India's Reservations Controversy

Product of a Mediocre Polity

India on the move today on an ascendant curve fuelled by sustained economic growth had neatly tucked away in a remote recess of her sub-conscious mind the unpleasant memories of the furor that broke with the infamous Mandal Commission report on reservations. The student riots that broke out spontaneously paralyzed New Delhi for more than a week and also resulted in a number of self-immolations by some students. The students won the sympathy of the general public in a big way as the reservation policy was widely resented by one and all, except by the reservationists like then Prime Minister V P Singh. His ill-conceived political maneuver did not ensure his return to office.

Once again we now witness the reservations controversy being revived by the Human Resources Minister of the Congress Government with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the chair and led by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. This time it is not only that India's higher institutes of excellence and knowledge that will witness oversized quotas reserved for the Backward Classes but the Prime Minister has also given a veiled threat that the private sector of India's big business also better be prepared to extend reservations in their sector. This subject was recently touched upon in these columns but this time focus needs to be made as to why India's polity gets this periodic itch to indulge in this dubious game which would not only be socially and economically disruptive but also fragment India. It also diverts India from the path of progress on which it wants to make rapid strides.

The straight and prompt answer that comes to mind is that this periodic itch of the politicians arises from the quality of India's polity today. India today is saddled with a mediocre polity devoid of noble aims , selfless service of India's masses or the dedication to build a better India. The few honorable exceptions that exist in the various Indian political parties, necessarily too, have to be clubbed with the mediocre lot because they lack the courage of conviction to let their conscience speak on issues which do not do justice to India's overall interests.

India's political parties across the entire political spectrum are burdened with two imperialisms, namely the Indian Muslim minority imperialism and the Dalit imperialism of the Backward Classes. Imperialism it is because their demands for special reservations and the political parties succumbing to their pressure gets dictated not because there are any lack of opportunities for them in the Indian system or any discrimination, but arises from their belief that an easy way will be provided for them by political parties in a bid to woo their vote-banks.

Only, a mediocre polity devoid of charismatic leadership qualities and mass following will have to depend on arithmetical calculations of vote banks. These vote banks are manipulated by their so-called community leaders to support a political party based on which party offers the maximum spoils in return. In this sordid process these vote-banks seem to overlook that even after 60 years of Indian independence and reservations galore made by various Governments outdoing each other, the average Indian Muslim or the average Dalit still continues as economically backward. It is so because in the pernicious reservations system in place the benefits are siphoned off by the creamy layer of these vote banks. Had the reservations ensured social justice in the last 60 years and the benefits evenly spread then today there would not have been any need for further reservations of any type. Obviously, both the aim and intent of the reservations system stands hijacked by an exploitative and mediocre polity.

One is tempted to ask that has any political leader or any political party has ever
carried out a social audit or survey as to where in these 60 years have these reservations led the country to after spending thousands of crores of rupees on it. Also has any political party attempted to gather statistics as to what percentage of upward economic mobility has taken place as a result of reservations in place and whether there is a cost-benefit ratio that could justify the entire concept of reservations. But then why should any political leader or political party bother to do so? Their aim is only to ensure that these vote-banks remain in political bondage in a 'reservations bind' that would ensure their return to political power.

India today presents a curious and intriguing spectacle where a pulsating India at large is restless to zoom forward but is impeded by the brakes of a mediocre polity. Then was it Abraham Lincoln who stated that a nation gets the government it deserves. India certainly deserves a better polity but for it to happen, India's progressive classes have to politically empower themselves and make themselves politically relevant as a counter-balancing solid vote-bank which cannot be ignored, as it is today   


More by :  Dr. Subhash Kapila

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