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Upper caste reservations: Modi delivers a bouncer

Thursday, January 10, 2019
By Bharatkumar Raut

Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a devastating bouncer in the wee over of the match and forced the entire Opposition to lean to avoid a head-injury as the ball came to them like a fatal bullet when the nation is expecting next show of strength just within next four months. The Bharatiya Janata Party government declared its decision to offer 10 per cent reservations in education and public sector jobs to economically weaker sections across caste and religions and brought the entire population of the nation under the purview of its reservation domain. By doing this on one hand Modi forced the Opposition to shut their mouths on caste discrimination and also buried the controversy over the recent decision of Maharashtra to allow 16 per cent reservation to Maratha community. Modi included poor Muslims and Christians also in the new policy. This would perhaps help him woo the minority votes, those had remained out of the reach for the right-wing predominantly upper caste Hindu party.

The Union Cabinet decided to include economically weaker sections in the reservation list and brought in the required Constitution Amendment Bill in the Parliament with electrifying speed. As expected no party or individual MP was in a position to oppose the provision and by doing that would have cost very dear to their political future. As result, the path-breaking Constitution amendment bill was passed in the Lok Sabha in almost half a day. Now after half of the State Assemblies ratifies the Centre's initiative, the bill will go the President for his final nod. This action would convert the bill in to an Act.

It’s a political game
Though Modi and his men have been vehemently claiming that the intention of bringing in the Constitution amendment is only to provide relief to the upper caste poor, it is difficult to believe this claim. Had the elections not reach the door-step, Modi and his team would not have worked overtime to facilitate the upper caste poor. In that sense this is an election gimmick. However, if this measure is likely to benefit crores of Indians who were always deprived of the reservation cover, this has to be accepted by the political fraternity and the masses as a long overdue welcome initiative.

In Maharashtra, apart from Muslims and Christians; Brahmins, Saraswats, Kayasthas and other upper caste population also consist of poor or below poverty-line yardsticks. They have never been considered eligible for any government reservations. This is because as per various surveys and reports they do not fall under the term 'backward'. The lack of any facility for their upliftment as a society or as individuals, many deserving candidates has been deprived of proper education, particularly higher and professional education. This has finally ended up in these candidates not getting proper jobs in government establishments, its corporations, boards and local self-government offices. In the event of weak organisational unity and leadership, their voice has always been supressed.

This Constitutional amendment would provided them the most required help in upgrading their economic status and prestige. The question, however, is whether this amendment would in turn hamper the basic benefits those the backward caste people have been enjoying since Independence. Yes, if 10 per cent quota in education and in government sector jobs is earmarked for the upper caste poor, it would have a direct impact on the prospects of backward caste candidates in education and in government sector jobs. In any case, the 'other backward caste' community has been up-in-arms against the inclusion of the Maratha community in 'socially and educationally backward' class list as they consider this move as a direct threat to the chances of the traditional backward classes. Now if Upper Caste poors are also given 10 per cent reservations, the chances of the traditional backward class are further shrunk. This would affect not only their prospects but would create an invisible divide between these communities. The end result would be tarnishing the socio-cultural network further.

Reservations hit the roof
Another moot question is of securing the nod of approval from the judiciary. With Maratha reservation the percentage of reserved categories have already sky-rocketed to 68 per cent. If ten per cent more are added, the reservations would jump to 78 per cent. Would the Judiciary accept the decision that has already breached its ruling of limiting the reservations within 50 per cent. If the Judiciary at various levels takes a stern view, there would be 'Executives Verses Judiciary' picture all over.

Whatever the case may be, certainly the stroke that Modi has hit would go over the roof of the stadium in the elections. That would cost very dear to the Modi opponents. They will have to 'shape in or ship out'.

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