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Excerpts of Article in Indian Express from Meghnad Desai - Antireservation.Com [News Archives]

Indian democratic politics has, however, used the Mandal labels in a very different way. It has encouraged more and more .....




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Post Excerpts of Article in Indian Express from Meghnad Desai - Antireservation.Com [News Archives]


Indian democratic politics has, however, used the Mandal labels in a very different way. It has encouraged more and more groups to get into a race of being More OBC than Thou. No political party has any incentive in arguing that jati status is not a foolproof indicator of social and economic backwardness. There are, as Mayawati has discovered, poor Brahmins and rich OBCs. This is because economic development over the last hundred years has allowed opportunities for some individuals in ritually backward jatis and indeed for some jatis themselves to move up the social and economic ladder.

Mandal and democratic compulsions invite us to abandon this path. No matter how prosperous a backward jati will become, it will keep the label and it will be in the interest of every jati to hang on to the backward label since it is a passport to public favours. The recent agitation by Gujjars has shown that the stakes for being labelled as backward are very high, and in a democratic culture there will be competitive populism to accord such status to whoever promises the vote bank to a party.

But the die is now cast. Parliament legislated reservations and now the Supreme Court has validated the legislation. There are caveats about the creamy layer but I predict that Lok Sabha will not be in a hurry to implement the Supreme Court’s injunctions about extending the definition of creamy layer to themselves and ex-MPs. I wish that were a precondition before reservations could be implemented.

My hope is that the decision will achieve the good it wishes to. My expectation is that it will not. This is because the real problem of social deprivation for the SCs, STs, OBCs is in primary schools and secondary schools where the foundations of failure are laid and no political party, whatever its rhetoric, is grasping that nettle. Every one is for reserving seats at the top of the pyramid and joining the creamy layer of IITs and IIMs. But between the top layer of rich upper castes and the creamy layers of the beneficiaries of reservations, there is a large slice of India. They cannot escape Indian higher education by going abroad as the rich can, nor can they get into the top institutions by merit. As of now no political party wishes to champion them but they constitute a fertile ground of the disaffected whose bitterness will be harvested by some party sooner or later.

From Indian Express
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