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Flawed 10% Reservation

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The question over the central government’s provision on reservation for the upper-caste poor is not just about the issue of employment, but also of educational opportunities amidst privatisation and liberalisation. The 10% quota for the upper-caste poor appears hollow in the present employment crisis (“Where Will the 10% Be Employed?”EPW, 12 January 2019). It is yet again a defect in understanding the economically weaker sections amidst privatisation of education and employment opportunities. Nevertheless, the flaws and ambiguity in understanding the economic poor occur at two levels in the bill. First, in the conception of the economic upper-caste poor, reflected in the identification of the poor itself; and second, at the outcome level, through an ambiguous “means” to remove the upper-caste economic backwardness—provision of 10% reservation.

In the flawed identification of the poor, the prescribed annual family income of ₹ 8 lakh per annum—which comes to around ₹ 67,000 per month—is more than 82 times the rural, and 67 times the urban areas’ prescribed daily expenses capacity of ₹ 27.2 (rural) and ₹ 33.3 (urban) for poverty estimation by the Tendulkar Committee. Again, the ambiguity reflected in the prescribed income amount of ₹ 8 lakh per annum, which is 3.2 times more than the prescribed amount of income tax return cap of ₹ 2.5 lakh. In addition, the default in conception
is extended to the other criteria of “possession of agricultural land less than 5 acres” and “possession of a residential flat 1,000 square feet or less.”

The second flaw is in relation to “the means” to remove the upper-caste economic backwardness through reservation in educational institutions and employment opportunities. The bill invites critique as it does not resemble reservation, but an income-generation programme, whereas the provision of reservation has a long history, aimed at the upliftment of socially marginalised communities to counter their historical injustice. However, there are still many socially marginalised communities yet to be recognised under this provision, with a long list of pending demands.

It is not the first time that the government has introduced an income-generation programme. Before this, there were many flagship programmes such as Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, Startup India, Make in India, demonetisation, etc. This latest move indicates a silent acceptance of the government’s failure in the achievement of targets in these highly marketised programmes to address economic backwardness.

Furthermore, there is no question on the implementation of 10% of the economically weaker sections quota where there are no job opportunities. In educational institutions, simply reservation per se does not grant admission and award degrees to any economic poor, irrespective of their caste background amidst escalating course fees such as those of the IITs, NITs, and other general universities. We must exclude the case of private sector education where there is no control of the government in relation to the fee structure and in the implementation of quota.

The proposed 10% reservation for the upper-caste poor will thus not be the expected outcome in seeking employment as well as taking admission in educational institutions. It is the side effect of privatisation in the education and employment sectors. Therefore, if the government is truly concerned for the economically weaker sections, it must focus on already existing educational institutions and regulation of increasing privatisation in the education and employment sectors. Let us have free education for all in both public and private education sectors, where there will be no difficulties for the economically weaker sections across caste groups.

Deepak Kumar Nanda

Mumbai

Updated On : 8th Mar, 2019

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