Posts tagged ‘reservation’

Ministry for Minority-Majority Affairs!

According to Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, “Quota for Muslims is a double edged sword”. He instead wants affirmative action to inject an ability to compete . Surely there is no debate on this perception.  But the point underlying is reservation is at times termed: ‘affirmative action’, and at times ‘positive discrimination’.  So by juggling with words and terms one can make even the ‘affirmative action’ more an academic discussion.  The very setting up of a ministry for Minority affairs is a clear discrimination because it is based on a variable which by itself does not indicate poverty or any disadvantage. To set things right then the Minority Affairs Ministry must justify its existence and validate its functioning by making it Constitutional.

First the Congress must amend the Constitution to use religious variable for identification of a people for any action-be it affirmative, or positive discrimination! Any discrimination or affirmative action based on religion is unconstitutional.  Second the Congress must desist from projecting itself as ‘secular’.  Poverty groups need to be targeted-there is no second opinion.  There is logic in what the Minister stated but be it numerical quota or affirmative action the whole perception must change from identifying the beneficiaries with a religious yardstick.  There are no two opinions that poverty groups must be targeted but how does one net the poverty groups- not by religion.  Call the poverty alleviation with any terminology the crux of the problem is the approach to this should no way denote a particular religious community.  No secular government can be so blatant in its strategy to alleviate poverty.
It is also presumptuous to bring in Sachar report.  The survey of Sachar was biased right from the beginning.  The Universe spread was already pre-determined on religion and the selection of the Sample did not follow any scientific methodology. Even the findings seem to be predetermined. One will find what one wants to find. With such a biased entry point the survey was what it was meant to be. So to base all actions-affirmative or double edged strategies on this flawed survey is not logical.
Salman Khurshid has a very valid reason to oppose reservation.  As Andre Beteille in his ‘Break the Quota Routine’ (TOI-18th June) has stated, ‘It cannot be said that quotas for the SCs and STs have brought no benefits to the wider society. They played a useful role in the colonial period and also in the early decades of Independence. But as the scope expanded after 1980, their social costs began to outweigh their social benefits”.  To some extent this is true.  But when it comes to social benefits the social costs outweighing cannot be a reason to argue against the quota.  The quota – or the reservation started in education was faulty and not implemented in the right spirit. Many exploited the quota, non- SCs, non- STs were able to take advantage by getting false certificates from the thasildhar.  The SCs and STs had not climbed the education ladder to make use of the quota in the Higher Education. The concentration should have been at the school level.  Again it was the already educated and the rich who made use of the quota system. Education had not found placed in  the priority list of the  SCs and STs when survival needs were not met.  Then of course quota became a vote catching slogan.  As years rolled on Backward classes clamored for the quota-and concomitantly the ‘jatis’ categorized under the BCs kept expanding. In Tamilnadu almost every caste came under the nomenclature of Backward Castes-the Vanniyars. Only the Brahmins and the Saiva Pillais were forward castes.  The development cake thus had to be sliced into little bits!

The Christian SCs assumed a new terminology – dalits they too demanded to be included in the SC list.  The demand had a justification because on the basis of religion one cannot extend or deny Reservation.  Caste is a factor inherent and one cannot change the caste into which one is born which is not true when it comes to religion.  The Christian dalits went to Court in the “The Susai versus Union of India” case- the then Chief Justice Bhagawati asserted that the Christian SCs (dalits) had not provided sufficient proof that they are educationally backward and suffer from discrimination.  He called for data to substantiate their case.  It was also held that once the SC becomes a Christian he/she suffers no discrimination.  This is not true because discrimination is deep rooted and is blatantly practised in all the Christian churches from the womb to the tomb.

A very valid argument against Reservation is the dependence syndrome it creates.  Even after 62 years of Independence if the Quotas both in education, employment and other areas have not provided the necessary social upliftment and leveled the social imbalances, then it has to be taken that the policy is a failure.  Reservation was never intended to be a permanent solution.  But it seems that we are going to live with Reservation permanently.  It is here that Salman Khurshid’s rejection of reservation-quotas must be appreciated and must be supported.  Its expansion will reach out to employment, armed forces etc. This will only widen the gap between religious groups. Where is the cementing factor of the nation of Indians?

  • First- religion cannot be an identifying factor to extend any poverty alleviation schemes,
  • second- it will reinforce the communalization of the nation,
  • third- it will be against the basic tenets of secularism.
  • Fourth it is anti-Constitutional because of its discrimination on the basis of religion.

On these four grounds the quotas on the basis of religion need to be rejected.  To extent this thinking logically then one would question the setting up of a ministry for Minority Affairs.  The Ministry is against the spirit of the Constitution. All ministries can be given special instructions and directions on ‘inclusive development’ and rigorous monitoring can be undertaken to see that all the programs of all the ministries have their focus on the poor. But to have one ministry exclusively for the Minorities raises the question what are the priorities of the other ministries and what is the thrust of the whole governance. Is it again tokenism and vote bank politics that is coloring the perception of the government and flawing its whole approach to poverty alleviation? Can social imbalances be leveled out by such biased approach? Can secularism flourish? It will then be logical for the demand of a Ministry for Majority Affairs in the near future. Can the Constitution become a vibrant testimony of a people as a nation?

Dr.Mrs Hilda Raja,

June 17, 2009 at 4:23 pm 4 comments


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