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Mainstream, VOL L, No 39, September 15, 2012

Reservation in Promotions Needed to Ensure Representation in Governance Structure

Monday 17 September 2012, by Vidya Bhushan Rawat

The Bill for reservation in promotions for SC-STs has been cleared by the Cabinet and introduced in the Rajya Sabha. Except for the Samajwadi Party, all the parties have supported it. This does not reflect their goodwill but their acceptance of understanding of the situation in India. Reservations are meant to ensure representation of SC-STs in India’s power structure and must be seen beyond the narrow confines of politics.

The Central Government has cleared the Bill for reservation in promotions for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes much against the wishes of its highest legal officer and many others in the government. The question is: why should the government consider the advice of the legal officer all the time? The representative of the people will have to work for the people and understand what is happening on the ground and there is an all-party consensus on this issue except for the Samajwadi Party which remains adamant in opposing the Bill, perhaps to fulfil Mulayam Singh Yadav’s long cherished dream of becoming the Prime Minister of India, as 2014 will actually be the last chance for the biggest dream of a politician’s life to materialise.

It is shocking therefore when the opposition comes from Mulayam Singh Yadav who is projecting himself as the leader of the OBCs and yet is not able to understand the importance of this Bill for not only the SC-STs but also the OBCs who may require it in future as their participation in the power structure is just beginning after the Mandal Commission recommendations were fully implemented. The OBCs in the Central services are now joining in and they too will need a similar Bill in Parliament to protect their interests, but with Mulayam Singh at the helm, he has openly and brazen-facedly violated the spirit of the Dalit-Bahujan unity.

Given Mulayam’s politics, no one should be surprised as to how and when he takes a decision which is based on pure political opportunism. When the V.P. Singh Government announced acceptance of the Mandal Commission recommendations in August 1990 Mulayam Singh Yadav was openly flirting with Chandra-shekhar and Devi Lal and finally ditched that government. We all know the contribution of these two gentlemen for the cause of Dalit-backwards. Instead of supporting a government which became the target of Rightwing Hindutva votaries, Mulayam actually weakened that and withdrew his support, formed his own party. The fact is that Mulayam Singh has rarely talked about the Bahujan because he hails from Lohiawad which is nothing but a political mobilisation of the OBCs without seeking for wider and far-reaching socio-cultural changes. The fact is politics cannot change culture and society as is visible today but it has to be the other way round. An enlightened society will throw up better political leaders and that is why OBCs could learn a lot from the Dalits where cultural changes are much powerful and visible. Lohia was neither Phule nor Periyar who guided the destiny of Dalits and backwards in many places and are icons for all those who wish this country to be an enlightened India. In the history of the Dalit-Bahujan movement in India, they are the liberators for humanity along with Babasaheb Ambedkar but in the narrow and casteist politics of the Samajwadi Party, these names do not matter.

The issue of reservation in promotions was a treachery played by the Department of Personnel which wanted to eliminate it. There were several notifications under the Deve Gowda regime; when these notifications were quietly issued in 1996-97 by the Department of Personnel, our political leaders remained silent at that time. Arun Shourie too worked on these when he was the Minister for Personnel in the NDA Government; he was known for his vehement opposition to reservations. Mulayam Singh and Ramvilas Paswan were Ministers in the Deve Gowda regime and privy to such notifications which were withdrawn; but then our memories are too short. Therefore, the campaign and the game against reservation in promotions is not new and many of our political leaders are part of it.

It is good that BSP chief Ms Mayawati tried to lobby in Parliament for this by speaking to the BJP and other parties for a safe passage of the Bill. Perhaps, it was the right time for her as she also did not do much for the SC-ST employees who, under the banner of the All India Confederation of SC-ST Employees, have been holding protest sittings and huge rallies. In this way, the only consistent person who has been campaigning for it is Dr Udit Raj and he must be complimented for giving us details of these anti-Dalit legislations and notifications and making the people aware of these dangerous acts and the attempt to eliminate reservation itself.

It is important that the issue of reservation is put in the IX Schedule so that it cannot be challenged in the court of law, but these days given the nature of the courts, they are opening up everything creating more hurdles in the name of right to equal opportunity. But this happens only when the political system is weak and there is no unanimity among the political parties. It is good that there is now unanimity among the political parties.

The Supreme Court order has not struck down reservation in promotions but it actually asked the government to provide data about the exact position of SCs STs in services and it is this deliberate delay and bureaucratic mischief that the Court struck down urging for furnishing appropriate data. This gave strength to all kind of forces and with deliberate intentions cases have been filed in State High Courts so as to build up pressure on the government to disallow reservations in promotions and very unfor-tunately Samawjadi Party has been instigating this. Uttar Pradesh was the first State where the case was filed and the State Government failed to provide any caste-based data about its employees; hence the High Court struck down the reservation in promotions in the State. Buoyed by their success, the anti-reservation forces went overboard and got the same provision struck down in their respective States.

It is more ironical that when the country is asking for a caste-based census so that the socio-economic condition of every community is explained legally and constitutionally and the Department of Personnel does not have caste-based data about the employees. It can be made easily available in the case of Secretaries, Universities and other large institutions but then the bureaucracy knows it well how to legally make the issue untenable so as to ensure wider implications on our governance structure and that is why these arguments of merit, efficiency and fair-play come into the picture.

It must also be understood that government jobs or reservations are not poverty alleviation programmes meant to remove economic hardships of the people. It is the share in the power structure to those who have been denied historically. Reservation is no charity which is being gifted but has been constitutionally debated many a time. It is the history of the Poona Pact and those who did not know the demands of the Dalits that time must understand it now. It is also a fact that the Congress party was formed by the caste Hindus not to get us freedom but to appear good before the British Raj and seek reservations for Hindus in the power structure. The British policy to discriminate against Muslims resulted in their steady decline in the government services by 1905 and the ascendency of the Hindus at the power level. One must not forget that the Shudra communities too were getting reservation in Madras Province before independence and Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj did the same in his province. For those who do not understand the importance of reservation must realise why all the priests in India’s temples hail from the Brahmin community. How do Brahmins control the so-called Hindu dharma through temples and cultural subju-gation? Why should a particular community be made to clean latrines manually? Yes, we will not talk about reservation as we speak the truth when it suits us and hence the social isolation and humiliation felt by millions of people in this country does not touch the hearts of those who feel victimised by reservation.

It is important to ask a question to ourselves: why did we fight the British? Was it because they were less meritorious? I am sure, our elite who claim to have got us ‘independence’, know well that the British Empire was the world power not because of their craftiness but because of their greatness as a civilisation. That is why all the leaders of our freedom movement actually came from the background of education in Britain. If we love merit so much then we should have allowed the British to remain in India; at least we would have got more brilliant students and teachers. But our leaders said, we want Swaraj, our own rule or self-rule. Of course, the Hindu fanatic organisations call for Suraj which, according to them, will be ‘Ramrajya’, but according to us it will be a rajya where Manusmriti decides about your future and discriminates against its own citizens on the basis of their castes and gender.

If we want Swaraj or self-rule in India, will it be possible without participation of 17 per cent of Dalits, 7.5 per cent of tribals, 27 per cent OBCs and 15 per cent Muslims in our power structure? How do you ensure that these sections of society feel this country owns them or that we live in our country and have self-rule, if the minimum of what should have been done to come to power is not available? We are told that reservation hurts merit. Well, that is an argument which is debunked as these people rarely speak against private colleges levying high fees on students and accepting huge donations. Who can pay these donations? The answer definitely is: those who have enough money in their pockets. Definitely, they do not hail from the depressed communities that we back.

If we had implemented our reservation policy properly then we should have had that much of representation in power. Of course, the Indian elité have opposed representation of Muslims in our structure making them vulnerable to every charge and compelling them to live on their own. Unfortunately, many among Dalits, OBCs also join hands with the Hindutva group in opposing reservation for Muslims in government services. Maybe, because of the clash of interests; yet, India cannot call it an inclusive society if Muslims continue to feel isolated and ghettoised. The Pasmanda Muslims need quota within quota provided for the Muslim population and that reality of non-representation of the Muslims needs to be accepted by the government and political establishment of the country.

Let the Department of Personnel give us details of what is the percentage of each of these communities. Leave alone OBCs, who have started joining now and Muslims who are nowhere present in the structure, what is the status of SCs and STs who have been getting reservation since independence? If we were sincere, then there must be 17 per cent SCs at every stage of the Central Government and 7.5 per cent of tribals everywhere; but what is the reality? Initially, they would say that the right candidate is not available. At a conference one Muslim scholar made this point and I had to intervene telling him that Indian Dalits, Muslims, tribal and OBCs have enough scholars to fill our government services and academic institutions. Things have changed drastically as students from these sections are now coming up despite all hardships and they have succeeded. You cannot keep the doors of power and academia closed for them now. They will knock and open it themselves if kept outside for long.

The scene is pathetic at every level. To hide their manipulative games, the debate is diverted to merit verses non-merit which is nothing but another racist idea as if merit is the sole domain of the caste Hindus. Nobody is asking a man who is unqualified to become an engineer or a doctor. A minimum qualification is required and people pass it. Don’t we know the dirt inside the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and other academic institutions and how Dalit students have been discriminated by the modern-day Dronacharyas. The only difference today is that there are so many Dronacharyas who are ready to slit the throat of their Ekalavyas but unfortunately for them, the Ekalavyas have grown now and are not ready to offer their sacrifices for these racist Dronacharyas. It is time India grows up and shows its diversity at every level of our social, political and economic life. This nation cannot afford to lose its massive population of Dalit-Bahujans to feed them without representation. Swaraj is not possible without participation of India’s vast population in the power structure and governance and in the absence of it, the so-called freedom would just be called transfer of power from the British to the Indian caste elite who continue to be more dangerous than the British themselves.

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