Case for extending the quota

The demand for reservations by Marathas, Jats and Patidars should be considered seriously.

Written by P B Sawant | Published:October 31, 2016 12:25 am
quota, quota system India, quota India, jats, patidars, marathas, Indian communities, Haryana, Gujarat, Maharashtra, India news, opinions, editorial, Indian express news The Mandal Commission has laid down additional tests for recognising social backwardness. (Source: File)

For some time now, the country has been witnessing agitations for reservations by communities like the Jats in Haryana, Patidars in Gujarat and Marathas in Maharashtra. One thing common to these communities is that they consider themselves of a higher social status because they are higher in caste ranking but are economically vulnerable. They are caught in a pincer. They have no bread at home, but are too proud to beg.

Take the case of the Marathas, who have been demonstrating in huge numbers across Maharashtra. The community constitutes 32 per cent of the state’s population. After the formation of the state of Maharashtra on May 1, 1960, the Marathas are seen in larger numbers compared to others, in all elective bodies. However, on account of their traditional economic and educational backwardness, they are disproportionately less in number in the non-elected, elite, competitive, and strategically key institutions and professions, which have been the traditional preserve of the higher castes and classes. On the contrary, they are found in considerably high number in the menial occupations and services. They are the mill and factory workers, porters and mathadi workers, the unorganised workers and marginal farmers, class IV employees in offices, constables in the police and jawans in the army. They are also found in large number among the slum and hutment dwellers, the illiterates and those below the poverty line. Yet, they are not considered “socially” backward. The plight of the Jats and Patidars is not very different. It is against this background that we have to examine the insistent demand for reservations of these communities, in education and government services.

The controversy over the reservations for these communities centres around the present criteria for reservation: For “socially and educationally backward classes” and denied to other backward classes such as the “economically” backward classes. It also raises a dispute as to who should be called “socially” backward. There is also a dispute with regard to the percentage of the reservations.

Taking first the question of social backwardness, generally speaking those who are economically backward are also socially backward. The Mandal Commission has, however, laid down additional tests for recognising social backwardness. Even if we take into consideration those criteria, it will be difficult to deny these communities the “category” of the socially backward class. Yet, they are denied this label.

The inclusion of any community in the socially backward class is necessary only for giving it reservation for entry into the educational institutions, since Article 15(4) of the Constitution specifically mentions that the reservations for entry in the educational institutions is restricted only to the “SC, ST and socially and educationally backward” classes. Article 16(4), which permits reservations in the government services, does not restrict them to the above classes but extends it to “any backward class” which does not have adequate representation in the services. Hence only “economically backward class” which does not have adequate representation in the government services, is entitled to claim reservation under that article. It, however, appears from the court decisions that they have restricted the definition of the “backward class” in Article 16(4) to the backward classes mentioned in Article 15(4). In view of the clear language of Article 16(4), it is not legitimate to do so. Hence, while interpreting Article 16(4) as per its clear mandate, we have to include in it any backward class whether it is only economically or only socially backward. Thus interpreted, communities like the Marathas, Jats and Patidars will be entitled for reservation in government services if they are not adequately represented in them. There is no need to amend the Constitution for that. The state government by legislation or executive order can create a separate class of the economically backward and prescribe a reasonable quota.

However, regarding reservation in educational institutions, since Article 15(4) confines the reservations, among others, to socially and educationally backward classes, the classes which are only economically backward will not be entitled to the same unless there is an amendment made in Article 15(4) to include them specifically as a separate class. An easier solution could be for the state governments to create enough seats in educational institutions to accommodate all the aspirants. The present agitation is mostly on account of the high cost of education. Students from the SC, ST and OBC communities get free education, hostel and books. If these facilities are extended to all the economically backward students there will be no agitation by the others. It is possible for the states to extend such facilities free to all the economically backward classes, if need be by levying taxes.

Coming next to the question of the percentage of reservations to be kept in education and in services, at the outset it must be noted that no quota can be legally assigned to any particular caste or community. Attempts to do so will not stand legal scrutiny. The present limit of reservation is restricted to 49 per cent on the ground that reservations being an exception to the general rule of equality, it has to be less than the rule. It is necessary to have a fresh look at this premise. It is true that the exceptions have to be smaller than the rule. However, the question arises whether the reservations can be considered an exception to the rule of equality.

For centuries, this country has suffered gross social and economic inequalities. The mere number of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and OBCs (without the inclusion of such castes as Jats, Patidars and Marathas) is over 60 per cent of the population, according to estimates. (According to the 2011 census, SCs are 16.6 per cent and STs 8.6 per cent. OBC population estimates vary from over 40 per cent to 50 per cent). Studies have revealed that 77 per cent of our population does not earn more than Rs 20 daily. The sum and substance of this survey of backwardness shows that about 85 per cent of our population, if not more, is backward. In other words, backwardness is a rule and forwardness is an exception in this country.

The majority of unequals are living with a minority of equals. To treat unequals equally is as much injustice as to treat equals unequally. Hence, in this country, injustice is being already caused to an overwhelming majority, that is 85 per cent of the population. The reservations are a means to bring equality and as such complementary to the principle and rule of equality, and not an exception to it. Thus viewed, the limit of 49 per cent placed at present on reservations is both in principle and in practice unjustified.

It is also unfair to think that reservations affect the quality of education and administration. The assumption underlying this contention is those who come from the backward classes are unintelligent, incompetent, substandard and non-meritorious. This assumption is an insult to the great majority of our countrymen. The backward classes have remained undeveloped and underdeveloped because of the denial of opportunity to them to blossom, and not because they are in any way inferior in intelligence, ability or talent. A survey of the cut-off marks for the open category, backward classes, most backward classes and Scheduled Castes in professional courses made by Era Sezhian, a former MP from Tamil Nadu, (The Hindu, October 8, 1990), and reproduced in this author’s judgement in Indra Sawhney versus Union of India is revealing. For instance, the cut-off marks for the MBBS course in Madras University was 95.22 per cent for open category, 93.18 per cent for backward classes, 89.62 per cent for most-backward classes and 83.98 per cent for the Scheduled Castes. Since candidates from the backward classes had secured the said marks while living and studying in adverse social and material conditions, it has to be admitted that they are superior in merit to the candidates from the open category.

Much of the progress this country has made so far is on account of the contribution of 15 per cent of the population belonging to the advanced classes. If the remaining 85 per cent had as much opportunity as the advanced classes, this country would have been more advanced than most countries of the world. The reservations are meant for empowering the backward classes to enter the advanced class. Hence, the limit of 49 per cent on reservation needs to be revised both on the principle of equality as well as the basis of the ground reality in the country. The controversy with regard to the limit of reservation can be resolved if the Supreme Court reviews and revises the said limit. It is also necessary to caution the backward classes that reservations cannot be their sole saviour.

The writer is a former Supreme Court judge

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  1. R
    Ram
    Oct 31, 2016 at 9:34 pm
    Reservation based on caste is a first step in promoting discrimination based on caste. Many people believe that caste system is part of Hindu religion but that is false. Ancient Hindus had 'Warn vyavastha' which was not based on birth hence it was different because it offered mobility to move from on 'Warn to another. Caste system was designed by British which is rigid and does not give any chance for mobility. They profiled various social groups and allotted various castes to them and compiled a potion consensus. Later they cemented castes by recruiting government employees or soldiers based on caste. Independent India is still british with brown skin.
    Reply
    1. H
      Hari
      Oct 31, 2016 at 4:17 am
      Make everyone backward if this will solve all our problem
      Reply
      1. M
        MyTake
        Oct 31, 2016 at 6:47 pm
        Nehruvian prolonged social Engineering Scheme backfiring!
        Reply
        1. P
          Pmp
          Oct 31, 2016 at 7:12 am
          No Indian will follow Que and everyone wants to Jump it.The article is an excellent example of it.As per the author there is no dearth of intelligence,competence in the candidates from reserved category,which means the focus of reservations should be providing more opportunities,rather than restricting the availability to the general category.lt;br/gt;A play of logic and semantics is made out to prove the demand of the dominant cles is genuine but simply it is to get them benefits by back door.
          Reply
          1. S
            Saurabh
            Oct 31, 2016 at 9:29 am
            One of the most illogical article in Indian express.
            Reply
            1. T
              Tinku
              Oct 31, 2016 at 3:16 pm
              this writer is a RSS chamcha..distorting the logic of reservation..Reservation is based on social injustice of 5000 years...nothing else.
              Reply
              1. A
                abhishek
                Oct 31, 2016 at 9:32 am
                Totally biased article... Obviously this judge should have been posted through reservation, and hence supporting the same... How can you judge based on some mbbs medical entrance?? Consider iitjee cutoff and you will know the poor quality of student's knowledge selected through reservation!!
                Reply
                1. A
                  aditya
                  Oct 31, 2016 at 5:02 pm
                  Reservation can stay at 49%, if raised, if India becomes overtly socialist on can know what will happen to India in the light of what happened to Greece.lt;br/gt;Reservations are suppose to empower not to make someone incompetent,unfortunately later is the case.
                  Reply
                  1. A
                    Atul
                    Oct 31, 2016 at 4:08 pm
                    based on the kind of logic presented in the article, about 90 % people in India are poor and hence backward;so we should have 90% reservations. Can the author tell one community which does not follow this criteria in India.
                    Reply
                    1. V
                      Vikrant
                      Oct 31, 2016 at 10:07 am
                      And how has reservations fixed the social mess? Even after 70 years of independence all it has resulted is more and more groups getting backward.
                      Reply
                      1. V
                        Vikrant
                        Oct 31, 2016 at 4:43 am
                        Why reservations only in availing government benefits. These prople should contribute equally in other spheres too. Do they have equal share in paying taxes? Most of these Jats and patels are farmers who never paid any taxes, sold their lands earned a fat sum and then threw away the money in buying posh cars, drinking and big houses. Now broke they have started agitating
                        Reply
                        1. V
                          Vidhu
                          Oct 31, 2016 at 4:10 am
                          Canada has separate regions called reservation.
                          Reply
                          1. A
                            Ajay G
                            Oct 31, 2016 at 5:08 am
                            Studies are startling. Gross inequality. Sad that vote bank politics has turned a consutional obligation into a election winning exercise. Majority of potion 77% living on pittance. lt;br/gt; lt;br/gt;Even from outwardly affluent cles, people are working as mill and factory workers, porters and mathadi workers, the unorganised workers and marginal farmers, cl IV employees in offices, constables in the police and jawans in the army, found in large number among the slum and hutment dwellers, the illiterates and those below the poverty line. Yet, they are not considered “socially” backward.
                            Reply
                            1. B
                              Bhakt
                              Oct 31, 2016 at 4:54 am
                              77 % of our potion does not earn more than Rs 20 daily, have no bread at home, but are too proud to beg
                              Reply
                              1. B
                                Bhakt
                                Oct 31, 2016 at 4:50 am
                                Exactly for this reason, reservations become necessary. A few selected people from any community lead a lavish life. Others in majority have no representation.
                                Reply
                                1. B
                                  Bhakt
                                  Oct 31, 2016 at 7:50 am
                                  In the study, proportion of such people is included.
                                  Reply
                                  1. B
                                    Bhakt
                                    Oct 31, 2016 at 3:42 am
                                    Logic is superb. Provided facts are stated, reservation must be granted in all 3 states.
                                    Reply
                                    1. M
                                      module
                                      Oct 31, 2016 at 10:52 am
                                      Please elaborate what is the definition of economically backward cles? Reservation started for 10 yrs and it supposed to be reduced gradually, after see the improvement. But even after 70 yrs journey, no govt, never ever thoughts to either reduce or check the reality. The fact and figure is that, most of the highly profile posts occupied or bureaucrats are from SC/ST/OBC/MINORITY only. Therefore, they are not allowing this reservation system to stop/band or to be lifted. Perhaps, most of them are very rich and well established family/persons. our consution must be changed immediately and to help the poor and merit based people only. Only day India will be finished, if continue go like this for votes bank policy. Please see this picture, how old age people been gathered for dharnna, are they poor or going to study further? who is working for them? Govt must think deeply.
                                      Reply
                                      1. A
                                        Alankar
                                        Oct 31, 2016 at 5:34 am
                                        It is indeed unfortunate that even after 70 years of Independence there is so much disparity. Politicians must share their part of blame for letting it prolong. It's a stark reminders to those who want reservations to be abolished. India is completely different from other democracies. Which country had casteism for centuries !!! Any comparison with other countries, therefore, is useless.
                                        Reply
                                        1. A
                                          Ankur
                                          Oct 31, 2016 at 4:03 pm
                                          Backwardness is the rule, forwardness is an exception. True that. A fact that is rarely highlighted because most of the elite and strategic sectors in India lack adequate representation from the backward cles. When only 15%-20% people are from the forward cl, i.e. 'GENERAL' (a misnomer), limit of 50% quota needs to be raised, as the former judge has said.
                                          Reply
                                          1. A
                                            Ankur
                                            Oct 31, 2016 at 3:59 pm
                                            Backwardness is the rule, forwardness is an exception. True that. A fact that is rarely highlighted because most of the elite and strategic sectors in India lack adequate representation from the backward cles. When only 15%-20% people re fron tge forward cl, I.e. 'GENERAL'(a misnomer), limit of 50% quota need to be raised, as tge former judge has said.
                                            Reply
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