Whether a tactical masterstroke or a political gimmick, the recently passed bill for 10% reservation to economically weaker upper castes doesn’t really stand for the objective it should serve. The trend of ‘preservation of reservation’ had not been the initial objective when it was introduced for the first time. To cure the disease of caste discrimination and untouchability the reservation system was introduced as a vaccine.
Instead of curing the disease due to defective implementation, the overdose continued. The means of special provision and constitutional security to the socially backward classes became the means to minority appeasement or ‘vote banks.’
The attitude of the members in the parliament when passing of the bill is testimony to the fact that no party can take the risk to say no to reservation and lose vote banks. When the bill was presented and discussed in the Rajya Sabha, members despite having strong objections, calling it a political stunt for upcoming elections and seriously flawed, said yes to it in the end. No leader supported DMK’s motion to send the bill to a joint select committee for reconsideration.
Passage of The Constitution (One Hundred And Twenty-Fourth Amendment) Bill, 2019 in both Houses of Parliament is a victory for social justice.
It ensures a wider canvas for our Yuva Shakti to showcase their prowess and contribute towards India’s transformation.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 9, 2019
One of the criteria mentioned in the bill for somebody to avail reservation in economically backwards quota is family household income of less than ₹8 lakh per year. As Derek O’ Brien, TMC leader pointed out it redefines India’s poverty line from ₹32 per day to ₹2,100 per day. Other criteria to consider somebody deserving for such reservation is to have agricultural land less than five acres and to have a house smaller than 1000 square feet.
Times of India reports that according to NSSO data at least 95% of Indian families fall under the 8 lakh annual income limit. About 86% of land-holdings in India are under two hectares in size. Another NSSO report on housing conditions shows that even the richest 20% of the population had houses with an average floor area of almost 500 square feet. Which means this reservation provision covers well almost every Indian.
Just like caste based reservation, this also doesn’t provide the provision to opt out. Which means a poor farmer is clubbed together with a decent earning government employ to avail reservation.
Consider a farmer who has less than two acres of land and his/her child’s accessibility to quality education, nutrition and other things with the child of a government employ, undoubtedly the later has more chances to get better scores for higher education and a chance to study in a better institution for getting a better job. The absurd paradoxical criteria will ruin the future of Indian youths.
Putting aside the flaws in criteria, another objection is it’s unconstitutional according to the 1992 Supreme Court judgement which had set the 50% reservation ceiling. The recently introduced category of reservation makes it 59.5%.
The introduction of reservation to socially backward classes was based on social, cultural backwardness which was the cause of not only widespread poverty in these communities but also an obstacle for upward social mobilisation. Reservation assured representation of the so called lower caste communities in education institutes and different job sectors to bring them into the mainstream society and discard chances of exclusion.
With the implementation of Mandal Commission report by the VP Singh government, the purpose of reservation changed altogether and debatably propagated caste to continue as the sole criteria for reservation and categorization. Though the creamy layer concept was introduced as well, the income limit gets extended without restrictions allowing more and more people to be eligible for such. The comparison between the hastily taken decisions by VP Singh government and Modi government have a lot of similarities and yes of course a hidden political agenda to seize power.
The EWS (Economically Weaker Section) quota will have similar kind of flaws that the ST, SC, OBC quota has. The biggest reason for which reservation system has been criticized and anti-reservation protests have taken place is that often economically sound persons belonging to mentioned categories tend to rip benefits leaving the needy downtrodden. Ironically, EWS quota with the current model is going to provide ample chances for getting misused by the hands of those who hold unaccounted income to fudge lower income certificates.
Now, the picture is quite clear that the bill lacks practicality and the consequences are yet to be seen on the ground. Leaving aside the flaws in the manner of implementation of the bill, what else that waits in the near future is hatred and discontent from the unreserved category.
One has to keep in mind that reservation system was not meant for alleviating poverty, rather social backwardness. Government has to give scholarships, expand infrastructure, create seats in colleges and job opportunity for uplifting the poor. When the country is in dire need for revising the existing list of reservation availers, our government is busy being unconstitutional in all possible manners.