VINOD JAIN

THE ARTICLE "Reservation - an alternative proposal" (The Hindu, May 22-23) merits serious attention by the policy makers as well as civil society at large. It has tried to quantify and rationalise the on-going debate on the reservation conundrum. However, the proposal needs to be fine-tuned if it is not to become another exercise in fire-fighting and quick-fixing as there has been no dearth of knee-jerk responses by successive governments in the last 50 years to various issues faced by the nation. Yogendra Yadav and Satish Deshpande have, perhaps, made a beginning to bring some rationality, transparency and fairness into the controversy - the same qualities that Prof. Yadav brought to his poll analyses. It is time the whole issue was looked into ab initio. The concept of reservation began with the intention of assimilating those who were outside the mainstream of society. But over the last 50 years, the whole concept has undergone severe mutation vitiating its original intentions. Civil society now is bitterly polarised because such policies instead of bringing in true `social justice' have created further inequalities, necessitating a mid-course correction. No political party would be interested in undertaking such an exercise. It is for people like Prof. Yadav, the media, industry and like-minded public interest groups to spearhead such an exercise to create a more cohesive civil society.

Not a unanimous report

A few things that would need to be looked into could be: (a) It is not a well publicised fact that the Mandal Commission report was not a unanimous report. L.R. Naik, the only Dalit member of the Commission, disagreed with the report and held the view that the MBCs only deserved to be the true inheritors of the report. That view was held forth in the 80s. Today, it finds an echo in the `creamy layer' concept because the process has not helped the truly disadvantaged but the already socially empowered groups. (b) Therefore, to bring some rationality to the entire controversy, a study needs to be initiated quickly, to redefine `social justice' backed by empirical data as to who should really be the beneficiaries of the policy of reservation, if the country is not to degenerate into a simmering cauldron in perpetuity. (c) The Supreme Court then must be approached through a PIL with the results of the said study to legally define `social justice' and have a re-look at the much-touted 93rd constitutional amendment, which was passed without even a semblance of a debate in any forum.(d) The study must collect data on the indicators mentioned in the article of May 22-23 to assess the kind of people, who have been benefited, and in what proportion, since 1952, by the policy of reservation in all the three categories, to impart a meaningful look to the on-going debate. (e) The study must also look into how long or how many times the benefit of reservation should be imparted to a particular family so that, after a particular level of its empowerment, a more needy family can be inducted into its place, without tinkering with the quota at random. This would ensure that at some point in the foreseeable future, the system is able to do away with this provision altogether; thus preventing future conflicts. It is time civil society decided to wage its own battles as the political system is failing in its primary duty of safeguarding the well being of societies it is in charge of.

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