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Jat agitation and the fallout of Quota system

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By Amulya Ganguli 

Just as Prime Minister Narendra Modi described MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) as a living monument to the Congress’s decades-old neglect of rural distress, the quota system is the fallout of, first, a similar prolonged failure in the fields of employment and education and, secondly, of political chicanery.

Haryana is bearing the brunt of these failures because of the violent agitation by the Jat community for reservations.

Originally envisaged as a gesture for a limited period to the Dalits and Adivasis who suffered social and economic deprivation for many centuries, reservations are now regarded as a pathway to easy official jobs and out-of-turn admissions to government schools and colleges by the backward castes.

In view of these advantages, which over-ride merit, the quota system has become a tool in the hands of vote-hungry politicians for buttressing their support bases.

The prime villain in this respect was prime minister V P Singh, who included the backward castes in the quota system in 1990 as a safeguard against being undercut by his rival, Devi Lal.

The Pandora’s box was thus opened with more and more communities seeking the benefits of secure jobs in government offices and seats for their children in public educational institutions.

However, it is the stagnant economy and a moribund educational sector which fuelled the demand for preferential treatment. Had the economy prospered and a greater number of jobs been available, there wouldn’t have been such a rush for reservations.

A buoyant economy would have created an atmosphere of wellness, encouraging greater public and private investment in the educational sector.

But the 2/3 percent Hindu rate of growth under the Congress’s “socialist” regimes till 1991 ensured that the economy limped along, aggravating the unemployment problem and starving the academic sphere of funds.

The post-1991 era of liberalization did not bring about a dramatic improvement in the situation despite the much higher growth rate because the world had entered a period of automated technology where machines did the work of men. Hence the term ‘jobless growth’.

Although more jobs were available than before in the services, real estate and infrastructure sectors, they were not enough to satisfy the growing demand, which was caused not only by a rising population but also the limited availability of agricultural land as the farming families grew in numbers.

Needless to say, it is not only the failures on the economic front which added to the appeal of reservations but also an official inability to enforce the population control programme.

The distortion which V P Singh introduced in the quota system was to include the relatively well-off, though socially backward, communities like the Yadavs of the Hindi heartland who had considerable clout in the countryside.

Now, the Jats who, like the Yadavs, are an influential group in the countryside are also clamoring for quotas in their favor. Not surprisingly, the Supreme Court described them as a “self-proclaimed socially backward class of citizens” while turning down the Congress-led central government’s decision to confer the backward caste status on them before the last general election.

This warping of the system has recently been accentuated by the demand of the Patidars or the Patels of Gujarat for reservations despite being well-placed, both socially and economically.

But the worst example of the skewed nature of reservations was the demand by the Gujjars of north India for relegation from their present backward caste status to that of scheduled tribes or Adivasis.

The reason for this desire to retreat into the company of the Vanvasis or forest-dwellers, as the Adivasis are sometimes called, is the fear of the Gujjars that the entry of Jats into the backward caste category, which has been pending since 1999, will reduce their share of reserved jobs and educational opportunities.

As the judge of a commission which considered their demand said, “earlier the craze was to move forward. Now it is the opposite”.

With even the “forward” groups like the Patels demanding affirmative action in their favour, it has been suggested that the quota system should be opened up to include not only the backward castes but also the economically weaker sections of the “forwards” as well.

However, perhaps the best course may be to abolish the reservations altogether, as Hardik Patel, the leader of the Patel agitators said, and let the various communities compete on the basis of merit and not the accident of birth.

Such a step will mean reviving the original goal of reservations which envisaged doing away with them a decade after their introduction in 1950.

The idea of scrapping the quota system has been floated by both proponents of a market economy, who favour a meritocracy, and social conservatives like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat, who wants a review of the system.

Irrespective of whether Bhagwat’s views reflect the longstanding resentment of the upper castes over the bounties offered to the lower castes by reservations, there is little doubt that the quota system is out of place in an open economy with its emphasis on individual enterprise and not the family background. (IANS)

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Netanyahu Personifies The Corrupting Force Of Power

What is sad about all this is that Netanyahu has all along put his self-interest above the party and the nation

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Netanyahu
Having served as the longest prime minister in Israel’s history, insatiable hunger for power of Netanyahu and desperate need to escape the indictment was first and foremost in his mind. Wikimedia Commons

By Alon Ben-Meir

The long-anticipated indictment of Prime Minister Netanyahu has finally come to pass. For three years, Netanyahu spared no effort to scuttle three criminal cases against him, but failed. These charges and their implications have now become rather clear. They have occupied Netanyahu’s thinking as to how to save himself and maintain his position as Prime Minister. They have impacted Israel’s policies, in particular toward the Palestinians, and without a doubt the charges have adversely impacted Netanyahu’s efforts to form a government following the last two elections.

In the first case, Case 1000, Netanyahu is charged with receiving gifts from Hollywood film producer Arnon Milchan in return for political favors. In the second case, Case 2000, Netanyahu was accused of striking a deal with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes to provide Netanyahu with favorable coverage in return for politically targeting a rival newspaper. In Case 4000, the third charge, Netanyahu took steps to benefit his friend Shaul Elovitch, who controlled Bezeq, in return for favorable coverage on Bezeq’s news site Walla. The first two cases charged Netanyahu with fraud and breach of trust; the third case added charges of bribery as well.

Netanyahu made a supreme effort all along to have these charges dismissed, claiming in the first case that it is acceptable to receive gifts from friends. In Case 2000, he claimed that he and Mozes were basically fooling each other and had no intention of following through, and argued in Case 4000 that asking for favorable coverage is not bribery.

In April of this year, Netanyahu continued his effort by initially trying to reinstate a 2005 immunity law which gave the Knesset House Committee the power to reject the Attorney General’s request to rescind immunity of any particular MK. In May, Netanyahu planned to push through a new law that would allow the Knesset to protect his immunity. This would have allowed the Knesset to ignore any High Court ruling on administrative matters, including potentially revoking Netanyahu’s immunity.

Netanyahu
For three years, Netanyahu spared no effort to scuttle three criminal cases against him, but failed. These charges and their implications have now become rather clear. Pixabay

And in July, realizing that he couldn’t pass such laws, Netanyahu claimed “No one is changing the law, it doesn’t need to be changed, and I won’t need it at all… it isn’t necessary at all because there has never been anything and there won’t be anything.”

The three indictments were a menacing dark cloud that hovered over Netanyahu’s head, and have had a significant impact on his political decisions. He sought to demonstrate that the charges were largely frivolous and that he is the indispensable leader that will safeguard Israel’s national security.

But the greater impact of these charges on his behavior was more related to the Palestinians. He needed to show toughness and an uncompromising position – not only to cement his right-of-center base, but to demonstrate that he is the only leader who can pursue policies consistent with Israel’s presumed national aspirations to control all of the ‘Land of Israel, including the West Bank. Other than continuing to expand and legalize settlements, he announced more than once that following the formation of a new government, Israel will annex significant chunks of the West Bank, to continue to please his base.

Perhaps the most important impact of the charges was his inability to form a government twice this year, in April and September. Because as a sitting prime minister he would not be indicted, he insisted that under no circumstances would he relinquish that position, knowing that an indictment against him will force him to face trial. This was given an even greater urgency after the second election, when he and Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz attempted to form a unity government.

For the same reason, Netanyahu insisted that in a rotating prime ministership which both sides agreed upon, he would serve as prime minister for the first two years. Since Gantz refused, especially given Kahol Lavan’s larger mandate and Netanyahu’s pending indictment, Netanyahu is opting to go for a third election within a year, hoping against hope that he will emerge as the winner with a greater mandate to form a new government.

What is sad about all this is that Netanyahu has all along put his self-interest above the party and the nation. Having served as the longest prime minister in Israel’s history, Netanyahu’s insatiable hunger for power and desperate need to escape the indictment was first and foremost in his mind.

For a man who professes to love his country and has dedicated all his life in the service of the state, he failed to grasp that in the final analysis, Israel’s survival has not and will never depend on a single individual. Had he indeed been concerned with the welfare and the security of Israel, he would have agreed to serve in a rotating unity government with Gantz on Kahol Lavan’s terms, and spared the country the pain of going through a third election. His failure, and the subsequent failure of Gantz himself to form a government, may well push Israel now toward its third election in a single year.

Netanyahu
Perhaps the most important impact of the charges was inability of Netanyahu to form a government twice this year, in April and September. Because as a sitting prime minister he would not be indicted, he insisted that under no circumstances would he relinquish that position, knowing that an indictment against him will force him to face trial. Pixabay

In an open letter to Netanyahu in October, I wrote “It’s time for you to go. There is nothing you can do that others cannot do just as good if not better. Resign your post; turn to the Attorney General to drop the charges against you. The nation will forgive you for your good intentions and some deeds… Unless you want to end up in jail just like your predecessor, spare the nation the humiliation and pain.”

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Sadly, he did not heed such advice, regardless of its source, and now he may very well end up in jail and stigmatize Israel for having been led by corrupt leaders who seem to have always put their personal self-interest above that of the nation.

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Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.