Friday, April 11, 2008

A veritable victory

The Supreme Court yesterday came up with a judgment to implement 27% reservation for OBCs in Higher Education. Coming from a constitutional bench, the verdict was virtually unimpeachable.

For someone who was a conscious activist in favor of reservation (with caveats) when this issue flared up in 2006, the verdict is what I would call a resounding victory. The caveats were clear: a) The reservations must be limited with a creamy layer identification and cut off, b) It must be subject to a periodic review based on yet another caste commission, and c) Reservations must be seen only as one of a package of welfare measures and should not be affecting those who will not avail it. That means, that there should be a increase in public funding for higher education followed by increase in investment such that there is also a hike in the seats in a manner that 27 out of 100 students are not affected as 27 get reservations (meaning a 54% increase in the seat outlay).

Now, a) and b) have been expressly handled by the Supreme Court in clear terms. Both the creamy layer argument and the reconstitution of the OBC reviews have been mentioned as part of the judgement. c) has been assured by the government and has been instituted in a vision document attested by the National Knowledge Commission.

Can one get any more happier? Apparently not.

Hey...but before I keep patting my back for this vision.. I must point out this: . An article by Prakash Karat in the People's Democracy in 1990 on the OBC reservation issue.

Relevant extract:


Therefore, where the caste status contributes to the backwardness of communities under the OBC category, and where anti-caste movements have not been able to cut across caste barriers and build powerful class-based mass organisations, there is a justification for providing reservations to such communities. This is the basis on which the CPI(M) supported the implementation of the Mandal Commission report since 1981-82 and earlier in States where due to prolonged movements the OBCs were accorded reservations.


The CPI(M) has, however, qualified this support on two counts. Firstly, it has argued for an economic criterion within the reservation for OBCs. This is a demand distinct from the blanket reservation for the SCs and STs for whom no economic criterion is necessary. Four decades of socio-economic developments and growth of capitalism have led to class differentiation within the caste structure. In the case of OBCs, it is well known that there are a few castes in different States which contain influential strata who own land and other means of production. They are well represented in the political power structure also. The complexity of the OBC problem lies, thus, in the fact that within some communities of the OBCs there is a great economic (inter-caste) differentiation and also there is inter-caste differentiation, i.e., compared to a few better-off communities there are a number of more backward communities.

In order to see that the landless as compared to the richer landed, the poor as compared to the affluent, the more backward as distinct from the strata of the developed -- i.e. the majority of the poor and deprived of these communities -- benefit from reservation, the CPI(M) wants an economic criterion. This criterion need not necessarily be just an income ceiling, but can be a package in which income tax assessments, extent of landholding, professional status of parents, etc., can be taken into consideration.


This was written in 1990, 18 years ago.

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