Volume 22 Issue 1, January 2018


There is no question that in an unevenly developed society, the backward and less developed classes need the state’s protection for their rights. Reservation of their number and fixing a quota of seats for them in educational institutions and government service acts as a stimulant for them to strive hard in order to compete openly with the developed community on merit.

In India, which is a vast country with numerous communities, the difference sometimes is more pronounced. Accordingly, they are classified as Backward Classes (BC) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) and quotas are reserved for them.
Currently, the Patidar community in Gujarat is agitating for reservations. Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) convener, Hardik Patel issued an ultimatum to the Congress, threatening to disrupt the party's campaign rallies in Gujarat unless it clarified its stand on reservation to Patidars, urgently.

He was referring to several incidents in the last few months when PAAS activists had created a ruckus at the BJP's public meetings, including those where party president Amit Shah was in attendance. During an event when Shah and Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani were to meet with leaders of the Patidar community in Surat, Hardik's supporters barged into the venue and raised slogans, before breaking the furniture. Last month, PAAS supporters once again disrupted Shah's 'Gujarat Gaurav Yatra.'

The PAAS reiterated that their main demand was that the Patidars be provided reservation under OBC category or by including them in the Constitution's 9th Schedule. "Once the Congress clarifies its stand on this, we will certainly declare our support to the party in the state assembly elections," Hardik said.

The response from the Congress has been positive with Siddharth Patel, the senior-most Patel leader in Congress' Gujarat state unit, saying the party's legal team was working on a strategy by which it can give Patidars reservations.

Meanwhile, the Andhra Pradesh (AP) government has decided to give five percent quota in education and employment to the Kapu community. This was one of the ruling Telugu Desam Party’s poll promises in 2014 and takes the total quota in AP to 55 per cent which is more than the 50 per cent limit set by the Supreme Court. The Cabinet discussed the report submitted by the Manjunath Commission and decided to extend reservations to the Kapu, Telaga, Balija and Ontari communities.

In Andhra Pradesh, BCs (A, B, C, D categories) have 25 per cent reservations. There is a 4 per cent reservation for BC (E) which is for backward Muslim communities. SCs have 15 per cent, and STs have 6 per cent quota, totaling 50 per cent reservations. With the inclusion of Kapus in the list, the quota goes up to 55 per cent. Kapus are widely believed to have supported the TDP in the 2014 elections which helped it to win with a slender margin of 2.06 per cent vote. After coming to power as Naidu dithered over the quota promise, Kapu leader Mudragadda Padmanabham called for a protest on January 31 last year near Tuni in East Godavari district, which turned violent and protestors torched the Ratnanchal Express and ransacked Tuni railway station. Since then Kapu leaders have been putting pressure on the TDP government to fulfill its poll promise.

The Kapu community, with 27 per cent population in AP, has been demanding reservations for decades. Before the 2014 elections, Chandrababu Naidu promised to give a quota to the community if elected to power. However, it was only in February 2016 that Naidu set up the Manjunatha Commission to recommend quota for Kapus. The reservations will come into effect only if the Centre agrees and passes a resolution in the Parliament because with the Kapu reservations, the total reservations in Andhra Pradesh exceed the 50 per cent limit set by the Supreme Court.

The Rajasthan government has also passed a bill, providing 5% quota for Gujjars and four other communities in jobs and educational institutions. The bill makes provision for the quota by enhancing reservations in the OBC sub-group from the existing 21% to 26%, taking total reservations in the state to 54%, in clear violation of the 50% ceiling that the Supreme Court had imposed. But, the fact that the ruling state thought it fit to pursue this course of action despite similar moves in the past being struck down, shows that reservations still have political potential.

However, there is no question that reservations in India have been counterproductive with influential communities progressively getting themselves a share of the quota pie. But the quota system has failed to empower entire communities. If reservations had truly worked, things would have proceeded in the opposite direction. Nonetheless, reservations is the easiest way to cultivate vote banks. But it also sets off a never-ending chain of quota demands.

Reversing the principle of reservations for the backward communities, over half of the medical seats under the all-India quota will now be reserved for candidates from upper castes — the open category students.

Therefore, even the high-performing candidates from the BC, SC and ST communities will be accommodated only in the 49.5 per cent reserved for them — leaving fewer seats for the truly backward.

Earlier, the admission for reserved seats took place only after the open quota seats got filled. While the earlier reservations policy ensured a minimum number of seats for students from backward communities, this policy shift appears to effectively put a cap on the number of seats for which reserved category students can compete.

Given this scenario, the need of the hour is to enlarge the jobs and education pie rather than slicing it up differently to appease whoever happens to be protesting at the moment. Peddling quotas is a way for political parties to absolve themselves for failing on the economic front. It should be borne in mind that quota numbs the spirit of enterprise in its beneficiaries and tends to make them indolent. It is time to put an end to this charade and have a level playing field for all to compete on merit.

– S.G. Jilanee


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