ST in India

Our constitution provides certain provisions to the SCs and STs to protect their educational and economic interests. These provisions are known as “Protective Discrimination Policy”. They are related to (i) Political reservation (Articles 330 & 332), (ii) Reservation of seats in educational institutions [Article 15(4), 29 & 46] and, (iii) Reservation of Govt. jobs [Article 16(4), 320(4), 333 & 335] for a period of 10 years with the sole intention of uplifting the people in those categories – socially and economically. A very noble intention, we all appreciate. But where are we now after 66 years since adoption of the constitution on 26th November, 1949? The picture is very clear to all of us. At this stage, a few basic questions arise in our mind

  • Why did these provisions fail to deliver the results expected out of them? Where it went wrong?
  • Why the period of implementation has been extended on a number of times through amendments of constitution?
  • Who are the real beneficiaries?
  • How many more will die and how much assets will be lost in the process of ever increasing demands for reservation? (Very recent agitation by Jats demanding reservation is a burning example which witnessed death of 30 youths in Haryana.)
  • Will the backwardness ever be removed from the country?
  • Can’t the basis for reservation be changed from caste to economic condition?

At this juncture, I would like to clarify that I am not against reservation, rather I am in favour of reservation. With that clarification, I shall now try to find out the answers to the above mentioned questions in seriatim:

  • Those provisions could deliver to some extent against the backdrop of huge requirement / demand. The main reason for this is that all the opportunities available to SCs /STs were and have been grabbed mostly by the powerful and well-to-do members in those categories. As a result, people who are really needy and deserving, suffered and are still suffering silently. You may be surprised to know that majority of the people in those categories even do not know about such provisions. Incidentally, in all spheres of reservation, these were and have been availed by a part of the people for generations; grandfather availed it, father also availed it and now, he himself has availed it. In the areas of politics and jobs, this has happened in 85 -90% cases. In the area of education, it may be 50-60% (As the area is broad based.). These beneficiaries are mostly unconcerned of the welfare of their brethren in those categories.
  • Initially, the ruling party preferred to field the candidates among SCs /STs who were educated and relatively better off to fight the election so that they could easily win the seat. Once they tasted the power, they became habituated of enjoying power. The ruling party also got huge advantages and it became a vicious circle. Resultantly, while the provisions were for a period of 10 years, it became perpetual. These politicians to suit their own interests, preferred to allow continuance of reservations in educational institutions and Govt. jobs. Some politicians also played havoc with this quota system and the country had to bleed profusely. One such politician was Late (Shri) V P Singh, Ex – Prime Minister who set up Mandal Commission. We all know the fall out of the report and how many youths went for self-immolation. It needs no elaboration that the issue of reservation has become such a contentious one which can be compared with a volcano.
  • The real beneficiaries are mostly a class of opportunist people who have been grabbing the facilities on a continuous basis as they know the details of such provisions. Incidentally, these people do not have any desire to uplift the standard of the deprived in that class. It seems that the politicians (SCs / STs) want others in those categories to remain weak and deprived so that their vote bank remains intact.
  • Unemployment is a chronic issue, the country has been grappling with. We are always talking about demographic dividend but in the absence of skill development and job creation commensurate with demand for jobs, the situation has become vulnerable. It is like a few drops of water in a desert when the mass is in search of oasis. Other burning issues even after 68 years of independence are Caste and Caste related politics. Some unscrupulous politicians with a view to gaining political mileage, instigate people by playing backward caste card and as a result, agitation gets started to have some quota approved for their caste. This has become a routine affair and till such time the caste system continues, this will not stop. It is, however, a fact that the pie is shrinking fast and the day is not far away when the pie will be so miniscule that it may not be possible to sub-divide it further.
  • You will agree with me that when it comes to backwardness, we always think of economic backwardness. But, in our country, ironically, this terminology is coined with caste and so long the backwardness will be linked to caste, the smart politicians will use this as a tool to win the election. We all know the powerful politicians will never allow this trump card to go out of their hands and as such, backwardness will not only continue but also flourish.
  • As mentioned earlier, the very word “Backwardness” is compatible with only economic condition of a person. It can’t / shouldn’t / mustn’t be linked to community, caste, creed, religion, region, state, etc. By linking this with caste, a poisonous sapling was planted ab-initio. The educated and well-to-do people among SCs / STs after grabbing all the benefits have made it their monopoly. In the process, they became very powerful and any change in provisions was resisted in the past and will be resisted in the future as well. This is precisely the reason for successive amendments of the constitution for continuance of those provisions.

In view of the aforesaid, you may think that everything is lost and nothing can be done to improve the lots of the real needy and deserving people in those categories as also economically backward people. I don’t think so. To this end, I would venture to suggest, as under:

  • This is a very sensitive matter and no political party would like to disturb its vote bank. So, at this juncture no radical change is possible. What need to done is to increase awareness among the population as regards the benefits they are entitled for.
  • More and more deserving people under the quota should be given total facilities for proper and higher education.
  • The Government on its part has to pass an act in the parliament to the effect that once a family (comprising father, mother and children) member has availed the facility of reservation, nobody in the family will be entitled for such reservation. This is in respect of job only, facility in education will, however, continue.
  • Similarly, it is observed that Parliamentary and Assembly seats reserved for SCs and STs have been captured by the same persons term after term. As a result, no fresh candidate is getting a chance to be elected. It may be given a thought so that after a fixed number of times, prospective candidates will take over the responsibility from the old guards.

The suggestions are very much implementable. We shall eagerly await that day.

Reservation – the Forbidden Fruit
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