The recent Supreme Court verdict on Other Backward Class (OBC) quota in central educational institutes was a fine balancing act despite the enormous amount of pressure being exerted on the judiciary by the government. It attempted to curb the so-called judicial activism, without realising that it has become a necessity, due its complete failure on all fronts.
The various bright aspects of the order can be listed as:
1) No quota in post graduate courses, though the government is trying its level best to intentionally ignore it.
2) Exclusion of creamy layer from the benefits of reservation
3) Review of quota policy every five years
However, this verdict will have far reaching consequences on life inside the campus in the coming years as we have already seen in the state owned institutes. Firstly, the campus gets divided into two ‘almost equal’ halves. I say ‘almost equal’ because many students from reserved category pick up unreserved or open seats or unreserved seats are shifted under reserved categories due to some biased rules like ‘ear-marking’. As a result, general category or so-called upper caste students actually comprise of a ‘minority’ in the campus and let’s not forget that there is reservation in jobs and promotion already present, so the faculty is also ‘silently’ divided.
Quota based on rational criteria like economic status, rural-urban divide, gender divide, vernacular English divide etc. would not have created ‘Us’ verses ‘Them’ feeling. But quota based solely on caste does create this dangerous divide in the campus. If you visit any campus, by general observation of socio economic status, students coming from OBC quota will tell any neutral observer that they neither require nor deserve benefits of reservation. Yes, there is some consensus that schedule castes and scheduled tribes do deserve quota but even amongst them the creamy layer must be kept out.
The term OBC in our constitution was never other backward caste. It was other backward class. The class could comprise anyone; it could have been a village artisan or a person belonging to economically backward upper caste. The important word in OBC should have been backward and not caste because it is the most cosmetic and divisive criteria to decide backwardness.
As far as current OBCs are concerned, they include Yadavs who were kings 2000 years ago! A Yadav (Yaduvanshi) was worshipped by all caste and classes in India. Jats were also rulers, Patils were village headmen, Patels of Gujarat, who were once agriculturists have come to play a significant role in the world of commerce. Similarly in southern India, Reddy’s, Vokkligas, Lingayats, Chettiyars, Vanniyars, and Ejhavas in Kerala are major beneficiaries of OBC reservations but are not backward by any rational standards like human development index and do not require any help, especially quotas.
In current Parliament, more than 200 Members of Parliament (MPs) are so-called OBCs, 18 chief ministers are from backward communities. It is this political clout that is forcing such divisive votebank politics in the name of ‘Mandal commission report’. The blunders in Mandal commission are because of the fact that it was based on cost indexing of 1891 and the census of 1931 when Pakistan, Burma and Bangladesh were parts of British ruled India. Mandal report was a politically motivated report used for potential political gains and had glaring inadequacies in it, as highlighted in the speech given by the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in Loksabha on September 6, 1990.
The division in the campus and the frustration in the general category or the so-called ‘upper caste’ students creeps up when they see sons and daughters of senior government officials, politicians businessmen, doctors, engineers and professors getting the benefits of caste based reservations and along with that 100 per cent waiver of college fees and other benefits like scholarships regardless of economic status. On the contrary, a lower middle class general category student gets no exemption what so ever based on his or her family income and also faces ‘reverse discrimination’ when he or she voice their discontent over discriminatory caste based quotas and what about poor or below poverty line upper caste students? Well they never make it to such elite institutions because neither they have money nor caste for their rescue, regardless of their merit. They get used to getting second grade citizens treatment in their own country.
This debate is not about merit; merit is present among all class, caste and religions without discrimination, it’s about equal citizenship, equal opportunity and equal status in our motherland.
And I will never accept a second grade citizen treatment in my own country simply because they prefer to cast me as an ‘upper caste’.
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