this is the reality, it only shows the helplessness of the government and its failure in these 60 years to not have been able to change the scenario. So, who is to be blamed? The caste has become indispensable part of India’s politics and there are a few states in the country, where caste determines everything in an election, plays a huge role in general elections. The politicians are to be blamed the most who just do not want the word “caste” be eradicated from our country. Every assessment, which they make of national problems, and the policies that are formed are based on one factor and that is caste. The result of this is perpetuation of caste system rather than its eradication. The reservations are not the long-term solution.
The government also said that there could be no time frame for the reservations. Isn’t this argument senseless? If you implement a policy anywhere, the first thing you see is– whether it will be a success. If the government believes that its policy is not a successful one, then why not choose for another policy? I just wonder why can’t we have some affirmative actions based on caste free economic criteria? There can be just so many ways to bring the social equality and at the same time eradicating caste.
Let me tell you that ‘reservations’ was just one of the many recommendations given by the Mandal Commission. But our politicians have put the other recommendations in the dustbin and went ahead with the reservations as it provides them a ready made curry of “vote banks”. A communal and caste based feeling and emotion can be easily aroused and we see the same thing happening before every elections held in India. The reservation system is being misused to create a privileged ruling elite, instead of creating an equal society. It is obvious that we cannot eradicate caste under the garb of caste reservation. The political mind of India has been ‘mandalised’ beyond redemption and the ghosts of Mandal will return to create further divisions in our caste-ridden society.
Arjun Singh says, “He has been vindicated” but the point from where I see that this has just started a rearward trend. The protests in the early April 2006 and there onwards some what divided our college campus and there was an awkward feeling in every one’s mind. If the government continues to play such petty politics then it will leave a scar on the face of India. The youth, which is the strength of our nation, is made to believe that in our country caste is the most determinative parameter for everything. The youth is craving for an egalitarian society and such incidents hamper the spirit of the youth as well. Youth is the symbol of dynamism, growth and development and if the older generation cannot change their mindset, then it our responsibility to change it. Our political values have plunged so low that it we need courage to do something right. The verdict will have some reactions and counter-reactions and we may see fresh grind in our country, which will be very unfortunate. Already, there are so many instances of caste and class wars and it would have been better if we could have absolved the young population.
It is high time for youth to come together and teach the government a lesson. The best way would be to come out and vote in all the upcoming elections because the ‘votes’ are the only thing our political parties care for. Nani Palkhiwala once said that the way class wars and caste wars are going on in India, we would see another divided India. Don’t we ever want to learn? It is time to stand up and get ourselves involved in the democratic process of India.
[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/parijat/150929124/in/set-72057594141686974/]