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Hari Narke: ‘Tamil Nadu pattern should be adopted, quota can be given above 50% cap’

Hari Narke, a former member of Maharashtra Backward Classes Commission and former member of the consultative group of Planning Commission of India, speaks about the recently passed 127th constitutional amendment, the issue of Maratha reservation and OBC reservation in local bodies scrapped by the Supreme Court.

Written by Vishwas Waghmode | Mumbai |
Updated: August 16, 2021 12:31:33 pm
Hari Narke (Express Photo)

What significance does the 127th Constitutional amendment hold for Maharashtra?

Since 1950, the Centre and states have had equal jurisdiction over the social justice subject. However, in 2018, the Modi government committed a mistake during the passage of the 102nd Constitutional amendment by taking all the powers (relating to this subject) with them. It was completely wrong. We (social organizations) had made a representation before the Parliament’s select committee stating that the powers of states for social justice should be restored. The Centre realised only after the Supreme Court, in the Maratha reservation case, said the powers for providing reservation were with the Centre only. So, the 127th amendment is nothing but correcting the mistake the Centre made in the 102nd amendment. The only importance of the 127th amendment is restoring powers that states had since 1950.

Will the 127th amendment help in providing reservation to the Maratha community as it restores the state’s power to add to the OBC list?

The then Devendra Fadnavis-led government made a law in November 2018 to give reservation to Marathas despite knowing that the state had no power to give such reservation due to the 102nd amendment passed in August 2018. A provision in the 2018 law clearly states that reservations of Schedule Castes, Schedule Tribes, Other Backward Classes and Denotified Tribes and Notified Tribes cannot be touched. The 127th amendment means the powers of states have been restored but it can only make the law that is acceptable to all four parties. None of these parties is in favour of putting Marathas in the OBC category.

With SEBC reservation being scrapped by the SC, a section in the Maratha community has been demanding reservation through OBC quota. What is the way forward for Maratha reservation?

The 50 per cent cap for reservation is the Supreme court’s verdict and there is such a cap for the reservation mentioned in the Constitution. Many Supreme Court verdicts have been changed by making amendments to the Constitution since the 1st amendment. Following the verdict in the Indra Sawhney case, it has been reiterated multiple times that reservations cannot breach 50 per cent. But the 10 per cent reservation given by the Modi government to the economically weaker sections (EWS) is above the 50 per cent reservation cap and the matter is sub-judice. During the Narasimha Rao government’s tenure, the 10 per cent reservation was given to EWS in 1991 but it was quashed by the SC in 1992, which termed it unconstitutional. Now, the Modi government has brought it back and it is possible that it may also be quashed as it is above 50 per cent (unless) it makes an amendment to the Constitution.

This is not just about Maharashtra. Communities such as Patel in Gujarat, Gujjar in Rajasthan, Jat in Haryana, Lingayat in Karnataka among other states have been demanding the reservation. So, I feel the Tamil Nadu pattern is the best with 69 per cent reservation (50 per cent for OBC, 18 per cent for SC and 1 per cent for ST), which is above 50 per cent for the last few decades. The 69 per cent reservation has been justified citing population by carrying out a census and it has been safeguarded by inclusion in the ninth schedule of the Constitution. I feel the Tamil Nadu pattern should be adopted and reservation can be given to communities like Maratha above the 50 per cent reservation cap. It is a tested pattern and it has been proved that this can happen.

The SC recently scrapped OBC quota in local bodies. Why was it introduced and what are the implications of cancellation?

By the 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendments, the provision of reservation for OBCs and women was made in the Panchayat Raj. After these amendments, the then Maharashtra government was the first to implement it following the demand by Samata Parishad. As of today, 56,000 representatives and a total of 3.5 lakh OBC representatives in Panchayat Raj have been elected in Maharashtra through the OBC quota. The SC verdict scrapping OBC reservation is applicable to all the states in India because the apex court used Article 142. At the national level, 7 lakh OBC representatives have been affected by the verdict. The issue is not just restricted to Maharashtra but has started playing out in BJP-ruled states such as UP, MP, Gujarat and Karnataka, and the BJP will have to face the music.

Through the Panchayat Raj, power was reaching the last person of the society and it was nothing but a paradigm shift because new political equations were taking place against the established castes in the villages. It disturbed the established people in the political system. That is why the OBC reservation was challenged in the SC, which said it is constitutional but there was a problem in implementation. So, it laid down a triple test with empirical data. Following the demand for OBC census by MPs in 2010, the then Congress-led government announced the Socio-Economic and Caste Census in 2011. The then Fadnavis government wrote multiple letters to the Centre but it denied it. In Maharashtra, all political parties have an OBC vote bank and there is unease among them due to the scrapping of OBC reservation. The Modi government and the then Fadnavis government is responsible for it as per documents. That is why the Modi government is taking corrective measures by inducting OBC leaders in the Union cabinet, restoring the powers of states through the 127th amendment among others.

The state has sought caste-wise census data of OBCs from the 2011 census, which the Centre has not given citing errors. What is behind the Centre’s reluctance?

Firstly, the RSS was against the Socio-Economic and Caste Census in 2011, stating that it will affect the country’s unity and harmony. So, when the parent organization of BJP is against the census, it is unlikely that the BJP government will release the data. Secondly, the RSS believes in aarakshan-mukt Bharat. So, how will the government provide data that will strengthen reservations further? Besides, the motive behind the 2011 census was to make programmes and policies for the uplift of OBCs in education and jobs among others. By disclosing the data, there will be a demand to make budgetary provision proportionate to the population that will lead to OBCs’ empowerment. That is why the Centre is keeping the census data of OBCs with it and not providing it to states.

Will there be another caste census?

The apprehension is that caste census will increase casteism, which is completely wrong. Because there was casteism in the country, reservation had to be given… When marriages can take place within castes, election tickets are given based on caste and caste-wise vote banks are acceptable, how will only political empowerment of OBCs lead to an increase in casteism? Apart from reservation, the government will have to make policies and programs for the uplift of the OBCs. So, the argument against OBC census is biased and foolish.

Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission has started work on collecting empirical data. Will be able to complete its exercise and that will lead to restoring OBC reservations in civic body polls next year?

The commission can say when it can complete its exercise. The sentiment in the OBC community is that it should be completed at the earliest and OBC reservation should be restored.

 

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