Deprivation tales

Demand for quotas by powerful groups draws on perceptions, does injustice to truly disadvantaged

Written by Ashwini Deshpande , Rajesh Ramachandran | Updated: February 17, 2017 12:19 am
jat quota, jat reservation protest, jat agitation, jat quota protest, jat reservation stir, patidar agitation, hardik patel, patidar reservation, reservation protests, india obc protests, india news, indian express news, latest news These communities feel their power slipping away or eroding, in addition to feeling ill prepared to shift towards urban, formal sector livelihood opportunities. (Source: Express Archive Photo)

The Jat agitation for quotas is back on the streets of Haryana, with additional demands for withdrawal of charges against those booked for the protests last year. The young leader of the Patidar agitation, Hardik Patel, following his long jail term and exile, appears all set for a bigger and more fiery political role, with his plans to campaign for the Shiv Sena in the upcoming Mumbai civic polls, and the Shiv Sena promoting him as its future chief ministerial candidate in Gujarat. The latter quarter of 2016 witnessed a spate of “Maratha Kranti Muk Morchas” across the state — massive silent marches by the Maratha community, reiterating the demand to be designated as one of the Other Backward Classes (OBC), along with additional demands, such as scrapping of the Prevention of Atrocities (against Scheduled Caste-Scheduled Tribes) Act. Thus, the articulation of the demand by powerful groups to be considered “backward”, based on the narrative of deprivation, marginalisation and hurt, continues to be a major issue that is unlikely to die down any time soon.

In a first of its kind exercise, we analyse large-scale data from the India Human Development Survey (IHDS), and compare Patels, Marathas and Jats to other major groups — Brahmins, Other Forward Castes (FCs), existing OBCs and SC-STs — in their respective states. How “backward” are the three jatis in relation to the other groups in their states? We find that these three jatis are closer to the socio-economically dominant caste groups (Brahmins and Other FCs) in their respective states on a variety of indicators — such as per capita consumption expenditure (PCCE), poverty status, educational attainment and occupational status — compared to the existing disadvantaged groups of the OBCs, Dalits, and Adivasis (SC-STs).

For instance, the PCCE of the Jats is 33 and 43 per cent more than that of the OBCs and SC-STs and not different from that of the Brahmins and Forward Castes; the Marathas are as likely as the Brahmins, OBCs or SC-STs to hold a government job, despite the lack of quotas; and the Patels are five and 15 percentage points less likely to be poor as compared to the OBCs and SC-STs, and are no more likely compared to the Brahmins and the FCs. Comparing changes over time on indicators such as educational attainment, PCCE and the probability of being classified as poor, we find that Jats, Patels and Marathas have increased their relative advantage between 2004-05 (the first round of IHDS data) to 2011-12 (the second round). Thus, our analysis shows that not only do Jats, Patels and Marathas possess an advantage over the lower-ranked marginalised groups, in fact, they seem to have consolidated their relative position. This indicates that the narrative of “the ground is slipping beneath their feet” is largely based on perceptions, and has little empirical support in the data.

Examining factors that might underlie their anxieties, we propose a “structural change hypothesis”, many elements of which have been suggested by several commentaries — widespread structural changes in the agrarian sector, rise of large corporations, land fragmentation, water shortages, and their presumed inability to take advantage of new opportunities in the non-agricultural sector, hampered by their relative lack of fluency in English — though no empirical evidence has been brought on these claims so far. The data shows that compared to their relatively dominant position in agriculture, in the non-agricultural sector these jatis are predominantly employed in casual jobs that do not provide any security and insurance, and are paid a daily wage or a piece rate. However, our analysis also indicates that though the relative advantage of the Jats, Patels and Marathas in the agricultural sector is greater than in the non-agricultural sector, they still do better in absolute terms than the socially disadvantaged groups in the non-agricultural sector.

This raises an interesting question about the factors that underlie their success in creating and sustaining powerful movements, which have been sufficiently large and disruptive, so as to compel governments to take notice of their demands. The support for their demands has come from the highest legislative body in their respective states — the state governments of Haryana and Maharashtra — as Jats and Marathas were granted access to reserved positions, a decision that was later withdrawn by the courts. The data show that the three jatis are well connected to local political networks, both within and outside their communities, and that this might be an important factor underlying their massive mobilisation. Jats, Marathas and Patels are among the most powerful communities in their respective states. Even compared to Patels and Marathas, the Jats are “superior-most” in their region as Brahminical dominance is weak. Land ownership and cultivation have been their economic backbone. Our findings provide empirical support to the argument that Jats are not objectively lagging behind, not even in government jobs, but are dealing with tectonic shifts caused to their livelihoods due to the crisis of agriculture.

Overall, there is discontent among powerful farming communities due to the perception that real economic power lies in the hands of the big corporations, and the state, overtly or covertly, acts in their interest. These communities feel their power slipping away or eroding, in addition to feeling ill prepared to shift towards urban, formal sector livelihood opportunities. Individuals or communities which feel strongly that the odds of economic success are stocked against them, are more likely to feel deprived. Our analysis suggests that these perceptions are exactly that — feelings — not supported by evidence on the ground. The evidence, which is overwhelming, suggests that these communities are not the most marginalised in their respective states; additionally, these jatis have consolidated their advantage over the marginalised groups, and narrowed gaps vis-a-vis the dominant groups, in their respective states between 2004-05 and 2011-12.

Having said this, widespread anxieties definitely need to be understood, and genuine discontent, even within dominant groups, needs to be addressed. Apropos demands for inclusion into the OBC category, we should note that given increasing privatisation, the base — that is, total jobs eligible for reservations — is already shrinking. Data also shows that existing OBCs and SC-STs are increasingly lagging behind upper castes in a range of material indicators. In this context, extending quotas to relatively richer and powerful groups would amount to diluting the already small and shrinking entitlement for communities that are truly disadvantaged and discriminated against.

Deshpande is at the Delhi School of Economics, Delhi and Ramachandran at the Goethe University, Frankfurt

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  1. H
    Harshvardhan Rana
    Feb 23, 2017 at 1:04 pm
    He is right, but most of them are from NCR or urban area. What's big deal in 91/1078. This include Jats from all faith namely Hindus, Sikhs, Muslim, Bishnoi and Sidhs. They have 130million heads.
    Reply
    1. H
      Harshvardhan Rana
      Feb 23, 2017 at 1:07 pm
      They are demanding reservation because other similarly economically strong caste are already reserved.
      Reply
      1. R
        Rajat
        Feb 17, 2017 at 3:38 am
        Excellent analysis.
        Reply
        1. R
          Rajat
          Feb 17, 2017 at 3:39 am
          Reservations are a Congress legacy. They inherited divide and rule from the British and has exploited it to rule India.
          Reply
          1. A
            Ajay Sheoran
            Feb 17, 2017 at 9:02 am
            Education in rural areas is very poor that's the main problem, 91 JATS selected in UPSC last year which shows URBAN JATS who have reach to good education do better than any other caste, Govt should subsidize Fees of poor children who goes to private schools as Govt schools are the insutions to keep poor children poor forever
            Reply
            1. B
              Bhakt
              Feb 17, 2017 at 3:47 am
              Any further reservation is a sick idea. Pulling back the quota benefit may not be politically possible but not granting it any further is definitely posdible.
              Reply
              1. A
                ankit
                Feb 16, 2017 at 9:48 pm
                Beggars beg in sleeper coach, while doors of ac coach are closed. And writer is speaking from ac coach, have some pity on them.
                Reply
                1. A
                  ankit
                  Feb 16, 2017 at 9:45 pm
                  Today castes dont have advantages, it is cles. Read oxfam report. Most of potion is seeing decline in their social and economic status. Landholding sizes are decreasing where agriculture growth has not and will not happen. There is unemployment, youth is not being absorbed anywhere else. Even obc will be better off if there is no reservation than what they have now. So demanding obc is what everybody sud do. It takes 25 years to provide equal opportunity. ume they had a headstart, but today economy is 75 times of what it was at independence. Government has failed all because of lack of resources, not because of opportunity.
                  Reply
                  1. G
                    Gopal S.
                    Feb 17, 2017 at 6:45 am
                    Did not muslim got a separate state in 1947 and ...they were ruler ... so what is the ground for reservation ... their 15 child policy Huhhh..!!
                    Reply
                    1. S
                      stranger
                      Feb 17, 2017 at 9:26 am
                      all hindus who have been butchered for the last 1k years in the hands of muslim rulers and then british, deserve quota. what could be larger oppression than facing genocide in form of m killing , conversion and then famine.
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                      1. M
                        Murthy
                        Feb 17, 2017 at 2:35 am
                        No other country in the world has this Reservation-Quota system on such a large scale as India. Not even China and North Korea..... known for their aversion to democracy.
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                        1. M
                          Murthy
                          Feb 17, 2017 at 2:29 am
                          Reservation-Quota was a 'political Device' to win elections. No real intention ever to help the disadvantaged.
                          Reply
                          1. M
                            Murthy
                            Feb 17, 2017 at 2:32 am
                            Three of my posts referring to the first moves made by the then 'powers be' to extend reservation beyond SC / ST have been deleted by this paper.
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                            1. M
                              Murthy
                              Feb 17, 2017 at 6:56 am
                              It should have been obvious LONG AGO that ONLY economic and educational criteria should have been the Yard Stick for preferential treatment. Such a criterion would have taken in ALL of the weaker sections of society, including SC / St. But, DELIBERATELY, India's then Ruling Club took Caste as the SOLE criterion. So, the dreaded Caste System has been RECAST...
                              Reply
                              1. M
                                Murthy
                                Feb 17, 2017 at 7:01 am
                                Yousef Bhai is only mentioning it, because many state governments are now offering reservation for Muslims also, in order to attract Muslim Votes. I do not read him in this post as recommending such reservations, whether for Muslims or anybody else. Please see the drift of his post and overall meaning of it.
                                Reply
                                1. M
                                  Mahender Goriganti
                                  Feb 17, 2017 at 12:47 am
                                  This is how Islamic Express promotes cast and communal politics with a twisted logistics and theories with sinister goal of to promote Islamic State in Hindustan.
                                  Reply
                                  1. R
                                    Rahul
                                    Feb 17, 2017 at 6:49 am
                                    Please provide 100% reservation to those who are requesting. At least, no one in future will be able to show carrot to people. The unreserved category have already understood very well that they are in a minority and nobody is interested in looking after them and that they have to take care of themselves. Migrating to other countries seems to be the only option to them kyon ki ab politicians ke hawale hai watan saathiyon.
                                    Reply
                                    1. S
                                      Sasi
                                      Feb 17, 2017 at 1:31 am
                                      What problem does reservation solve? Is it bringing people to same level? Ans is No. Let me give anther stat here. Muslim invaders rules country for almost 800 years. British for 250 years. CLose to 800 years by Buddhist. That means Muslims, Christians and budhists are rulers and powerful in the past. What are they proclaiming now? They deem themselves as minoritie and enjoy the minority benefits. COmapre this with pathetic condition of upper caste people.. ex Brahmins, vysyas who make up roughly 10% of poplation.. WHat are they called.. Discriminators, pigs etc etc.. Question to think is.. when did untouchability start? or when did lower castes neing discriminated? when we start thinking and start asking ourselves the question of why? and when? then history will have an answer and we dont have correct account of history.. we read some history told by persons whom we dont know when they existed. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Solution to reservations is not by banning reservations.. ensuring underprivileged lower caste people are brought up to the level of upper caste.. but not by doing other way round.. bringing upper caste people to status of lower caste people by taking away their rights..
                                      Reply
                                      1. S
                                        ShameShame
                                        Feb 17, 2017 at 1:52 am
                                        Oh first time I see sickulars promoting and condemning congress for keeping the fire of casteism, religion and divison alive for more than 75 years.lt;br/gt;Good Job.lt;br/gt;Oh wait, no this article is just trying add fuel to that same fire. Shame what a shame.
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                                        1. S
                                          SP
                                          Feb 17, 2017 at 6:19 am
                                          We need to move to cl based model from caste based model. Restrict reservation to those families who are currently practicing professions that are economically, educationally and socially backward. Among them richer communities - Patels, Jats, Marathas etc. let them have the ability to start their own educational insutions - extend article 30 to any group, not just minorities. Any caste based reservation should only to be SC/ST who have had to face untouchability. Ban conversions and encourage re-conversion so that damage done in last 70 years is undone.
                                          Reply
                                          1. D
                                            Devji
                                            Feb 17, 2017 at 12:48 pm
                                            In fact, The reservation policy should be applied only SCs and STs. As they are the only groups deprived of everything (Socially, Economically, politically, historically etc.). Then only it will bear much fruits. OBCs too in certain states are well developed community. Let the most deprived be given firstandbest preference.
                                            Reply
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