BJP led NDA’S last leg bonanza in the Parliament-EBC Quota
In a running race, the people in the outer ring, are given more time to complete the circle as it is bigger than the inner circle (since the people in the inner circle have an advantage to finish in a short span as the circle is smaller for them). Similarly, reservations are meant to uplift the far removed people of the society, be it because of historicity or by their economic conditions. The Constitution of India, took it into consideration, only that are persecuted historically through ages due to untouchability or other such socially mala fide practices. But had not looked at the criteria of economically backward that are lagging behind at that point of time. There is certainly social discrimination and humiliation that the economically backward have been suffering in the society (be it of any caste or community they belong). That in itself needs affirmative action.
The reservation of 10% quota for the economically backward sections (EBS of OC category) of India has passed peacefully (in the Parliament) as 124th Amendment to the Constitution of India with minor hiccups like heated debate and hullabaloo of opposition parties regarding timing and lacunae in the draft in both Houses of Parliament. They said, as is their won’t, “Why now, why not earlier in past four years”. Timings are always questioned in Indian democracy as every party chooses its own timing to carry out its pet projects. Appropriateness of timing a Bill is the ruling parties prerogative.
From among people of SC, ST, BC and their student wings, there was no objection as their quota is untouched. The minority communities, specially the Muslims and Christians have no word to say against it (the Amendment) as the poorer sections among those communities are also the beneficiaries of EBC quota-cake. The higher income groups among OCs also have their desires of wanting their children to get in prestigious government institutions for education and jobs. However, they being considered privileged have no voice.
The main argument raised by the elite, liberal groupings on this move by the central government was, even earlier, during the Congress prime minister PV Narasimha Rao rule similar kind of economically backward upper caste quota bill was passed but it was struck down by the Apex Court ( referring to Indira Sawhney case 11 judge Constitutional Bench in 1993). 25 years elapsed from then on. Much water has flowed through the societal fabric. May be, even in the present circumstances, if this Constitutional Amendment is challenged in the Supreme Court, the court might have to think twice before judging the Amendment vis-a-vis the times by not going merely to what the earlier bench had delivered.
Most of the liberal journalists/opposition parties who are saying now, that the economically backward classes quota – a ‘jumla’ – would not be expected to raise voice or call the act ‘jumla’, would it be done after 2019 elections by KCR-Mamata combine (if they were to form an unholy alliance) in the case of Muslims alone 12% exclusive quota throughout India. The liberal elite would justify then, the act by quoting the much clichéd/ often-repeated Sachar Committee Report. Since the present government has added upper castes, they are making a big huge and cry.
There are two important advantages of this economically backwards reservation Amendment to the future of India. One, if no one challenges it in the court, it will pass on the benefit to the intended poor and needy. Otherwise the second option that decides on the whole gamut of reservations in the country. That is, two- in case, if it goes for legal scrutiny under the Constitution, it would be stayed for a while and argued by a larger bench in the apex court, as it being an Amendment passed by the elected representatives unopposed. If the court in its final verdict, as an outcome, puts the cap of not exceeding 50% reservations as it did earlier and pronounces that that the Amendment goes against the spirit of the Constitution there would be no further argument or no further promises by any politician in future. Either way the larger issue of reservations gets a clarity (though the second option at this point of time is hypothetical).
The sudden surprising decision of the government on economically backward classes reservation paves the way for more churning in the political and judicial circles. It is already opening up a Pandora box of reservations within reservations and quotas within quotas in all federal state governments in the country. As of now, the Centre is relieved. The political satraps of states now jostle with their quota politics for some time to come.
I am Indira Garimella living in Hyderabad. I hold a Master’s Degree and M. Phil (in English) with M.Ed. I worked as PGT in English in Government run Residential Schools. I have been associated with Pragna Bharati, Hyderabad (an RSS backed NGO) for the past 25 years. I was one of the office-bearers in the Organisation from 1994 to 2004 i.e. I was the in-charge of Publications during that period. I have been a keen observer of National Politics and also write letters and articles to the English and Telugu newspapers from time to time.