Quota or quota will help none

No politica party at the national level or regional level opposed the 10% reservation for the economically backward among upper castes.

Quotas in their many forms have through the decades after Independence been a tool of the political class to firm up their support base in the garb of pushing for social justice and undoing the wrong of the caste system perpetrated through the centuries. The quota system has been pushed to the limits by various political parties and the latest addition to the list is the 10% reservation for the economically backward upper-castes provided by the Centre in government jobs and in educational institutions. The big question: will this quota stand the scrutiny of law? Is the constitutional amendment to Article 15.6 and 16.6 of the Indian Constitution by Parliament not contrary to the judgements of the Supreme Court? What chunk of the upper caste population in Karnataka will benefit from this enactment? B. Aravinda Shetty explores various facets of the quota dilemma.

The 10% quota for the poor among upper castes was the proverbial rabbit which the Narendra Modi government pulled out of the hat to leave the opposition, which felt it had enough ammo to embarrass the government on the Rafale jet deal, astounded. Sensing a threat to their voter base if they went against the bill, parties across the political spectrum raised their hands and the bill was passed in both Houses of Parliament followed by the Presidential assent.

No politica party at the national level or regional level opposed the 10% reservation for the economically backward among upper castes. It is a proven fact that reservation is being used as a tool by all political parties to get maximum political dividends. Though the Supreme Court has fixed the ceiling of 50% reservation for SC/STs/OBCs and minorities while hearing the Indra Sawhney Vs Union of India case , the state governments have violated the norms more often than not.

In fact it is not the first time in India that reservation is being given to upper castes. Then chief minister Ramakrishna Hegde had provided 5% quota to upper caste youth in Karnataka. Later, then CM M. Veerappa Moily enhanced the reservation limit to 63 %. But both the enactments were rejected by the High Court subsequently.

Deccan Chronicle interacted with legal experts, persons heading reservation panels and persons closely associated with the government in implementing reservation policies, about the impact of reservation for the economically backward upper castes in the state. At present, Karnataka is providing 50% reservation to socially and educationally backward classes which include SCs, STs, minorities and OBCs in government jobs and in educational institutions.

Of the 50 % reservation, SCs and STs are availing 18 % and OBCs including backward classes are getting 32 percent reservation benefits from Karnataka government. (The pattern of reservation in the state is- Category 1- 4%, 2A-15%, 2B-4%, 3A-4%, 3B-5%, SC-15 and ST-3%. ) The remaining 50% is reserved for general category candidates. Once the ten percent reservation for the economically backward upper castes comes into force from this academic year, the general category quota will be reduced to 40%.

Karnataka State Backward Classes Commission (KSBCC) Chairman H. Kantharaju opined that the Constitutional enactment on 10% reservation to the upper caste poor has created confusion because it is inconsistent in parameters and guidelines. “The Constitutions provides reservation to socially and educationally backward classes, it does not permit or allows reservation to economically backward classes, because reservation is not a tool of poverty alleviation. Moreover the Constitution specifically states that to fix the reservation pattern or quota , the government should set up a Commission to examine and collect data under article 340 of the Constitution to identify the social and educationally backward in society. Here there is no scientific data before the government to fix 10% reservation and no commission or panel has been constituted to identify who is economically backwa among the upper castes. ‘‘More importantly, as per the Keshwananda Bharati case, the Apex court has held that the government has no power to alter or amend the basic structure and features of the Indian Constitution, it means the government cannot bring an amendment to fundamental rights. Thus this amendment to the Constitution will not stand legal scrutiny and is not sustainable in the eye of law”, Mr. Kantharaju explained.

Economic factors should not be the criteria to fix reservation, argue experts. The Tamil Nadu government has brought 69 % reservation for socially and educationally backward classes. This policy has been challenged before the Supreme Court because it was contrary to the judgement of the top court, they said.

As for Karnataka, the 10% reservation for the upper caste poor will dent the existing reservation pattern and will mean injustice to meritorious general category candidates who wish to get admitted to better educational institutions and also impact aspirants for government jobs.

Though the Centre has repeatedly stated that 10% reservation to upper caste poor will not eat into the existing reservation pattern, the quota will eat into the share of general merit candidates. Earlier this quota was 50%, due to 10% reservation, the general category quota will be reduced to 40%.

There is no exact figure available about who will benefit from the 10% reservation for the upper caste poor in Karnataka, but the Backward Classes Commission said that about 15% of the economically backward upper castes will benefit from the bill.

The economically backward among upper castes such as Brahmins, Arya Vaishya, Goud Saraswat Brahmin (GSB), Mudaliyar and Nagartha communities will get 10% reservation in Karnataka.

Mr K. Mukudappa, State President of Ahinda termed the bill a gimmick.

Everybody knows that economically backward upper castes must get reservation benefit, but without any scientific data or preparation, the government has brought the bill, so it will not stand legal scrutiny. If the government has an honest approach towards the poor among upper castes, it should have assessed the backwardness of upper castes, he said.

Mr. Mukudappa recalled that in 1985, then CM Ramakrishna Hegde brought 5% reservation for the economically backward among upper castes, but the bill was struck down by the court which observed that economic backwardness was not the basis to> fix reservation under the Constitution.

Former Prime Minister H.D.Deve Gowda observed that there should be a wider discusson on ten percent reservation for upper caste poor. If it implemented, the maximum benefit will go to only 2 to 3 % of the population, he opined. Mr H.K. Ramu, President of the State Government Employees Association welcomed the constitutional bill and felt it provides an opportunity to the economically weaker sections among upper class youth to get government jobs.

Objectives of 10% reservation bill
The economically weaker sections among upper castes have largely remained excluded from attending higher educational institutions and in getting public appointments on account of their financial incapacity to compete with persons who are economically more privileged. Existing reservation benefits are generally unavailable to them unless they meet the specific criteria of social and educational backwardness. The Constitution ( One Hundred and Twenty Fourth Amendment) Bill 2019 provides reservation for the economically weaker sections in higher educational institutions including private institutions whether aided or unaided by the state other than minority educational institutions referred to in article 30 of the Constitution and also provides for reservation for them in initial appointment to posts in services under the state.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
Next Story