Girish Menon

Decision on Narendran Commission recommendations

Thiruvananthapuram: The Cabinet decision on Backward Class representation in State services in fulfilment of the Narendran Commission recommendations brings to an amicable end a vexed social issue.

The most significant aspect of the decision is that it is the outcome of an undaunted search for a consensus amid a surcharged atmosphere that threatened to vitiate communal harmony after the submission of the Commission's report. And social organisations and groups displayed sagacity in reaching the consensus.

Though the Cabinet formula, thrashed out after a series of discussions, has succeeded in settling the issue, its political implications, particularly for the United Democratic Front (UDF), remain to be tested in the polls. The onus of resolving such a sensitive issue had always been on the ruling dispensation of the day. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and the UDF leadership could take the credit for taking a calculated risk (for Mr. Chandy perhaps the biggest risk in his political career) in initiating the search for a consensus and taking a decision, amending the 47-year-old Kerala State Subordinate Service Rules.

The impact of the report had its social and political dimensions. As a social issue, the Commission's recommendations came to revolve around two major contentious points: backlog in Backward Class representation in Government services and the need to ensure fair representation for various sections in future. As a political issue, the ruling dispensation found several of its traditional vote banks, particularly the Muslim and Latin Catholic communities, getting alienated. The imperatives of finding a solution came about with successive electoral defeats.

Several organisations, particularly those representing the Muslim community, had demanded special recruitment to clear the backlog. The consensus formula has obviously sidetracked the backlog issue because of its impracticability. As an alternative, the Cabinet has proposed an amendment to the Kerala State Subordinate Service Rules to ensure that various communities got adequate representation. The operative part of the proposal is direct recruitment from among the designated communities to vacancies that could not be cleared owing to the non-availability of suitable candidates. In addition, the amendment seeks to induct transparency in job reservation through publication of separate lists.

It is the political dimension of the Backward Class issue that needs to be examined more closely, now that the Assembly election is hardly a few months away.

The UDF leadership is exuding confidence as it feels its consensus approach has paid off. It feels that it will be able to bring back the alienated sections back to its fold and help it recover from its no-win situation.