ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Compensatory Discrimination in Political Representation

A Preliminary Assessment of India's Thirty-Year Experience with Reserved Seats in Legislatures

Nalini Pandit Classes in Marxist theory are not mere economic categories. They are living social groups whose attitudes and responses are determined by historical and cultural factors. The materialistic interpretation of history does not imply an exclusive emphasis on the economic factor to the comparative neglect of others. The purpose of formulating a social theory is to understand the attitudes and responses of different social groups to particular programmes.

Although Indian Intellectuals, including some eminent social scientists, have passed severe judgments on compensatory discrimination policies, it is only in the last few years that systematic research on their effects has been undertaken. And unfortunately very little of it has touched on the subject of reserved seats in legislatures. For purposes of deciding whether reserved seats should be extended or terminated, the collection and analysis of data about their performance is only a first (though essential) step. The policy decision involves at least three major sorts of questions beyond the estimation of costs and benefits up-till now First, once a pattern of costs and benefits is ascertained, there is the Question of whether it can he expected to continue in the future. Second, since the goals and dangers of the compensatory discrimination policy are multiple, an evaluation of costs and benefits requires that some kind of weights and priorities be assigned to these goals or dangers. These can be supplied only by a vision of a future society that unites the desirable with the possible. Third, evaluation must be comparative. Acceptance or rejection of the package of benefits and costs believed to be associated with reserved seats must be compared with the costs as well as the benefits anticipated to arise from any alternative that is believed to be preferable.

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