Will apex court verdict on quota put a cap on reservation fights?

The State government, which has been trapped in the caste conundrum for nearly a year with several communities pushing for a change in reservation matrix or status, can settle for status quo, at least for now.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to enhance the 50% cap on reservation in government employment and educational avenues in the case pertaining to reservation for Maratha community. This will significantly reverberate across the country, especially Karnataka.

Vocal demand

As many as 44 caste groups, including politically powerful groups such as the Panchamasali Lingayats, Kurubas, and Vokkaligas, are learnt to have raised the pitch for a change in reservation matrix. Vocal demand had come from religious seers and powerful politicians from the communities, putting enormous pressure on the government.

Karnataka had submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court seeking enhancement of reservation quota beyond 50%. The apex court direction, however, is likely to put a spoke on these community movements, at least temporarily.

Any change in the current watertight matrix requires additional space. For example, the demand of Kurubas to be added to the Scheduled Tribes list would have required enhancement of the ST quota from the current 3%. The Panchamasali’s demand to be added in 2A, which already has 102 castes, could not have been met without increasing it from the current 15%. If not, it would have angered others already in the category since their share in the pie would shrink.

Chairman of Lohia Thinkers’ Forum B.S. Shivanna argued that several movements that sprung up, especially the Kuruba demand for ST tag, was “sponsored by the RSS” to consolidate votes.

He said the demand of Kurubas and Panchamsali among others would die down. “These are emotional issues and used for vote bank politics. Leaders knew the demand could not be met legally,” he said.

‘People will fight’

However, High Court judge H.N. Nagmohan Das (retd) felt that the judgment would not stop but aggravate the matter. “The direction cannot silence the communities. People will fight,” he said.

Incidentally, justice Das, who submitted his commission report recommending an increase in the reservation quota for SCs from the current 15% to 17% and ST quota from the 3% to 7%, had suggested enhancing reservation beyond 50%. Justice Das said that the 1992 nine-judge bench direction in the Indra Sawhney case allows enhancing reservation beyond 50% under exceptional cases.

He felt that in future, demonstration of exceptional circumstances could be the only way to enhance reservation quota beyond 50%. “Already, the avenues have shrunk so much for the population in the reserved category that just about 5% is getting the benefits in employment,” he said.

Census report could be important

With enhancement of reservation not possible as per the latest Supreme Court order, the Backward Classes Commission’s survey of socio-economic conditions of people is expected to become important for castes seeking more share from available resources.

“The survey has details of status of all castes in the State. Based on the data and population size, social programmes or money can be allocated to castes,” said Congress leader P.R. Ramesh, who hails from the backward Tigala community. “Several communities have not even benefited with Group D employment in the government as other powerful communities have garnered the lion’s share,” he added.

Former Chairman of Backward Classes Commission C.S. Dwarkanath also said that currently the population of castes is calculated on the basis of a projection of population growth from the 1931 caste census. “Where is the fresh data? Some populations have declined in terms of numbers. The caste census could have answers,” he said.

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 8:50:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/will-apex-court-verdict-on-quota-put-a-cap-on-reservation-fights/article34502002.ece

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