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Of Reservation, Merit and Distributive Justice

Of Reservation, Merit and Distributive Justice Ghanshyam Shah The Backward Classes in Contemporary India by Andre Beteille Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1992; pp 117, Rs 110.

Occupation-Based Reservation

Occupation-Based Reservation S GUHAN in his review article on Competing Equalities: Law and the Backward Classes in India by Marc Galanter (August 8) has drawn our attention to certain practical difficulties involved in identifying backward classes on the basis of occupational criteria. He has also pointed out the practical problems involved in applying economic criteria for eliminating the better-off among the backward classes from enjoying the benefits of reservation. I wish to offer the following answers to his questions:

Identifying Other Backward Classes

A Ramaiah Under Article 340 of the Indian Constitution, it is obligatory for the government to promote the welfare of the Other Backward Classes (OBC). The Mandal Commission which was set up for the purpose recommended 27 per cent job reservations in government services for the OBC However, implementation of such recommendations has been vehemently opposed by a vocal section. This paper, presenting the recommendations of the Mandal Commission, brings out some technical errors in the criteria and approach adopted in identifying the OBC and their representation in government services. Alternative ways of identifying the deserving OBC have also been suggested.

Reservations in Public Employment -Modified Mandal Scheme

Reservations in Public Employment Modified Mandal Scheme Anil Nauriya Instead of the spiralling competition over figures, it would help if some attention were given to ensuring that reservations, even if on a more modest scale, are (i) actually implemented and (ii) accompanied by other collateral socio-economic measures.

ANTI- MANDAL AGITATION-Significant Silence

Never-Ending Expansion THERE is going to be apparently yet another permanent security structure, this time entrusted with the responsibility of co-ordinating the strategies to combat the insurgencies in the north-east. According to a report in The Times of India (October 6), "A kind of a north-east security council for co-ordinated action against insurgency in the entire region is expected to be set up soon!' Making an announcement to this effect during a press conference, Assam's chief minister Hiteswar Saikia is reported to have said that the setting up of the proposed council, which is to be headed by the chief of one of the paramilitary organisations operating in the region and will have among its members the police chiefs of all the north-eastern states, would among other things "facilitate the exchange of information among the various states in the north-east, monitor developments and plan joint strategies".

RESERVATION FOR OBCs-Evading the Issue

Evading the Issue THE process of postponing by instalments a final decision on the implementation of the Mandal Commission's, recommendations appears 10 be proceeding unhindered. The latest interlude has been engineered through some fairly intricate manoeuvring. The Supreme Court had on September II, September 21 and October 1, 1990 given ambiguous rulings that said practically nothing and which helped only to spread confusion as to its precise stand on the August 13, 1990 notification, issued by the National Front government, providing for 27 per cent reservation in central government recruitment for socially and educationally backward classes. On that occasion the only unequivocal stand taken by the court was that the hearing of the writ petitions challenging the constitutionality of the August 13 notification would commence on November 6, 1990.

RESERVATION-Political Posturing

Political Posturing THE stand of the five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court hearing the petition of anti-reservationists that the government make clear by September 24 its stand on the notification of August 13, 1990 issued by the National Front government introducing job reservations in the central government for the socially and educationally backward castes on the basis of the Mandal Commission's recommendations has put the Congress party in a fix. Having played no small part in engineering the violence that greeted the notification at the time of its announcement, the Congress can scarcely come out openly in support of OBC reservation. On the other hand, open opposition would work to the advantage of the Janata Dal and the various regional parties. The Supreme Court's demand, though difficult to comprehend, has the merit of forcing the Congress to emerge from the ambiguity behind which it had sought refuge.

RESERVATION POLICY-Congress Dilemma

with the economy measures referred to_ above, why has it not been possible to make a larger reduction in the revenue deficit? In this context, the large step up in the provision for interest payments, by as much as Rs 5,600 crore, is intriguing and has gone unexplained either in the budget papers or in the budget speech.

Job Reservations and Efficiency

A M Shah Efficiency or merit is not a fetish of the elite, but an essential ingredient in every field of life, whether in the defence services or department of space or in the soft fields like language and culture. The policy of reservations for backward classes is a major barrier to achieving efficiency.

Mandal Commission and Left Front in West Bengal

While the CPI(M) has been vociferously demanding the implementation of the Mandal Commission report, particularly in the Hindi states, in West Bengal it denies the very existence of OBCs.

Should Class Be the Basis for Recognising Backwardness

Castes were the building blocks of Hindu social structure in precolonial India. But with the introduction and development of the new capitalist forces of production these blocks have undergone a fundamental change. From being a hereditary unity of caste and occupations they nave become a unity ofthisvld contradiction plus the new contradiction of caste and class. This basic contradiction in Indian society can be resolved neither by subjectively subtracting the old contradiction from the new one nor by excluding either class or caste from the new set of opposites.

Reservations in Myth and Reality

Reservations in Myth and Reality BEHIND the veil of public professions of piety, most governments tend to conceal a secret agenda. Any analysis of government policy therefore must begin by distinguishing between the overt and the covert, between appearance and reality. Rarely however is the distinction as important as in the case of the V P Singh government's reservation policy.

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