Monday, May 22, 2006

Reservation Row

The divisive politics of reservation has raised its ugly head again and there have been protest rallies and agitations all across India, but Tamil Nadu has been rather quiet in this front. In fact, there was pro-quota rally in Chennai. What else do you expect from a state where reservation is the norm and there is very little left to reserve.

Quotas in India has taken a life of its own since independence. Even Dr. Ambedkar advocated reservation for Schedule Castes & Scheduled Tribes only for 10 years. But politicians have since extended and expanded the scope to include several other communities under the backward class umbrella.

While affirmative actions elsewhere (US in particular) is aimed at numerically smaller minorities, it is the other way around in India. The focus of rigid quotas in India is aimed towards numerically majority communities. This, if not anything else makes the current anti-reservation agitation futile. Politicians of all hue and cry in India will not say or do anything that might even remotely impact their perceived vote bank.

In a recent interview with Arjun Singh, federal minister responsible for these things, Karan Thapar literally ripped him apart from various angles but the veteran politician had a stock reply "It has been decided by the Parliament and he is only implementing the will of the Parliament".
It is interesting that these Parliamentarians are very coy when comes to their own backyard and have a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) attitude. They have repeatedly failed to allocate 1/3rd of the seats to women. If Mr. Arjun Singh is so bent on increasing the quota regimen, why not implement OBC & women quotas to all elected bodies first?

One thing is clear though, quota system has come to stay and will only proliferate. No politician will touch the reservation holy cow for the fear of getting burned. MGR tried to exclude the creamy layer but had to make a hasty retreat. He was so severely beaten in a federal election, that he not only removed the creamy layer exclusion clause but also increased the BC quota to 50%, one of the highest in India.

My take on this no different from Jawaharlal Nehru.. "I dislike any kind of reservations.." According to Karan Thapar, this is what Mr. Nehru said in 1961..
On the 27th of June 1961 wrote to the Chief Ministers of the day as follows: I dislike any kind of reservations. If we go in for any kind of reservations on communal and caste basis, we will swamp the bright and able people and remain second rate or third rate. The moment we encourage the second rate, we are lost. And then he adds pointedly: This way lies not only folly, but also disaster.
Having said that, I am for:
  1. Helping the truly needy to get to ahead in life.
  2. Catching them young. Having affirmative action from kindergarten levels.
  3. Excluding creamy layer from any assistance / scholarship program
  4. Providing tools of upliftment rather devising subjugation mechanisms
What's your take on this ?