The case for minority subquota is strong,UPAs failure to make it underlines its lack of commitment
Embarrassing the government,the Supreme Court refused to stay the Andhra Pradesh High Court order that struck down the subquota for minorities within the OBC quota in central educational institutions and offices. Three times,the court had struck down the Andhra Pradesh subquota initiative,criticising the states lack of argumentation and research. One would think that the fourth time,as the SC considers the matter,the Centre would fill in the large blanks in its methodology,and put in greater effort to convince the court about why these sections need special help.
There is a clear case for extending reservation benefits to backward communities among Muslims and other minorities as indeed,many states have done,by creating a composite index of economic,educational and social backwardness. Given Articles 15 and 16(4) of the Constitution,the government has to prove that the group it seeks educational reservations for is socially and educationally backward,and for reservations in government employment,it also has to demonstrate that the group is inadequately represented in these offices. The subquotas constitutional validity needs to be established,for which the government must build a persuasive case. The Andhra Pradesh government,too,had no clear measure of the backward sections among Muslims,and no clear criteria for assessing who qualified for the quota. The states Backward Classes Commission came up with a dodgy survey,reproducing data from the Anthropological Survey of India and a bureaucrats report,and was reprimanded by the court for its perfunctory homework. Now that the Centre has endorsed Andhra Pradeshs shaky example,right before the Uttar Pradesh election,it is obliged to explain to the SC why this subquota is important. Instead,its lack of supporting evidence and its lazy arguments have prompted another rebuke from the court. Its most senior law officer in Hyderabad,Assistant Solicitor-General Ashok Goud,has claimed that,despite his repeated pleas,the HRD ministry did nothing beyond sending him a copy of the Ranganath Mishra Commission report.
The UPA,to its credit,tried to understand the real dimensions of deprivation among Muslims. The Sachar Committee report analysed the specifics of Muslim disadvantage and aspiration,and gave the lie to myths about appeasement. But instead of responsibly addressing those aspirations,the government chose cheap politics,blundered into this subquota announcement right before the UP election,without preparing a rigorous rationale. If it doesnt work to recover the ground and the face it has lost,its commitment to the inclusion of minorities will ring hollow.
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