By Satinath Choudhary
01 June, 2007
There have been many castes or segments of our society that wants to be included within the categories of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST). Today it is the demand of Gujjar’s demand in Rajasthan to be included within the ST category. There is an ongoing effort to on the part of Dalit Christians to be included within the SC or ST community to which they originally belonged. There have been other OBC castes that have demanded to be included within SC or ST category. Most of those within the SC or ST communities understandably oppose inclusion of new castes within the SC/ST ambit. Why are they opposed? Simply because most of the groups that want to be included into SC/ST categories are educationally/economically somewhat ahead of the SC/ST groups. For this reason those already within the SC/ST groups feel apprehensive that most of the reservation benefits will be grabbed by the new entrants within the SC/ST groups. This makes it difficult for the government to accede to the demand for the inclusion of new groups/castes into the SC/ST category.
One way to solve this imbroglio is to grant sub-quotas within the quotas for the broad categories of SC, ST and OBCs. Currently most of the OBC benefits are grabbed by the castes within OBC that are better off educationally and economically. If various members of less developed OBC communities could get their share of OBC reservation benefits, they would feel reduced compulsion towards migrating into the SC or ST groups. However, the population of OBC, according to the Mandal Commission happens to be about 50% while they are currently being given only 27% reservation. This means that each of the OBC castes is currently entitled to reservation percentage that is nearly half the percentage of their population. On the other hand, with the regimen of sub-quotas within quotas would entitle each of the SC/ST castes or subgroups to a percentage of reservation that equals their population percentage. Due to this advantage of SC/ST subgroups over OBC subgroups, some of the OBC castes may still want to be included within the SC/ST categories.
If the new castes or group to be included are accorded reservation percentage equal to the percentage of their population, those within the SC/ST communities would not be opposed to the inclusion of new castes within the SC/ST categories. In fact, they would welcome the new inclusions because the size of SC/ST segment would increase, thus increasing their clout. Further, it will also solve the problem of the less developed castes within the SC/ST categories that do not get their due share of reservation benefits — they will all get their due share.
What can be the problems in allowing sub-quotas within quotas? If most of the OBCs are included within the SC/ST categories, net reservation percentage would exceed 50% bar on total reservation. Thus what we really need is 100% reservation to each caste, in accord with the percentage of respective population. The 50% bar on quotas imposed by the higher courts is totally unconstitutional and goes and the basic intent of the constitution. In the constitution, wherever there is mention of equality, there is a sub-clause indicating that nothing in that article should prevent the parliament from making laws giving special privilege to the deprived castes.
Many people talk about impossibility of caste-wise quota, mentioning about its impossibility of because there are zillions of castes. However, one could declare castes bigger than, say, one percent, to be a sub-group all by itself. All castes with population of less than one percent may be lumped together with other small-sized castes with similar educational background until their combined population becomes larger than one percent. Thereafter each caste-group could be granted reservation in proportion to their respective population. In relatively small groups of about 1% of total population, of nearly equally developed castes, the difference between the top and bottom castes would not be as much as that in the case of broad categories of SC, ST and OBCs. Thus in the case of former (small caste-groupings), the top caste will not be able to overwhelm the bottom caste and win most positions at the cost of the bottom layer.
100% reservation policy for all segments of our society, with segmentations based on region, mother tongue, gender, caste, etc., will make our society a fully power sharing society like Switzerland. In Switzerland, they have German, French, Italian and Romansch speaking communities with population of 75%, 20%, 4% and 1% respectively. Each of these linguistic groups are granted reservations in the same proportion in the Federal Government at all levels including judiciary. “Consociationalism” is the term they use for this kind of power sharing arrangement. Most West European countries (other than England and France) believe in consociationalism.
100% reservation for all segments of the society (as far as practicable) is the best way for amicable and peaceful coexistence. Otherwise a segment that has bigger control over power will succeed in appointing larger and larger percentage of its members to positions of power leading to what we currently see in the judiciary, armed forces and the media — nearly 100% upper caste control, principally that of Brahmins. This can only lead to a situation wherein a couple of castes become ruling castes, with the rest reduced to the status of serfs.
In conclusion, the principle of 100% reservation (power to each segment in proportion to its population) will lead to a relatively amicable and peaceful society where the dominant sections would no longer be trying to continuously increase their power and in the process oppress the less developed segments. Power of each segment, including that of the most developed ones will be limited by their respective quota and none can keep on increasing their power at the cost of the less developed ones. The less developed segments would then be able to enjoy truly free India of compassion, cooperation and rapid progress in conflict-free environment!
Dr. Satinath Choudhary used to teach Computer Science at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, the USA. Now a days I spend most of my time as an activist in Delhi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org