The LDF government of Kerala took a highly significant decision in the socio-political history of India a few days ago; that it is going to implement economic reservation in the state.
As made clear in the cabinet decision by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, a 10 per cent reservation would be given to the backward sections in forward communities for recruitment in the Devaswom Boards as part of the first phase of providing reservation to the economically weaker sections in forward communities in government service. In the latest announcement regarding economic reservation, it is also declared that the reservation quota for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes will be increased by 2 per cent, while that of the Ezhava community and other backward sections will be raised by 3 per cent. The Chief Minister has also called for a Constitutional amendment to implement economic reservation which he described as a new reservation for social justice. CPI (M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, going a tad overboard, has even challenged whether it would be possible for the BJP ruling at the Centre to implement economic reservation. He has also put forth a bizarre claim that misleading propaganda was being made ignoring the withdrawal of the benefit for 90 per cent of the forward communities and that the government had capped it at 10 per cent.
Pinarayi Vijayan is attempting to execute in 2017 the same economic reservation policy that P V Narasimha Rao tried to introduce in 1991 but failed at the Supreme Court. A nine-member bench of the Supreme Court had ruled in the sensational Indra Sawhney Vs the Union of India case 25 years ago, that economic reservation was unconstitutional. What is the political and social compulsion for the CPI (M) to bring up the concept again? Which forward community has been socially marginalized in Kerala so much so as to amend the subsection about social reservation in Article 16 of the Constitution? Has Kerala witnessed any protests due to the social boycott of any section of the caste/community? Has the government appointed any commission to study the participation in power of the reservation-enjoying communities against that of the forward castes, and has any report been made showing that their respective share in government and social balance has been turned upside down? Have the forward castes and communities demanded a reservation by way of inclusion in reserved communities by citing their poor state before the National Commission for Backward Classes? If the government and the CPI (M) try to answer the questions above, it will reveal the grave lack of vigilance that should accompany a review of the reservation quota in accordance with the Constitution. The government should be ready to disclose the statistics based on caste in the social and political spheres before implementing economic reservation. A revamp of the reservation quota should be carried out after determining which sections of the population have incurred the loss of power in proportion to the population.
The CPM has not, even after seven decades of independence, realised that reservation is not a poverty-eradication drive or a job-creation scheme, or that the reasons of backwardness of, and denial of seats of power to, caste-based communities are not their economic status. The attempt to indiscriminately mix up social inequality with economic disparity and to try to solve them through the mechanism of reservation, will only be a continuation of the malicious efforts to torpedo the resurgence of those historically denied a share of power. Thus when those who enjoy the benefits of poverty-eradication drive, also get social stability, the forward communities will become the sole beneficiaries of both: social and economic security. This is a demand which even the BJP is reluctant to raise at the national level. The CPM has at such a time entered the scene with a retrograde position that has no theoretical or empirical validity, and distorts the consitutional provision of reservation as a means of ensuring the participation of socially backward sections in the political and governmental processes. By this move, the party may be aiming at some short-lived political goals for which the price the party will have to pay will be costly both sociall and politically.