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The ‘reservation’ imbroglio

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The ‘reservation’ imbroglio
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Jats, North India’s major ‘peasant’ caste, occupies a significant part of Gujarat, Bihar, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Rajastan’s Bharatpur and Dholpur districts.

This politically organized community, as termed by the Supreme Court has a huge influence on half of the country’s politics and economy. Former Chief Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh and Deputy Prime Minister Devilal belong to Jat community. The Jats have been included by the erstwhile UPA government in the Central list of Other Backward Classes (OBC) by issuing a notification on March 4, 2014, a day before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections were announced. The notification was issued against the advices of the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) and the move was clearly seen as a part of political agenda. The Supreme Court on Wednesday cancelled the Centre’s decision which entitled the people belonging to the Jat community to reservations in jobs and educational institutions. The Court decision came while considering a batch of petitions challenging the notification.

The apex Court, while issuing the 64 pages verdict said that it was an instance of ‘retrograde governance’ and that the decision was based on an earlier statistics and not on the contemporaneous data. It strongly critisised the UPA government for ignoring the findings of NCBC which advised against the quota for Jats. Even though the decision to include the community in the OBC section was thought of benefitting the Congress through more votes, it proved to be a futile exercise. Criticisms rose from other backward sections as well and Om Veer Singh, the head of the OBC Reservation Raksha Samiti, challenged the UPA government’s decision in the Supreme Court. An apex court bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi on March 17 ordered the nullification the government decision. The Court said that including a politically organized class like Jat would adversely affect the welfare of the other backward classes.

Reservation process in India is placing aside some percentage of seats in the government institutions for the people belonging to the backward classes and is based on constitutional laws, statutory laws, local rules and regulations. It has been used as a political weapon to gain power by the leaders and ensure the welfare of the people of their own community. The BJP had strongly backed the UPA government’s decision in the Supreme Court. The BJP government in Maharashtra had also scrapped an ordinance providing reservation for Muslims and made efforts to bring in a Bill that provides reservations to Maratha community. These are plain instances of mishandling and misusing one of the most significant aspects of the constitution for petty political motives instead of taking responsible and sensible decisions after studying the actual status of the various communities.

The Court has also put forward other important matters as well. It said that caste, though a prominent factor should not be the only factor in determining the backwardness of a class and that social and economic state of the communities should also be considered during the process. Until now, the fact that new communities have been appealing for reservations and no existing communities have been dropped from the list is ironical. An extensive assessment is required and the weaker sections should be given more consideration. How far each community has fared and the sections who have been continuing to receive the benefits even after faring well as compared to their earlier stages, should also be evaluated. The weaker sections of the backward communities must be categorized and given special consideration as done by the Tamil Nadu government. In Kerala, the Ezhava community has moved ahead of other sections in the category. A restructuring of the reservation process and the criteria for carrying it out is necessary and steps should be taken starting with the national level. How the sensitive issue would be approached and addressed is yet to be seen.


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