From the recognition of ‘self-respect marriages’ to the upholding of 69% reservation, the State Assembly, whose diamond jubilee is being celebrated today, has seen many momentous occasions, says T. Ramakrishnan
The Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly, which celebrates its diamond jubilee on Friday, has always been known as a forum for expressing strong views on various social and economic issues, and occasionally, a platform to settle political scores.
This was evident even in the first Assembly (1952-1957) when the House intensely deliberated the scheme of elementary education launched by the Rajaji government. Among the critics of the scheme were many members of the Congress and they contended that the scheme sought to perpetuate caste-based social hierarchy. Through an amendment in July 1953 to a government-sponsored motion, an attempt was made to recommend to the government to drop the scheme.
Though the amendment was not carried through, Rajaji quit the post within a year. After Kamaraj succeeded him, Education Minister C. Subramaniam in May 1954 informed the House that the scheme would be dropped.
The Rajaji days are remembered for landmark laws to protect tenants of farm lands and landless agriculturists.
After the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam captured power in 1967 and its founder C.N. Annadurai became Chief Minister, the Hindu Marriage Act was amended to recognise “self-respect marriages” or those marriages free of religious rituals. The law took retrospective effect as “self-respect marriages” formed a major plank of the Dravidian movement.
His successor and five-time Chief Minister, M. Karunanidhi, piloted several Bills and moved numerous motions. In his last spell (2006-2011), laws for exclusive reservation for Muslims and Christians within the quota of Backward Classes and Arundathiyars within the reservation of Scheduled Castes were made. However, in deference to wishes of the Christians, the scheme of separate quota for the community was dropped.
The 10-year-long rule (1977-1987) of the government, headed by M.G. Ramachandran of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, was noted for various measures in the area of revenue administration. Notably, the system of hereditary village officers such as “karnam” was abolished at one strokeAfter the Supreme Court delivered the Mandal Commission judgment in November 1992, settingthe ceiling for reservation in education and employment at 50 per cent, the Assembly responded through legislation aimed at safeguarding the existing 69 per cent quota for Backward Classes, Most Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes.
The law was included in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution. The enactment of the quota law was a high point in the first tenure (1991-1996) of Jayalalithaa as CM. In her previous spell (2001-2006), the law against those who indulged in charging usurious rates of interest was enacted. The Assembly, which has witnessed several changes in the social profile of its members, has also seen numerous uproarious scenes and yet retains its character of lending voice to problems of the less-privileged.