Questions on 10% quota

Kashmir Times. Dated: 1/11/2019 10:46:17 AM

Reservations on economic grounds appears more as a desperate measure of BJP-govt than providing social justice

The 10 percent reservation on the economical grounds passed by the Parliament on Wednesday appears to be a desperate move of the BJP-government to retain its vote share among the upper castes in the country. This also appears to be BJP-government's attempt to recover the traditional vote bank after it has been rattled by erosion in upper caste votes in the recently concluded Legislative Assembly elections in three major Hindi-heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The move seeks to provide for 10 percent reservation in public jobs and educational institutions with an eye on the forthcoming General Elections, which are less than three months away from now. This appears to be more of an election time signal being sent to the upper castes than a genuine attempt to revisit the social justice policy. The 124th Constitution Amendment Bill faced the challenge of its being passed by two-thirds of the MPs present and voting in both Houses. Opposition which has described it as an election stunt also chipped in and supported passage of the Bill in the Upper House of the Parliament. At this stage, however, it is difficult to say whether it will stand the judicial scrutiny or not. Since it has been passed, the 50 percent limit on total reservation laid down by the Supreme Court has been breached. Though it is arguable that such a move will create deserving opportunities to those outside the purview of caste-based reservations, yet in Indira Sawhney, a nine-judge bench had struck down a provision that earmarked 10 percent for the economically backward on the ground that economic criteria cannot be the sole basis to determine backwardness. Amendment in the Constitution to extend what is limited to the 'socially and educationally backward' to those economically weak is problematic. Already such provisions have been virtually struck down by the apex court in case of Maharashtra and some other states. Moreover, it goes against the politics of the BJP, which has been propagating an end to all reservations in the country with a view to please the upper castes with such a slogan. But practically, the BJP and its allies have miserably failed in fulfilling its promise of opening up more venues for employment and educational facilities for the upper castes.
Now the questions that arise are whether financial incapacity warrants special treatment when the income ceiling is being fixed at Rs 8 lakh per annum or owning less than five acres of land. This is the same as the 'creamy layer' limit above which OBC candidates now enjoying reservations become ineligible - an uneasy parity has been created between socially and educationally backward classes with limited means and those who are socially and educationally advanced with the same limitation. One wonders, if this is new poverty line then why people having an annual income of Rs 2.40 lakh are being taxed and why people have to go for strike demanding Rs 2.16 lakh per annum as minimum wages. The other question that has come up frequently when quotas are increased by State governments is that exceeding the 50 percent limit offends the equality norm. A Constitution Bench ruled that equality is part of the basic structure of the Constitution. It said the 50 percent ceiling, among other things, was a constitutional requirement without which the structure of equality of opportunity would collapse. Another question is whether reservations can go to a section that is already adequately represented in public employment. It is not clear whether the government has quantifiable data to show that people from lower income groups are under-represented in its service. Reservations have been provided to undo historical injustice and social exclusion suffered over a period of time, and the question is whether they should be extended to those with social and educational capital solely on the basis of what they earn. Significantly, it is important to note that with only 90 days to for General Elections, such a criteria is being declared without adequate time to actually execute it. If it is so then this steps lacks honesty of execution. Moreover, it has been rightly pointed by the senior BJP minister Nitin Gadkari that there no substantial jobs being created in the economy then how does the additional reservation solve the problem. The debate is wide open when advocates of reservation are in an ecstasy of perceived victory and those opposing calling it an elections gimmick that only time will tell whether this would stand the test of time and law.

 

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