In India, reservation still rules the roost. Government-funded higher education institutions have 22.5 per cent of available seats reserved for the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribe students (7.5 per cent for STs and 15 per cent for SCs). However, with the inclusion of 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Classes, the reservation percentage was raised to 49.5 per cent. In short, the competition is between the other higher or other castes to the 50.5 per cent. But for the Supreme Court, our politicians (one does not know whether for vote-banks) could have taken it to 100 per cent!
In every forum that matters, our leaders press on for more and more reservations, on the basis of caste, and thus bid adieu to merit. The way things are going on, with everything being politicised, it looks as if reservation is going to stay forever, though initially it was to last for 10 years, from 1950.
Instead of uniting India, reservations have only divided this country, both on the basis of caste and religion. Hence, it is not merit, but the caste or religion to which an electoral candidate belongs, that matters the most. It is not the poverty level, but caste which is the deciding factor to get a job. In fact, no politician, irrespective of the party, has said that reservation is a divisive policy. On the contrary, political parties dole out tickets on the above basis to win elections.
The latest to join the quest are the Jats from Haryana, where the Jat community has come together to demand reservation in Government jobs and educational institutions. According to a Press report, the week-long Jat agitation in February caused loss to public and private property worth Rs34,000 crore. Buses worth Rs15 crore were burnt.
The mob struck where it hurt the commuters, highways were blocked. Violence was unleashed. Curfew had to be imposed in many districts and the Army had to be called upon. Water supply to Delhi from the Munak canal in Haryana was snapped. The railways had to cancel more than 800 trains and re-route many others.
Even after the agitation was called off on February 23, many train services remained suspended. It will take time to fix the uprooted tracks and damaged signal systems. On February 24, the Haryana Government put the cost of the arson and loot at Rs20,000 crore, but many private parties feared that their loss was not included. The bigger loss, however, was the damage to the social fabric. It became a case of Jats versus the others.
Incredible India is the only country to have all kinds of reservation policies. Whether it be the Patels of Gujarat or the Yadavs of Rajasthan or the Jats of Uttar Pradesh, they have all jumped on the bandwagon of reservation. However, politicians demand reservation, not for the love of the class for which reservation is sought for or got but to remind them to vote for the party which has helped them gain reservation.
As the police is the only bulwark between chaos and order, a Patel leader of Gujarat, leading an agitation for reservation, advised a youth from the community to rather kill the policemen than commit suicide. “If you have so much courage…then go and kill a couple of policemen. Patels never commit suicide.” Agitators had later denied the comments attributed to him. The police is damned if it acts and damned if it does not. Courts after courts have been staying the so-called reservation, based on caste or community or religion.
In November 2014, the Bombay High Court stayed an Ordinance promulgated by the previous Congress-led Democratic Front Government ahead of last Assembly poll, extending 16 per cent reservations to the Marathas and five per cent to the Muslims, saying that the decision was not in conformity with the law laid down by the Supreme Court in three cases.
While it stayed 16 per cent reservations granted to the Marathas through an Ordinance dated July 9, 2014, and Government resolution dated July 15, 2014, the High Court also stayed the State Government’s decision to provide five per cent reservation to the Muslims in Government jobs.
In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court, in March 2015, told the Government to look beyond caste and evolve new methods to identify social groups as backward for the purpose of reservation in jobs and education.
Striking down the previous UPA Government’s decision to include the politically influential Jat community in the central OBC list, a Bench of justices Ranjan Gogoi and Rohinton Fali Nariman said that, though caste may be a prominent and distinguishing factor for easy determination of backwardness, it cannot be the sole criterion.
The court scrapped the March 2014 notification that included Jats from nine States – Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand -in the central OBC list, saying that the decision was based on “outdated data” and amounted to “retrograde governance”.
The apex court’s judgement came on a batch of petitions challenging the Union Government’s decision on grounds that it ignored the advice of the National Commission for Backward Classes against including the Jats and that it was politically motivated as it came a day before the Lok Sabha poll was announced. The Government of the day and all political parties should not only respect, but implement the judgement of the apex court. The best course, however, will be equality for all. By all means, give the best educational facilities to the reservation categories, but at the same time, do away with reservations.
In the quest for power, our leaders, at least a vast majority of them, have sacrificed good governance. When the government itself accepts that in the fight for caste-based reservation more than Rs34,000 crore property has been lost, there is no reason why it should have allowed the loss and did not allow the use of force. After all, it is the taxpayers’ money on which common facilities are being made available to the agitators. The reason is simple: That our leaders do not want to do anything, including use of force to quell riots which may even remotely affect their election prospects in the present or in the future.