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Reservation Race for Being “Backward”

In the previous article – Reservation System in India: Historical Prospective – it was demonstrated that there is a lack of study on how much this policy has helped the different backward classes. The reservation policy had a simple goal to provide equal political, economic and social opportunities to all the sections of society. There were various sections of society which were oppressed by the dominant class of Indian society for a long time. There was a need of policy which could uplift and bring them back to mainstream. It has proved useful and has achieved its goal partially, but it has created unintended problems too. Now, people of one community are against another community and fighting for getting a bigger share than the later one in the ‘reservation pie’.

The Supreme Court of India in 2007 observed that “nowhere else in the world is there a competition to assert backwardness”. Indian reservation system has been stretched so much that more than half of the population comes under it. The demand is increasing for more reservation and the government seems to be losing the ground. Now, people strive to be declared as backward to avail the benefits under the reservation scheme. So instead of spreading equality, it has fueled a new battle between different communities to be declared as backward for availing the endless benefits. Experts have long back warned about the consequences of reservation.

A weekly magazine, The Organiser, in 1989-1990s once wrote “The havoc the politics of reservation is playing with the social fabric is unimaginable. It provides a premium for mediocrity, encourages brain-drain and sharpens caste-divide.” The ongoing demands clearly show that reservation has motivated people to strongly ascribe to the caste system. So, the centuries old problem of caste system may not be eradicated until the government thinks about an alternate effective inclusive policy.

Also Read: Constitutional view of Reservations and a demand for justification

Case of Patels

Recently, the home state of PM Modi, Gujarat, was making the national headlines due to the agitation by a very ‘affluent’ community – “Patels”, they are demanding reservation in 27% quota of OBC. Patels are considered among the affluent group not only in India but also in the USA. Over the course of just a month, a group of youngsters led by Hardik Patel have successfully mounted an agitation. The experts suggest that there will be far wider implications and more affluent classes will join the crusade for becoming backward across the country.

Here are some facts about Patel community:

  • Gujrati Patels were historically land owners and farmers.
  • They own 70% of Surat’s diamond cutting and polishing units.
  • 44 MLAs in Gujarat, and in union government 3 cabinet ministers and 4 ministries of state.
  • 1, 45,000 Patels are in the USA and 2, 50,000 in the UK.
  • Around 25% of motels in USA are owned by the Patels.

The Trouble Ahead:

This is not the first time an affluent group is agitating for reservation as “Gurjars” and “Jats” of Rajasthan had similar protests in the past (2009). The state government gave reservation to Jats in OBC category in 2014. When Jats were included in the OBC list, Gurjars agitated for their status as Scheduled caste but it was blocked by Meena community. . However, the Supreme Court of India in March 2015 judgement blocked the Jats inclusion in OBC list by saying “inclusion of politically organized class such a Jats…, can’t be affirmed”. After seeing the massive scale of participation in Patel’s agitation, Jat leaders are also planning to share the chair with Hardik Patel. So in coming days, India might see more and more affluent communities demanding a bigger share in reservation pie. There is already a growing concern among OBC, SCs and STs, and they may also start counter protest to make sure their exclusion. For example, OBC communities also held a rally against the demands made by Patel community.

In some Indian states Brahmins are also demanding reservation in government institutions. For example, Telagana Brahmana Aikyatha Sadassu demanding 2% reservations in Telagana. Similar demands by other better off communities can be made in the future and the country might see a new race of ‘who tops the backward list’.

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