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Quotas: RSS got it right – for once

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The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief, Mohan Bhagwat, deserves a mild round of applause for calling for a relook at the reservations policy.

RSSFollowing his suggestion, at least three Congress leaders have gathered enough courage to say that a review should consider making economic status rather than caste the basis of quotas.

Before last year’s general election, a senior Congress leader, Janardhan Dwivedi, had made a similar statement.

It is unlikely, however, that their bosses in the party, the mother-and-son duo of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, will back them considering that the Congress president had forced a reluctant Manmohan Singh to renew the inclusion of caste data in the census operations of 2011 after a gap of eight decades.

Her objective was no different from that of the Hindi belt leaders who use the bait of providing education and employment in government institutions to specific caste groups to build up their support bases.

It is this unabashed partisan purpose which has seemingly persuaded the RSS chief to seek an assessment of the quota system for those sections which “require reservation and for how long”.

However, the timing of Bhagwat’s suggestion was disadvantageous for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for it enabled its opponents in the forthcoming Bihar elections to accuse the BJP of an upper caste bias which seeks to block the upward mobility of the lower castes by ending the quota system.

The BJP-led Rajasthan government’s decision to allot quotas to the economically weaker sections of the “forward” castes has also provided grist to the party’s opponents. A similar initiative has also been taken in BJP-ruled Gujarat.

Notwithstanding these steps, the BJP is trying to distance itself from its mentor’s counsel and the RSS, too, is now hemming and hawing about the issue because it has belatedly realised that it had wandered into an area where angels fear to tread.

It will be a mistake, however, to believe that Bhagwat’s observations have anything to do with the visions of Jawaharlal Nehru and other stalwarts of the freedom movement who wanted the caste system to wither away in an independent India with the growth of a meritocracy because of the spread of quality education and the cultivation of a scientific temper.

Instead, the RSS chief’s concerns cannot be unrelated to the angst of the Patel community in Gujarat, which has been disheartened by the lack of education and employment opportunities because of the inroads made into these fields by groups which flaunt their reservation rights even if they may be less qualified than those who are outside the ambit of the quota system.

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Hence, the demand of the gun-toting and sword-wielding young leader of the generally well-off Patels or Patidars, as they are also known, Hardik Patel, that his community be included in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category.

Considering that he has called for either an inclusion in the quota system, or for dispensing with the reservations altogether, there is little doubt that he has touched a chord in the hearts of not only the upper castes, who have always been against the reservations, but also those who believe that this form of affirmative action has fostered vested interests who deliberately ignore the original idea of the quotas being offered for a limited period and that, too, for only the two most deprived groups – the Dalits and Adivasis.

Instead, the quotas have been extended to communities like the politically influential Yadavs even if they still experience some of the social stigma because of their ‘backwardness’.

What is more, the Supreme Court’s directive about denying what is called the ‘creamy layers’, or those who have benefitted from the reservations, any further access to quotas has been studiously circumvented by successive governments of various hues.

However, as is evident from the suggestions that the quota system be reoriented towards the poorer sections of all castes, the present virtual travesty of the original intent of the reservations is becoming increasingly obvious.

Yet, the political class is too focused on making immediate gains by playing the caste card to see how the unavoidable fallout of the denial of opportunity to the meritorious can breed social tension, as the agitation of the Patels show.

At present, only Narendra Modi has made an attempt to turn the spotlight on development even if his party, and especially its allies, are not averse to playing the caste game in Bihar.

Otherwise, all the other parties, including the supposedly progressive Left, have made no attempt to mobilise public opinion against quotas while the Aam Admi Party is too busy making space for itself in politics to spend much time on a contentious subject.

The murmurs in the Congress about a new approach show that the ingrained sycophancy of its members towards the Nehru-Gandhis hasn’t yet made the party totally brain dead. But, unfortunately, neither Sonia nor Rahul has the intellectual prowess to consider the matter with all its implications and chart a new course.

The Bihar elections are important in this context because there will be a direct contest between a pro-development and a pro-casteist outlook. Last year, the development model had received a thumbs-up signal from the voters. The results on November 8 will show their present mindset.

Amulya Ganguli, IANS

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COVID-19: Congress Urges Yogi to Open Places of Worship

Lucknow Congress president Mukesh Singh Chauhan has written a letter to UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath

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Yogi Adityanath performs Rudrabhishek in Gorakhnath temple for safety from Corona. Wikimedia Commons

The Uttar Pradesh unit of the Congress party has written to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Saturday to open all places of worship which are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The letter has been written by Lucknow Congress president Mukesh Singh Chauhan.

The letter said that the way the Central and State governments have issued orders to open shops for essential commodities, in the same way now all the big and small places of worship — temples, churches, mosques, gurdwaras should also be thrown open for the devotees.

Chauhan in his letter said, “India is a multi-religious and faith oriented country. Here people believe that worship of God will reduce their suffering. But due to the closure of the places of worship, people are not able to pray to their God. Therefore, major religious places should be immediately opened with social distancing in full compliance with the lockdown norms.

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Chauhan from Congress, in his letter said, “India is a multi-religious and faith oriented country. Here people believe that worship of God will reduce their suffering”. Pixabay

Chauhan said sanitizer machines should be placed at the entry of major places of worship just like it is done in government offices. He also said if liquor shops can be opened, in the same way, the temples, mosques, gurudwaras, churches should also be opened in full compliance of the social distancing norms.

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The president of the Akhil Bhartiya Akhara Parishad, Mahant Narendra Giri, had also raised similar demand of opening of temples across the state. He had demanded from the Yogi government to open the doors of all temples for the devotees.

Giri had said, “Because of the closure of temples for the last two months, the livelihood of priests and other temple staff is also getting affected. When the government can allow liquor shops to be opened for revenue, why temples should not be allowed to open for the same reason.”

He had assured that after the permission to open the temples, the priests would follow the rules and protocols of social distancing and get the devotees to do it too. (IANS)

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“Where is The National Exit Plan?”, Congress Questions Government Over Lockdown

What is the 'national exit plan' from lockdown asks Congress

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Manish Tewari, Congress spokesperson asked "Where is the national exit plan,". WIkimedia Commons

The Congress has asked the government to spell out a roadmap for exiting the lockdown two days ahead of the expiry of lockdown-3 and following Prime Minister Modi seeking the states’ suggestions for lifting the restrictions.

“Where is the national exit plan,” asked Manish Tewari, Congress spokesperson on Friday.

“India announced a lockdown when the case count was 181 and now when you are lifting the lockdown, the number of cases has crossed 80,000. India is the first country apart from the US to be doing so,” said Tewari.

He said when the government can announce putting into effect the miscellaneous clause in the Disaster Management Act, then it can also come out with the exit plan.

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“The Prime Minister is playing a unique game as he announced lockdown; and now when things are out of hands, then the onus is put on the states to suffer the wrath of people.”, The Congress spokesperson said. Wikimedia Commons

“The Prime Minister is playing a unique game as he announced lockdown; and now when things are out of hands, then the onus is put on the states to suffer the wrath of people. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman too has put the onus of migrants on the states,” said Tewari.

The Congress said since states have to face people, no government can allow anarchy. “Therefore, states should be given more flexibility.”

The party has been questioning the exit strategy and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had asked the party chief ministers to press the Centre for a roadmap.

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The former Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh had asked the party chief ministers to press the Centre for a roadmap. Wikimedia Commons

Former party president Rahul Gandhi has emphasized that states should be consulted on zone categorization. He has asserted that the opening of the economy should be left to the states as they know better about the supply chain.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address on Tuesday said that coronavirus is a reality. He hinted that lockdown 4.0 would be “totally different.”

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The PM has also said in a video conference with Chief Ministers that as the country moves ahead, the economic activities that have been restarted would gain steam. He also asked state governments to ensure that rural India remains free from the Covid-19 crisis.

The Chief Ministers who couldn’t make themselves heard during the video conference on Monday were told to send their suggestions by May 15.

Though Maharashtra, Punjab, West Bengal and Telangana insisted on extending the current lockdown, some other states such as Delhi wanted greater freedom to open the economy, except in the containment zones. (IANS)

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Congress Launches Chat Portal to Help UP Stranded Workers

The initiataive is by UP Congress to help migrants

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In Jharkhand COVID-19 tally reached 174 consisting of mostly Migrant labourers. Pixabay

To help the migrant workers stranded in several states, the Congress, here on Saturday, launched a web portal, even as the political slugfest continued over rail fares of migrants being ferried by Shramik Special trains.

The Congress launched chat portal tinyurl.com/UPmitra to help UP workers stranded in other states as well as those stuck in the state. The portal has been developed by Valuefirst free of cost.

“We have launched this chat portal to provide help to those in need. The problems raised by them will be listed and the party workers will help them,” UP Congress chief Ajay Kumar Lallu said.

The list of the problems would also be shared with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, he added.

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The problems of the migrants will also be shared with the CM of UP. Pixabay

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The Congress, he said, was running community kitchen in 17 UP districts since the nationwide lockdown was announced to combat the spread of Covid-19. Meals and ration had been provided to over 47 lakh people, he added.

On Friday, Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra sent over 100,000 face masks to Lucknow to help deal with the pandemic.

The party has also helped over 400,000 migrant workers in the state. (IANS)