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Vision for a superpower India — challenges ahead

ANIRUDH GOVIND RAJAN

The front page photograph in The Hindu on May 25 with some Gujjars damaging a railway track in Bharatpur near Rajasthan demanding their inclusion in the list of Scheduled Tribes depicted one of the innumerable challenges confronting India’s journey to become a superpower in this world. But, it would be unfair to blame the Gujjar community alone.

After all, their protest is only a response to the lofty pre-poll promises of our political parties, for whom, every community is a prospective vote bank that must be cultivated, nurtured and milked at the time of elections. If someone is to blame, it is the political class in its entirety.

When the framers of our Constitution granted special quotas for certain sections of the Indian population such as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, it was meant to be a temporary measure aimed at uplifting those who had been marginalized and oppressed. But, even after six decades of independence, no attempt has been made to gauge the benefits of reservation on these sections.

Pleas to extend reservations

Instead, there have been pleas to extend the same to newer sections and communities by making appropriate constitutional amendments.

There have also been voices which have demanded that the benefits be extended even to the members of the ’creamy layer’ within the so-called backward classes. ’Creamy layer’ comprises of people who are economically well-off. They have a fixed annual income and are in no way deprived like other members of their community. Being well-off, they can afford the best of education and other services. Hence, the plea to extend reservations to the creamy layer is just a political ploy aimed at securing votes. If we are to extend reservations to the creamy layer, then we can never ever do away with reservations.

Now consider a poor man – one of a so-called forward caste and another from a so-called backward caste. Both of them have the same concerns of sustenance. Being poor, access to quality education would be a problem for both of them. Therefore, reservation based on economic status makes more sense.

This would benefit the needy among all the communities. On the contrary, caste-based reservation aims at uplifting one community at the cost of a so-called forward caste. What’s the use of being ’forward’ if one is poor? Would the ’forwardness’ feed one’s stomach and provide livelihood?

Economic empowerment

The main advantage of having economic quota is that it can be easily removed. Once a beneficiary of the quota completes his education and secures a livelihood, his children would no longer be considered economically weak and would not be covered under the ambit of reservations. However, this is not the case with caste-based reservations since caste is ‘permanent’. Another advantage is that there can be no protests and demands for inclusion of more people in the list since criteria for poverty are well-defined.

If our country has to rapidly progress on the path of becoming a superpower, each citizen must be economically empowered. This can happen with reservations based on economic status alone. And, since economic backwardness goes hand in hand with social backwardness, attacking the economic side would automatically solve the social problem.

However, in caste-based reservations, more often than not, only the cream of the community benefits and monopolizes the reservations, thus defeating the very purpose of reservations.Moreover, demands for including new communities keep cropping up leading to riots and polarization as with the recent Gujjar protests in the Rajasthan who are demanding ST status. This is opposed by the Meena community because its share in the reservation would come down once Gujjars are granted ST status.

Thus, we have this vicious circle of tall promises, protests and demands. In the midst of this confusion, this is the voice of a youth who wants to see India the superpower in his lifetime.



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