The Gujjar-government dialogue can offer only temporary respite. Too many procedural hurdles prevent early recognition of Gujjars as a Scheduled Tribe. Supreme Court limitations preclude added reservation for Gujjars over the existing quota. Accommodating Gujjars as a special category in the existing quota would alienate other OBC groups and create new tensions. What can be done?
Plenty. The issue seems too knotty. But it can be resolved the way Alexander the Great unraveled the Gordian knot. He cut through it with his sword. The Gujjar crisis offers opportunity to cut through India's deadwood of tradition. Thereby Rajasthan could emerge as a role model for all the states. But BJP Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, Congress MP Sachin Pilot, the protesting Gujjar leaders, and rich industrialists of Rajasthan would all have to cooperate.
The Mandal Commission subverted Article 16 (2) of the Constitution which denies the use of caste, religion or area of residence as criteria for reservation. By misusing Article 16 (4) of the Constitution the government created caste-based reservation for backward classes. To help backward classes Article 16 (4) overrides constraints arising from other clauses. Clearly neither caste, nor religion, nor place of residence could qualify as a backward class. The Mandal Commission assigned weight to various criteria to define backwardness. It gave preponderant points to caste and minimal points to economic status. Thereby for practical purpose certain castes became backward classes. The process of subverting the Constitution continues. Currently a proposed measure seeks to raise the minimum income for defining the creamy layer.
What can the Rajasthan government and Gujjar leaders do? They can alter the points given to the various criteria for determining backwardness. They can give preponderant points to economic state, social stratus, area of residence and education of parents and minimal points to caste. In effect that would end caste-based reservation. To achieve this Chief Minister Raje, Sachin Pilot and the Gujjar protesters would have to cooperate. To expose the hollowness of caste-based reservation the Rajasthan government should immediately launch a scheme for free quality level primary education throughout the state, starting with the poorest areas. Free primary education throughout Rajasthan should cost less than Rs 700 crores. Rajasthan's richest industrialists should be inducted in the scheme to adopt areas for imparting free primary education.
This is what can be done. This is what should be done. This is what could make Rajasthan a beacon of hope for all the poor in India.