EXPLAINER | Vanniyar Reservation Tamil Nadu

A low-down on the 10.5% quota for Vanniyars

CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, 01/12/2020 : Paattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) youth wing leader Anbumani Ramadoss waving the cadres crowd during demonstration near Thomas Munro statue in Chennai on December 01, 2020, to pres for 20% reservation for Vanniyars in government jobs and higher education, during the 249 th day of nationwide lockdown imposed in the wake of deadly novel Coronavirus pandemic. Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam  

The DMK government, on July 26, issued an order enabling 10.5% special reservation for Vanniakula Kshatriyas (or Vanniyars in short) in employment, within the overall quota of 20% for Most Backward Classes (MBCs) and Denotified Communities (DNCs). The order has modified the roster system prescribed for the appointment of people in public services. The revised quota scheme is a sequel to the previous AIADMK regime framing the Special Reservation Act for Vanniyars, which came into effect on February 26, the day on which the Election Commission of India announced its schedule for the Assembly poll in Tamil Nadu and four other States. Here is an explainer on the issue:

What is the Special Reservation Act?

The law has envisaged the distribution of the 20% quota for MBCs and DNCs by assigning 10.5% to Vanniyars, 7% for as many as 25 MBCs and 68 DNCs, and 2.5% for the remaining 22 MBCs. There are seven sub-castes — Vanniyar, Vanniya, Vannia Gounder, Gounder or Kander, Padayachi, Palli and Agnikula Kshatriya — under the broad classification of Vanniyars. The rationale behind the law is to provide MBCs and DNCs better access to various benefits and promote their equitable development.

What prompted the previous AIADMK government to adopt the law?

There were both political and policy factors that contributed to the enactment of the law. The Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), an ally of the AIADMK since 2019, has been a long-standing proponent of the idea. In December 2020, it launched an agitation in support of its demand, forcing the then government to announce the formation of a one-member commission of inquiry to collect quantifiable data on castes, communities and tribes of the State in six months.

Between the late 1960s and the mid 1980s, two backward classes commissions — one headed by A.N. Sattanathan and another by J.A. Ambasankar, both former civil servants — pointed out that several communities among those in the list of BCs had not received their due share in educational and employment opportunities, while a small number of communities in the list of BCs benefited to a relatively larger extent. It had been the case of Vanniyar leaders that their community was among those left behind in the scheme of reservation.

The law was framed after the State government consulted the chairman of the State Backward Classes Commission, M. Thanikachalam, on the possibility of providing internal reservation among MBCs and DNCs within 20%, to the Vanniyars. The chairman, in his response, had referred to the recommendation of his predecessor, M.S. Janarthanam, to the government in 2012, for providing 10.5% quota to Vanniyars within the 20%.

How did the scheme of exclusive reservation for MBCs come into being?

Even though the first official list of MBCs was prepared by the Congress government in January 1957 for giving more concessions to candidates of the sub-category, it was left to the DMK government, in March 1989, that provided 20% quota exclusively to MBCs and DNCs. This was taken out of the quota of BCs, who had 50% reservation till then. This was done to address the grievance of Vanniyars and other communities.

What has contributed to the implementation of the 2021 Special Reservation Act?

There was an element of uncertainty over the law getting enforced, which was essentially due to the circumstances under which the legislation was adopted by the Assembly this February. During the campaign for the Assembly election, critics of the Act said this would adversely affect the prospects of MBCs and DNCs other than Vanniyars. The AIADMK’s coordinator and former Deputy Chief Minister, O. Panneerselvam, termed the law provisional, because it was only after the completion of work by the one-man commission, compiling data on the State’s castes, that a final picture would emerge on the quantum of reservation for various communities. In June end, the Supreme Court refused to stay the operation of the law. Earlier, on June 23, Chief Minister M.K. Stalin assured the Assembly that a “good decision will definitely” be taken after consulting officials of the departments concerned. Recently, it was reported that the government had chosen not to extend the life of the panel.


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