Spread violence, get rewarded!
Reservation has raised its ugly head again. This time the government seems to have bent over backwards and reached out to those who resort to violence. This can indeed set a bad precedent and embolden other communities further such as the Patels in Gujarat, Kapus in Andhra Pradesh, etc. There is little evidence that caste-based reservation has bridged the social divide. Given the extent of social inequality, the existing system can be neither scrapped nor modified easily.
In the past year, the nation has seen three major agitations over the reservation issue. The Patels in Gujarat took their demand for reservation to the international platform. The Kapus in Andhra Pradesh created havoc in the state over their demand for reservation. After the Patels and Kapus were calmed down with great difficulty, the Jats of Haryana have forced the government to succumb to their demands.
The message in Haryana is loud and clear. The State lost Rs 20,000 crore to loot and arson, while 19 people were killed. How can we recover these losses? The Jats unleashed a reign of terror in Haryana, the effects of which were felt in New Delhi.
The government seems to have surrendered. The sudden decision of the government in favour of Jats has surprised all. If the government had to give in to their demands, why did it wait till the situation got out of hand?
Many questions have arisen after the violence in Haryana. In its concession to the quota demand, has the government rewarded Jats for the violence and vandalism? Has the government’s concession legitimised similar demands by other communities?
The government was initially quiet on the Jat agitation. It did not get to the root cause of the issue. It is alleged that some Congress politicians are behind it. The surprising element of this entire episode was the lack of violence witnessed in the Sirsa area—a bastion of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) under the Chautalas. Does it mean that the Jats of that area were not participating in the agitation? No matter what prompted the violence, it certain that an effort was made to destabilise Haryana.
This could rightly be termed as a disaster of the NDA government. The BJP was elected to power for their development agenda, not for caste politics. What would it yield again if such menace is spread to other states? Does it mean that the resentment against the BJP is clear? BJP has a Punjabi Chief Minister in Haryana.
It is believed that the Jat community wanted major portfolios in the State cabinet, including that of the Chief Minister. Since their demands remain unfulfilled, the Jats attempted to sabotage the government. Has the quota stir divided the BJP? Will the BJP pay for its caste politics?
Is it justified to bring all similar castes into the frame of reservation in different regions of the country? Can an adminstration, with the entire state machinery at its disposal, be held hostage to violence? Reservation for Jat is not a new issue. This matter had already been discussed and debated many times in the past. The Supreme Court had scrapped the notification of the Centre to include Jats in Other Backward Class (OBC) list. The apex court verdict had indicated that caste cannot be the only basis of reservation. The Supreme Court has also mentioned in its verdict that Jats are not socially, economically, or educationally backward. The National Commission for Backward Classes had notified in its report that Jats do not qualify for reservation, even though they have always claimed a share of the OBC pie, as per their “constitutional rights”. Even the Mandal Commission in 1991 rejected the Jat demand for reservation.
Why shouldn’t economic status be held as a basis for fixing quotas? Is the destruction of property the right way to get quota for those needing economic upliftment? In the Haryana case, the role of the government is now a subject of criticism. Does it mean that one can get the demand for reservation met by spreading violence? Isn’t it a blackmail strategy? Will this not fail the cause of communities who genuinely need reservation?
Many countries including the USA had the system of reservation, but now that has been scrapped. This does not mean that the government in those countries does not work for the underprivileged. The per capita income and lifestyle of poor people in those countries are much better than India.
The poverty line per person is $5963 for the larger household. At the same time, for urban India, the official poverty line is US $21 and for the rural India it is US $14. That speaks for itself. Since reservation has not significantly raised the socio-economic profile of these communities, the time has come for a serious rethink on the issue. The benefits of the reservation system has not reached the needy; rather it has been cornered by the “creamy layer” of those in the reserved category. The government could formulate the criteria for reservation, including the economic status. The issue should not be generalised. We are waiting for our politicians to deliver, and give us an equitable society.
(The author is a freelance jounalist, Views expressed are strictly personal.)