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)
Chandigarh: The politics including the violent series of events taking place since past 10 days in the ‘Happening Haryana’, the banner under which the government promotes it, is proving to be a huge setback for this Jat-majority region.
For a state promoting itself as an ideal investment destination, the Jat community’s agitation for job reservations have come as a rude blow.
Politics is now being blamed for the Jat agitation spinning out of control and creating an anarchy-like situation in more than half of the state that borders Delhi from three sides.
Although no names are being taken openly as to who could have incited the mobs to indulge in the free-for-all violence, it is evident the whole scenario has unfolded into a Jat-versus-non-Jat tussle.
While the state’s first BJP government, which came to power with a clear majority in October 2014, has a non-Jat chief minister in Manohar Lal Khattar, opposition parties like the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the Congress are dominated by Jat leaders.
Within the BJP too, Jat leaders have tried to dictate things.
The Jat community, politically dominant in Haryana since the state was born on November 1, 1966, forms 29 percent of its nearly 2.55 crore people. Although most Jats are land owners and better off than other communities, the community has been demanding reservation under the OBC (Other Backward Class) category.
In the past also, the Jat community has agitated for reservation, but it never got out of hand, causing loss of hundreds of crores of rupees to the government and people and leading to so much inconvenience for everyone in Haryana and beyond.
The Congress-led UPA government had notified reservation for the Jats just before the April-May 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The Supreme Court in July 2015 quashed the notification. The BJP government in Haryana has since moved the apex court to seek a review.
The present Jat agitation started on a small note in Mayyar village in Hisar district earlier in February when a section of Jats blocked a railway track. The Khattar government assured them that the reservation demand would be looked into.
Just a day after that blockade was lifted, fresh trouble brewed in Rohtak, Bhiwani and Jhajjar districts with leader-less Jats coming out on the streets in large numbers and blocking roads and railway tracks.
Within three days, the protest went out of control with mobs of youth engaging in vandalism and arson.
The rampage began in Rohtak, Bhiwani and Jhajjar districts. The frenzy soon spread to Sonipat, Panipat, Hisar, Kaithal, Jind, Kurukshetra and elsewhere. Scores of shops were looted and set on fire. Government and private buildings were damaged or torched. Numerous buses and scores of private vehicles were targeted by arsonists.
The Khattar government was found wanting in dealing with the situation initially.
The image the violent agitation has created for Haryana has made it ‘happening’ for all the wrong reasons. Investors, be it from within the country or from other countries, are unlikely to feel encouraged by the scenario.(IANS)
New Delhi: Sharad Pawar ordered the army intelligence to videotape the Babri Masjid demolition in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, revealed his autobiography “On My Terms”.
He was then the Defence Minister in the PV Narasimha led government.
Not knowing what would happen that day when the Vishwa Hindu Parishad announced a “kar seva” at the 16th-century mosque site, Pawar says he told the then prime minister PV Narasimha Rao to take a strong step. “But Rao was not in favour of using force,” Pawar says in his just-released autobiography.
“He turned down my suggestion that we should deploy army platoons at the disputed site as a precautionary measure.”
“After my suggestion was rejected, I asked the army’s intelligence wing to video shoot all developments at the disputed site on December 6.”
“The film captured various stages of the demolition job accomplished by ‘kar sevaks’ including how they were egged on by their leaders.”
“The demolition exposed Narasimha Rao’s weakness as a leader,” he claimed.
“He certainly did not want the demolition to happen but did not take the necessary steps to prevent it from happening.”
According to Pawar, as the home secretary explained in detail to Rao how the demolition took place, “the prime minister sat through the meeting as if in a daze”. (IANS), (image courtesy: dawn.com)