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Analysis of Editorials on Reservation in the Context of Gujarat’s Patidar/Patel Agitation in National English Print Media

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PART – II

OF MY PAPER ON ISSUES ARISING FROM THE PATEL/PATIDAR AGITATION AND THE MEDIA RESPONSE  ANALYSIS OF EDITORIALS ON RESERVATION IN THE CONTEXT OF GUJARAT’S PATIDAR / PATEL AGITATION IN NATIONAL ENGLISH PRINT MEDIA

FROM 1.9.2015

 From Flippancy through Errors, Bias and Prejudice to Rare Seriousness and Rare Objectivity

I have gone through and studied the editorials of Times of India, Asian Age, Hindustan Times, Pioneer, Indian Express and the Hindu.

  1. Main Characteristics of Most Editorials

They are characterized by

  • utter flippancy and caricaturing of Reservation and BCs in one editorial,
  • elementary errors in a number of editorials,
  • bias and prejudice in most of them,
  • advocacy of Reservation based on economic criteria by many/ most of them — ignorant or ignoring the Supreme Court’s striking down of economic criteria as unconstitutional,
  • and, with rare exceptions, effort at relative objectivity and seriousness.

The Core that all or most editorials have missed

All of them, when speaking about Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) miss (ignorance, or deliberate omission, or casualness?)

  • the centuries-old and even currently widespread inhuman phenomenon of “Untouchability” against the former,
  • various forms of discriminations and atrocities against both,
  • their continuing lowest position in all parameters of development, welfare and life,
  • the continuing failure and neglect to undertake comprehensive measures of Social Justice including Reservation for them, and
  • the continuing failure and neglect to fulfill the quota percentages even after seven decades of Reservation at the national level for them.

Most of them similarly ignored

  • the social inferiority and educational and other deprivations imposed on the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (BCs) over the centuries, continuing to this day,
  • their low position in all parameters of development, welfare and life, above the SCs and STs, but well below the Socially Advanced Castes (SACs)
  • denial even of recognition of them as a social class needing attention, and denial and neglect of comprehensive Social Justice measures for them, except to a certain extent in the southern States, particularly at the national level, and States north of the Vindhyas,
  • the heartless and thoughtless destruction of their traditional occupations and livelihood without providing viable alternatives
  • the long delay in their recognition and provision of Reservation at the Central level for them, flouting the Constitutional provisions
  • the continuing failure and neglect to fulfill the Reservation quota for them even nearly a quarter century after commencement of Reservation for them at Central level

I shall now deal with the main characteristics of the editorials.

  1. Example of Flippancy and Caricaturing of Reservation and Backward Classes

The Times of India editorial dated 5.9.2015 titled “Backwards and Forwards”, sub-titled “Patel power shows that the best way to progress is to backpedal

In school boy essay style the editorial starts with a Gilbert and Sullivan opera and character figuring in one of them, namely, Duke of Plaza Toro, who in today’s India “might well have endorsed such a rearguard action and casteist vote in its favour” —  the rearguard action referred to in the editorial is the alleged and non-existent Constitutional right of forward castes to embrace the backward designation of their choice.  Other nuggets in this editorial are

“Thanks to the freebies of reservations and quotas in sarkari jobs and in educational institutions that accompany OBC status in our ulta pulta polity, the best way to become an overdog is to assert one’s rights to be deemed an underdog.” 

 

“This is the upside-down logic which is fueling Patel power and all those who are using it as a slipstream by which to get ahead by making backward demands”

 

“The more such a backward-forward strategy is shown to be successful the more claimants will crop up for the OBC cachet. Indeed the country might well witness mass conversions not of religion, but of caste, with more and more sections of population exercising their right to freedom of association by embracing the backward designation of their choice.”

 

“Caste choice should be as much a constitutional right as that of joining organizations like Citu or Intuc”

 

The reference to freebies, ulta pulta polity, upside down logic, caste choice as a Constitutional right, mass conversions, i.e., of Socially Advanced castes into Socially and Educationally Backward castes, overdog and underdog, etc. show the flippant attitude of the editorial writer in dealing with such a serious matter as the extreme inequalities, denial and deprivations created by our centuries-old caste system and the inevitable emergence of Reservation, which I have described in my Paper  “Agitation of Some Members of Patel / Patidar Community and Some Important Objective Facts about Reservation which are Ignored (Part-I) (dated 18. 9. 2015) [hereafter referred to as ‘Paper on Objective Facts’], a copy of which I have sent to the editor of Times of India as to other editors, and in my article “Logical Step” (published in Frontline, Volume No. 23, Issue No. 8, May 5, 2006).  The editorialist does not seem to be aware that the Supreme Court has laid down a procedure and process consisting of examination of applications for Inclusion in the list of BCs and tender Advice to the Government on each such application. This examination is done, in the case of the Central List of BCs, by the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC), which by statute is headed by a judge or retired judge of the Supreme Court or a High Court and consists of a Member-Secretary, who has been a Secretary to the Government of India; a social scientist; and two persons possessing special knowledge and experience of the Backward Classes, and, in the case of the State Lists of BCs,  by a State Commission for Backward Classes in each State.

It appears that the editorialist has not taken the trouble to understand that any caste cannot claim to be a Socially and Educationally Backward caste and get away with it or join such a caste and there is no such Constitutional right.  He does not seem to know that while one can change one’s religion, it is impossible to change one’s caste.  If the people in the Times of India had consulted a person like me I would have informed them that of the more than 800 applications received by the National Commission for Backward Classes only about 350 castes/communities have been advised for Inclusion and as many as about 470 castes/communities have been advised for Rejection. Those advised for Rejection include powerful and influential Socially Advanced Castes (SACs) like Marathas, Jats in all States except partly in one State, Khandait, Kayastha, numerous castes of Banias / Vaishyas, Nair,  Brahmins in certain States, the group of Muslim castes referred to as ‘Ashraf’, etc.

                                             

III.    Examples of Errors arising from Ignorance or Ignoring of Basic Facts

 

  • Asian Age editorial dated 1. 9. 2015 titled “Base all Quotas on Economic Criteria”

 

This editorial, which contains a number of correct statements (referred to later), contains the following errors:-

It says that

  • Even for SCs and STs for whom there was a reservation system from the start, reservation was meant to have a finite time-span.

This shows ignorance of or ignoring of the fact that a “finite time span” is laid down in the Constitution only for political Reservation, i.e., Reservation of seats in the Lok Sabha or House of the People of the Parliament and the State Legislative Assemblies.

There is no finite time span for Reservation in employment and Reservation in education.

 

The editorial also makes a mistake in saying that Reservation system was there from the start only for the SCs and STs. If the editor and other senior personnel of the Asian Age had read my Paper on ‘Objective Facts’ of which a copy has been sent to them, they would know that Reservation was provided for BCs —  who include the present  BCs, SCs and STs — from the beginning of the 20th century, covering the peninsular States well before Independence. Apparently, the editors and other senior personnel think they can write anything they like about Reservation and they do not have the duty to read or consult a person like me and appraise themselves of basic correct facts.

 

  • The editorial says that V.P. Singh brought in 27% reservation to OBC category in order to win the political support of these castes.

 

With my knowledge and participation in the momentous developments of those days in my capacity as Secretary to Govt. in the crucial Ministry of Welfare, this is an uncharitable view.  Reservation for OBC was a mandate of the Constitution which was flouted till 1990. It had been recommended by the Kaka Kalelkar Commission (1953-55) and by the Mandal Commission(1979-80).  It was clear at that time, and must have been clear to VP Singh also, that by bringing in Reservation for OBC, he would lose more support than get support. The immediate consequence was the fall of his Government.  He was aware that this would happen.

 

The editorialist is also unfair to the BCs in saying that Reservation was given to them only for winning political support and not because of socio-historical facts and the Constitutional mandate which had been ignored except in the Southern States.

 

  • Hindustan Times editorial dated 2. 9. 2015 titled “Many Reservations on this Debate”

This editorial mentions Gujjars and Jats as other groups agitating for OBC status and says that the Patel agitation will give a fresh lease of life to the demand of Gujjars and Jats for OBC status.  This shows ignorance of or ignoring of the fact that Gujjars have been in the list of BCs in all States where they exist except two States where their conditions are such that in one of those States they are included in the SC list on the recommendation of the Kaka Kalek   Commission and in the other State they are Scheduled Tribes.

Editorials says that Hardik Patel tries to ally with the  Kurmis of Bihar and UP whom he considers to be part of the wider Patel umbrella  and goes on to say that Kurmis of Bihar already have OBC status as though Kurmis of UP do not have and Gujjars do not have OBC  “status”.

  • Pioneer editorial dated 17.9.2015

The editorial says that the V.P. Singh Government implemented the Mandal Commission  Report in 1989.  Such inaccuracy is unpardonable in editorials. The VP Singh Government’s decision to implement the Mandal Commission Report was taken in 1990 — announced in the Lok Sabha and Rajya  Sabha respectively on the  7th and 9th of August 1990 and formally laid down in  Government Memorandum dated  13. 8. 1990.

The editorial is in error in saying that the original idea in Article 16 enabling the State to make special provisions for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes has been forgotten. Apparently as an illustration of this, the editorial says that “class has been substituted by caste”.  The editorialist has not taken the trouble of reading the Supreme Court judgments from Minor Rajendran of 1968, in which the SC averred that caste is also a class and in fact the most important form of class, to the Supreme Court’s landmark 9-Member Bench Mandal case judgment of 1992. The Mandal judgment and also the later the Ashoka Kumar Thakur case judgment have upheld the listing of BCs in terms of castes with the rider that “Socially Advanced Persons/Sections” (“Creamy Layer”) among BCs should be excluded. The wording of the editorial shows confusion between Article 15 and Article 16.  The editorialist would not have made the sweeping statement about class and caste if he had read or remembered or taken into account the title and content of Part XVI of the Constitution.

The editorial alleges that even sections that are not only well-educated but also run large educational institutions are electorally allured by the “lollipop of reservations”. No caste which has been shown to be educationally not backward can be included in the BC list. If any such caste has been included or if any caste after past inclusion has ceased to be educationally backward, the responsible way is not to make a sweeping statement in editorials but to move the State Commission for BCs and the NCBC with evidence for deletion of such castes from the list. The editorialist is not aware or has chosen to ignore the fact that the castes which are agitating for inclusion in the list of   BCs are among the castes which have set up educational institutions. In Gujarat, wealthy Patels have set up at least five Private Universities as reported by Shiela Bhatt in the Indian Express (Delhi edition) dated 25.9.2015. Two other communities which have set up large private educational institutions are Vokkaligas and Lingayats of Karnataka. Mandal Commission included only Rural Vokkaligas in the Mandal List and, following it, the Central List of BCs also included only Rural Vokkaligas.  Lingayats were not included in the Mandal list and, therefore, not included in the first-phase Central List. On their application, after careful and detailed enquiry and in a detailed Finding, the NCBC found that only those communities of the Lingayat sect are socially backward whose counterparts among non-Lingayats are already included in the list of  BCs such as Lingayat Madivala (Dhobi), Lingayat Kumbara (Kumhar/ Potter), etc. Castes of Lingayats such a Banajiga, Sadar, etc. who have established educational institutions were found to be not socially backward and specifically excluded.

 

  • Pioneer editorial dated 24. 9. 2015 titled “Let’s rethink reservations”,

subtitled “Income, not caste, must be determining factor”

 

The editorial says that it has been two and half decades since Reservations for SCs and OBCs came into force.  This is a blatant error. Reservation for SCs at the national level commenced in 1943 through the initiative of Dr. Ambedkar as Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council.  Reservation for BCs at the national level came into force only in 1993 after the Supreme Court’s judgment of 16. 11. 1992 upholding the constitutionality of the V.P. Singh Government’s Order of 1990 and after fulfilling the conditions laid down by the Supreme Court.

 

Reservation for Backward Castes including SCs at the sub-national level commenced in the peninsula well before Independence.

 

The editorial says that the Hardik Patel has “forced everyone in the political system to think about the system of reservations”, as though Hardik Patel is a pioneer in this.   This is not correct. There have been periodical attacks on the system of Reservations for SCs, STs and BCs by upper caste Hindus.

 

(5)   Hindustan Times editorial dated 24. 9. 2015, titled “It’s Time to Do a Serious Rethink” sub-titled “Reservations deserve to be rationalized, keeping economic criteria in view”

Starting with the Rajasthan Assembly’s recent legislation increasing total quota to 68%, breaching Supreme Court’s order of 50% limit, the editorial mentions as precedent that “in 1994, the Tamil Nadu Government had announced about 68% reservations”.

The Tamil Nadu Government’s Executive Order increasing Reservation for BCs from the previous 32 % to 50% and thereby increasing the total Reservation for SC, STs and BCs to 68% was in 1980, not 1994.  What happened in the early 1990s, not in 1994, but in 1993, was enactment of a legislation for this Reservation (which had by then become 69% by providing a separate 1% Reservation for STs, on my advice in the legitimate interest of the STs,  in the place of the earlier joint 18% Reservation for SCs and STs  — in which joint arrangement the STs had no / little chance) and moving the Government of India to amend the Constitution to include this legislation in the Ninth Schedule in order to protect it from judicial scrutiny which the Government of India did and on its initiative the Parliament enacted the Constitution (Seventy-sixth Amendment) Act. Even then, in the Coelho case, the Supreme Court subsequently decided that in case of breach of the basic structure of the Constitution, the Ninth Schedule is no protection against judicial scrutiny and the Tamil Nadu decision still remains before the Supreme Court.

The editorial proceeds to say that the Rajasthan decision “will no doubt lead to similar demands from other parts of the country. And with the Tamil Nadu precedent being there, the 50% limit will virtually cease to matter”. This comment shows either ignorance of or concealing of relevant facts. It is not as though other State Governments have not tried to exceed the 50% limit.  Some State Governments have, in fact, done so, like Karnataka when Shri Veerappa Moily was the Chief Minister; and Andhra Pradesh when Shri N. T. Rama Rao was the Chief Minister and again once when the excess was of a mere 1%. There are some other examples. Whenever any State other than Tamil Nadu (which is as old as 1980 and has certain features not available for other States and which is still pending in the Supreme Court) has tried to exceed the 50% limit and such effort was judicially challenged, the High Courts and the Supreme Court have invalidated such orders of those States.  Therefore, it was not in keeping with editorial and media responsibility to have made this comment.

The editorial describes the Rajasthan decision of according 14% Reservation for Economically Backward Classes among the forward castes, as Reservation for the “extremely backward classes” among the “forward castes”. This description seeks to give a pseudo- constitutional appearance for the decision.  There is no such thing in our Constitution as the “extremely backward classes among the forward castes”.

The editorial declares that the rationale of Reservation was the economic backwardness of the masses and the oppression by upper castes. This is also erroneous. Reservation was not resorted to in India as a measure to counter economic backwardness. As explained in my Paper “Agitation of Some Members of Patel / Patidar Community and Some Important Objective Facts about Reservation which are Ignored (Part-I) (dated 18. 9. 2015) [hereafter referred to as ‘Paper on Objective Facts’], which has been widely circulated and copies furnished to the media including Hindustan Times, Reservation was introduced in peninsular Princely States and Presidencies well-before Independence, largely by the initiatives of socially sensitive rulers of Princely States, in response to local social reform movements directed against caste-based monopolies of one or more upper castes and intended to correct an imbalance in the structure of governance and administration and the supporting structure of education that has come into existence on account of the gross imbalances and distortions created by the Indian Caste System, i.e., Caste System-with-“Untouchability” over the centuries, continuing to the present day (without change in essence, though with some quantitative attenuations and marginal modifications).

Consequent to the imbalance and distortion created by the caste system, including denial by various means – including physical violence against Dalit children, who were waylaid on way to school, beaten up, and driven back home tearing their books, as recorded in the Report of the Hunter Commission 1882 —, there was nil or negligible presence of what are now categorized as SCs, STs and BCs and in some regions even from upper caste non-Brahmins in the services of the State. The State services were thus nearly monopolized in some regions by Brahmins or in some other regions by Brahmin in combination with certain non-Brahmin upper castes like Kayasthas, Karans, CKPs, Khatris, Vaishyas/Banias, Rajputs/Thakurs, Kammas and Reddys, Nairs, Nattukkottai Chettiars, Vellalas.  It is this distortion that the vast majority of the people peacefully agitated against and the Maharajas of Kolhapur, Mysore, Travancore and Cochin and the elected Indian rulers of the Justice Party in Madras responded.

With the commencement of the Constitution, Reservation also became an integral part of the basic structure of measures required for elimination of the inherited structure of Inequality, based on Caste-with-“Untouchability” and for the establishment of Social Equality, which is a basic feature of the Constitution.

The editorial blames the Constitution that it neither lists the “backward castes” nor defines the term “backward” and the same goes for “scheduled tribes” or “scheduled castes”.   Fortunately, the editorial concedes that the Constitution “does leave provisions for all the three”, but alleges “which categories are to be included in which group is entirely the decision of the executive”. Does the Hindustan Times expect the Constitution to contain a list of the Scheduled Castes who number 1208, the Scheduled Tribes who number 822 and the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes who number 2416?  It can only provide the constitutional base for these three and lay down the procedure for listing them and making additions, deletions or modifications. To allege that inclusion in these three classes is “entirely the decision of the executive” betrays ignorance of the criteria, the careful way the criteria have been applied over time and the process and procedure laid down by the Government and, in the case of BCs, also by the Supreme Court. As explained in my Paper referred to, only castes on which “Untouchability” has been imposed have been listed as SCs in the Schedules of SCs by a series of Presidential Orders. Any addition, deletion or modification in any of the entries in the Schedules can be done only by the Parliament by law after the applicant community has passed the test of “Untouchability” at the State Government level, at the Central Government level and, crucially and decisively, at the independent anthropological level of the Census Commissioner/Registrar General of India. Similar is the procedure for the STs, who have been identified on the basis of a group of characteristics which can be collectively described as isolation under vulnerable conditions and ethnic distinctness.

I have also explained in detail the criteria for inclusion in the list of BCs and the procedure and the institutions established therefor. When the Executive at the Central level or State level in rare instances deviated from the criteria, procedure and processes and included communities which are patently not socially backward and educationally backward in the list of BCs, the High Courts and the Supreme Court have immediately stepped in and invalidated such executive action.

It was not in keeping with editorial and media responsibility to allege that “which categories are to be included in which group is entirely the decision of the executive”.

The editorial asks a rhetorical question, “if a person’s grandfather and father have got the benefit of reservation, does she or he require it any more?” This question ignores the fact that most people who have got the benefit of Reservation in employment have got it at the level of Group/Class IV (Peons / Attenders) or Group/Class III (Clerks / Assistants, Drivers). How can such availment of Reservation make any difference to the eligibility of their grandchildren or children for Reservation?  The editorialist does not seem to have thought about this, or is outright ignorant of this.

Further, in the case of the BCs, based on the Supreme Court’s judgment, an Expert Committee has identified the social level that either parent has achieved to warrant exclusion of the child from eligibility for Reservation and the Government has incorporated these criteria of exclusion of “Socially Advanced Persons/Sections” (SAP/S), loosely referred to as “Creamy Layer” (CL), in the Government Order of 1993 operationalising BC Reservation. The editorialist ought to have read the Report of the Expert Committee and the order of the Government before making this loose comment.

In the case of SCs and STs, what is relevant is not whether the parent or grandparent had the benefit of Reservation. The criteria for inclusion in the list of SCs and STs have been mentioned in my Paper on ‘Objective Facts’ and has been referred to above, not whether the parent or grandparent had the benefit of Reservation.

The editorialist points out that SCs and STs are treated as an undifferentiated category but there are varying levels of prosperity and poverty among them. The editorialist ought to have read the E.V. Chinnaiah judgment of the Supreme Court which ruled that under the Constitutional schema, SCs are treated as “a class”. This would also apply to STs. But the word “prosperity” is inappropriate for them and the editorialist would not have used it if he had the least knowledge of the miserable conditions of SCs and STs with all the obstacles placed in their way over the centuries of our history and in the decades of our Independence till today. Prosperity is almost non-existent among them and is an utter rarity except in a miniscule percentage of SCs and STs.

  1. Examples of Bias, Prejudice and One-sidedness

(1)        Times of India editorial of 5.9.2015 titled “Backward and Forwards”, sub-titled “Patel power shows that the best way to progress is to backpedal”

Reference to reservations and quotas as “freebies”.

(2)        Pioneer editorial of 17. 9. 2015 titled “Quota-Unquota Matters”, sub-titled “Yes, Let’s debate evil effects of Mandal Politics”

The editorial refers to the Mandal Commission’s Report as the “flawed Mandal Commission Report” showing clear bias. Its accusation of V.P. Singh that he “injected into the country the vial of casteism by implementing the flawed Mandal Report”, is as though casteism was born in 1990 (according to the erroneous dating of the Pioneer in 1989). To refer to V.P. Singh Government’s decision to implement the Constitutional mandate which had been evaded from the 1950s onwards as injection of a malevolent vial again shows kneejerk bias.

At another place the editorial refers to Reservations as “the virus of reservations”.  This is another expression of bias.

The editorial also refers to Reservations as luring by the “lollipop of reservations” —  the very choice of words shows bias.

The editorial’s further accusation against the political parties that since then they have been injecting “fresh doses of casteist poison into the system, doling out quotas to all and sundry”, again shows bias as well as ignorance of the careful procedure followed for inclusion of castes in the list of BCs (and also in the list of SCs and STs), which I have explained in my Paper on “Objective Facts”.

The rare occasions when Governments deviated from the correct procedure and process, flouting the Advice of Commissions for Backward Classes, as in the case of Marathas by the State Government of Maharashtra and Jats in a number of States by the Government of India, both just before elections in 2014, their patently erroneous decisions were immediately struck down by the courts. The editorialist has obviously not studied the list of BCs. No finger can be pointed against almost all the communities included. In the few cases where a few entries of the past can raise doubts cannot justify the charge of “doling out quotas to all and sundry”.

The editorialist says that “we have been grappling with this menace”. To refer to a Constitution-based system of Reservations as menace is another marker of bias.  Further, it is not clear who Pioneer’s “We” are.  It is only a small minority who have been under-cutting, sabotaging and resenting Reservations including Reservation for BCs. Pioneer cannot appropriate the all-inclusive “We” to describe this minority and the elite within it, including the editorialist and senior personnel of Pioneer and other media.

The editorial welcomes Jitin Prasada’s statement wanting quota benefits to be restricted to the “most backward castes and poor upper castes”, thereby removing “this privilege” from the rest. To refer to legitimate Reservation quotas as a “privilege” is clear-cut bias at the outset.  This is not privilege, but a corrective of the distortion of centuries by which monopoly or near-monopoly was appropriated by the elite of the non-SC, non-ST, non-BC, which corrective has not taken full effect because of casualness in implementation and in, some cases, even hostility on the part of those who have to implement the quotas and because, as the National (Justice Venkatachaliah) Commission for Review of the Working of the Constitution 2000-2002, in its Report submitted to the then Law Minister and present Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitly on 31. 3. 2002, says, of the failure to provide a comprehensive package of Social Justice for SCs, STs and BCs of which Reservation is only a part.

The editorial shows its bias against BCs who are not most backward, who also continue to need Reservation and other Social Justice measures, and bias against SCs and STs, who are also to be deprived this “privilege” in the schema of the Pioneer and Jitin Prasada.

Further, bias is shown by the desire to provide Reservation for poor upper castes, which the Constitution does not permit.

The editorial says that the “virus of reservations has, in recent times, crossed the boundaries of ‘backwardness’ and threatens to engulf even the more affluent and powerful sections of society”, referring to the Patidars’ demand. The effort to cross “the boundaries of backwardness” did not begin with Jitin Prasada or Hardik Patel whom the editorial complements for the “service” done by them by calling for a review of the Reservation policy. This effort on the part of the elite of a minority, that has unconscionably appropriated a monopoly / virtual monopoly, has been going on since a long time in different fora through writ petitions, through applications to the National and State Commissions (who have rejected applications of those who are not socially backward), threats and media, which has been very cooperative with their unconstitutional and anti-constitutional demand because of the social composition of the media heads.  Even last year, long before the Gujarat’s Patidar agitation, Vikram Chandra ponderously pronounced in a programme on the NDTV 24 x 7 channel that the time has come for  us to base reservations on economic criteria.

These unjustifiable efforts including the Patidar agitation cannot be blamed on the Reservation policy which is warranted by the socio-historical background of India, past and current social facts and the constitutional mandates and principles.

(3)        Times of India editorial dated   23. 9. 2015 titled “Quota Juggernaut”

After referring with approval to Shri Mohan Bhagwat’s and Shri Jitin Prasada’s statements, the editorial jumps to take this as “an implicit admission” which amounts to proof that “quotas have come to be cornered by a few powerful castes that dominates the administrative machinery”. By what logic these two statements can amount to such an admission is beyond normal logic.  This long jump could be possible only through bias. The few powerful castes that dominate the administrative machinery are not the castes which are eligible for Reservation.  They dominate not only the administrative machinery but also the commanding heights of all other institutions including print and visual media.

The allegation that powerful castes have been included in the list of BCs was also made on previous occasions like the writ petitions in the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) case [Ashoka Kumar Thakur case vs Union of India, judgment on 10 April 2008] and argued strongly by very senior and able Counsels for the writ petitioners. The Government’s Counsels, on the basis of my advice and inputs, showed the court, to its satisfaction, with specific instances and copies of the NCBC’s Findings and Advices, that it is the Requests of powerful castes like Maratha in Maharashtra, Khandait in Orissa, Jat in many States (except part of one State for which there was objective justification) for inclusion that were rejected. The editorial is comfortable with taking allegations based on bias, without efforts to find out facts, and dubbing them as “admission”.

The editorial then goes on to say that “with parties across the political spectrum rushing to legitimise the reservation demands of different caste groups in the hope of cultivating vote banks, they kicked off a race to the bottom” and attributes the demand of “even influential communities” for “a share of the reservation pie”.

Parties may try to make unjustified inclusions. But, the institutional set up laid down by the Constitution and in the case of BCs, by the Supreme Court, provides effective protection against inclusion of castes not socially backward in the list of BCs, non-tribes in the list of STs and castes which are not the victims of “Untouchability” in the list of SCs.   If the editorialist or those in charge of Times of India had asked me, I could have given them specific instances where our Constitutional and Supreme Court-directed institutional set-ups have prevented political parties from running amuck.  One instance is that of Marathas and Jats I have referred to above.  Another is the repeated attempts of the State Government of Uttar Pradesh to include certain non-“Untouchable” backward castes in the list of SCs which have been prevented on account of the anthropological advice of the Census Commissioner-cum–Registrar General of India (RGI). Now, in preparation for the UP State Assembly elections of 2017, the ruling Samajwadi Party has again revived this proposal knowing that it will not pass through the Anthropological filter of the Census Commissioner-cum-RGI.

With all these facts staring in the face, Times of India makes wild allegations and comments.  The demands and efforts of influential communities, which predated the Patidar agitation, do not vitiate the basic principle of Reservation and other Social Justice measures. Times of India’s reference to Reservation as “reservation pie”, and “this great reservation game”, betrays the depth of bias. According to the editorialist, the results of this “great reservation game” are caste conflict and slow strangulation of meritocracy with disastrous consequences for administration. The attack of misguided members of the Socially Advanced castes on SCs and STs (who are vulnerable and, therefore, easy prey to attacks; they would not dare to attack the BCs who are less vulnerable and who have larger numbers) cannot be blamed as caste conflict on account of “this great reservation game”. Violence by members of powerful castes against Dalits and Adivasis and sometimes against very weak BCs long-preceded the dawn of Reservation in India. The Hutton Commission  (1882), which long-predated the first Reservation initiated in 1902 by the Maharaja of Kolhapur, lists the attacks by powerful castes on Dalit children going to school, waylaying them, tearing their books and beating them up and driving them back home in different parts of India.  I have briefly referred to this in my Paper on ‘Objective Facts’ which has been widely circulated and copies of which have also been sent to the media including the Times of India (I cannot of course compel them to read it). I have given greater details in my article titled the “Logical Step” (published in Frontline, Volume No. 23, Issue No. 8, May 5, 2006).

The editorial bemoans the slow strangulation of meritocracy with disastrous consequences for administration.  It is only a biased mind that can refer to the system we have in administration, in Government as well as all our institutions as “meritocracy”.  Whatever merit exists in our system has improved in States where Reservation started the earliest compared to other States. As I have shown in my Paper on ‘Objective Facts’, it is well-acknowledged that administrative efficiency is relatively better in the peninsular States, where Reservation (covering those whom we now categorise as BCs, SCs and STs) was introduced beginning from 1902, and well before Independence and the Constitution of India, mainly on the initiative of Maharajas and other Indians.  It is the exclusion of the vast majority of people from governance, administration and leadership of economic, financial, health and medical educational and other institutions that has caused strangulation of meritocracy in India over the centuries and it is the resistance to Reservations, and other Social Justice measures, in the States north of the Vindhyas and in the Centre till well after the Constitution and its half-hearted implementation and even sabotage that is one of the major stumbling blocks for our progress.

(4) Pioneer editorial of 24. 9. 2015 titled “Let’s rethink reservations”, sub-titled “Income, not caste, must be determining factor”

The editorial says that the “Mandal Commission has never suggested that reservation for socially backward classes becomes a permanent feature in India, but the problem of entitlement politics is simply that to remove entitlement carries a massive political cost”.

The editorial gives the biased impression that Reservation is ripe to be abolished and all that stands in the way of its abolition is the unwillingness of several political parties to pay the massive political cost of its abolition and politicians who have been beneficiaries of Reservation and who will do anything to ensure that entitlement stays. The editorialist does not take note of the fact that the quotas are still unfulfilled and the comprehensive Social Justice measures of which Reservation is only a part, have not been undertaken by any Government till now in an adequate and holistic manner, as a result of which there is still wide gap between the social classes for whom Reservation has rightly and constitutionally been instituted, on the one hand, and the SACs, on the other, in every parameter of development, welfare and life. The reasons for this neglect is not politicians who are the beneficiaries of Reservation, but politicians, top administrators, leaders of all economic, financial, planning, educational and other institutions,  including the media, who belong to Socially Advanced Castes, who, flouting the Constitutional mandate, evaded Reservation for BCs at the Central level and in States north of the Vindhyas as long as they could manage, and, when it was no longer possible, obstructed its implementation and also the adoption and sincere implementation of comprehensive Social Justice measures for SCs, STs and BCs of which Reservation is a part.  The boot is on the other leg.

The recipe of the Pioneer editorial from its biased understanding are:-

  • Creamy Layer provisions should be made applicable to SC and ST candidates

This is contrary to the Supreme Court’s 9-Member Bench Mandal case judgment of 1992 in which after expounding the theory of “Creamy Layer” (CL), or more appropriately “Socially Advanced Persons / Sections” (SAP/S) of the identified Backward Classes, the court specifically said that this does not apply to SCs and STs.  When the presence of SCs and STs in many areas ranges from dismal to grossly inadequate, to exclude some of them in the name of “creamy layer” will further limit the presence of SCs and STs, which is what the elite belonging to the Socially Advanced Castes (to which proprietors and top professionals of media also belong) really want. This suggestion cannot be countenanced when there is widespread practice of “Untouchability” against SCs and atrocities against SCs and STs in many parts of the country, of which some instances seep through the impermeable media barrier and most of which are ignored by the media.

  • Second generation applicants should be barred from taking advantage of Reservations, particularly those of Class I officers

This is one aspect of “Creamy Layer”, which as I pointed out above cannot be applied to the SCs and STs.

In the case of BCs, pursuant to the Supreme Court’s direction, criteria for exclusion of   SAP/S  / CL  were laid down in 1993;  children of direct recruit Class-I / Group-I officers of the Centre as well as States are one category of SAP/S / CL, who are not eligible for Reservation.

  • A more targeted form of Reservations that is rooted in economics is what is required rather than a simple caste-based system

The reason that the editorial gives for this is that the deepest inequality in India is economic and, therefore, while Reservations have helped to raise some out of poverty, a more targeted form rooted in economics is required.

As I have pointed out, Reservation is not an economic programme or a programme to remove or alleviate poverty. I have explained why Reservation was introduced and its nature.

In a country and society where caste-with-“Untouchability” was an instrument and channel of all-round oppression, denial and deprivation, over the centuries to this day, the corrective measures inevitably have to be based on caste. Those who have benefitted over the centuries to this day by being born in certain castes cannot crib when the same instrument and channel of caste is used to help the victims of caste-with-“Untouchability” to reach the  level of Equality. Then alone will the situation be created when caste can wither away and be annihilated.

One more reason given by the editorial in favour of a form of Reservation rooted in economics is that the dividing line for judging a caste a “backward” or “forward” is often fuzzy, but income is easier to classify and cites the Patidar community as the best example “which has some extremely successful pockets while other sections live in penury or on the edge of penury.”

This is not correct. The question of backward and forward arises in the case of BCs only.  SCs are listed on the basis of castes which have been and are the victims of “Untouchability”. Every child and school boy / girl knows which are the “Untouchable” communities. Similarly there is no difficulty about identification of STs. In the case of BCs, the bulk of the castes included are artisan and artisanal communities (like castes of weavers, blacksmiths, potters , stone-cutters, etc.); service- providing communities (like castes of barbers, dhobis and so on); castes of pastoralists, castes of non-agricultural primary producers (such as  fisher-folk), nomadic, semi-nomadic communities, indigent / beggar communities and so on. It is only in the case of land-owning peasant communities, in which some have ceased to be socially backward, that effort to identify the socially backward and the socially advanced among them has to be made.

In a classic finding of the NCBC running over 100 pages (in type-script), which I authored and was concurred in by the entire Commission, the entire socio-historical background of this category of communities has been discussed and how the socially advanced among them could be rationally distinguished.  All these facts are of no use to the editorialists like that of the Pioneer who are happy to hug their bias and trot out half-baked nostrums.

In this correct perspective, the Patidar community is not the appropriate example.  Penury or the edge of penury (which does not seem to be the correct description of the bulk of the Patidar community, i.e., those other than “some extremely successful pockets” of the Pioneer) is not the criterion for inclusion in the BC list, but social backwardness, i.e., lowliness in the traditional social hierarchy.

The editorialist of the Pioneer has not studied candidates who are given scholarships and other help as economically backward classes (a term coined to make a non-Constitutional category appear like a Constitutional category). They are typically children of well-to-do landowning families with the capacity to buy certificates of income below the cut-off point. This is easy because, unlike the income of salary-earners, the income of well-to-do land-owning peasants and also traders is not verifiable. That is where fuzziness exists.  There is no fuzziness in the case of caste. Further if any one fudges his caste to secure Reservation, he or she can be detected at any time and penalized / punished appropriately.

It passes rational understanding how the Pioneer editorial comes with such recipes which contradict its earlier statement in the same editorial that “India is a deeply unequal society and this was unfortunately something that was extremely deep-rooted. Even today, caste-based discrimination is a fact of life.” After stating this to rush to the old SAC recipe of economic-based Reservation is a contradiction which can be explained only as owing to bias.

Another problem, which, according to the Pioneer, Reservations have not solved, is that many of the thousands of students who get into premier institutions through Reservation have high rate of failure “simply because” many of them “have far lower qualifying scores than general category students and are clearly not up to the basic educational standards required”, including inability to understand functional English. This is a problem created by the neglect of those heading political parties, governments, administration, governance, academia and other institutions to provide for high quality education from pre-school stage through different stages of school and undertake supporting Social Justice measures to enable the deprived classes to reach the level required when they enter the premier institutes. It is also because of the “Untouchabilty” and other caste discriminations that SCs and STs and, to some extent, also the  BCs experience at the hands of the peer groups of SACs and even some of the respected gurus of these institutions, and the constant psychological stress under which they have to pass their years in such institutions. One-sidedness prevents the Pioneer editorialist from seeing these facts.

(5)        Hindustan Times editorial of 24. 9. 2015 titled “It’s time to do a serious rethink”

While predicting that the 50% limit will cease to matter on account of the Tamil Nadu precedent, the Hindustan Times editorial says that, as a result of this, “administrative neutrality will be diluted as officials who have got the benefit of quota are bound to be caught up in caste tangles”. Bias and one-sidedness prevents the editorialist from pondering over whether non-quota officials have been neutral. In fact it is the selfish appropriation of a monopoly or near-monopoly of educational opportunities and opportunities of service under the State by the SACs, including non-quota officials, by the operation of the Machiavellian caste system and physical violence against school-going Dalit children, that made Reservation inevitable. Bias exempts the editorialist from taking note of these facts and allows a one-sided pontification.

  1. Few Serious Editorials

In the midst of editorials, marked by errors of ignorance, bias and patent and blatant one-sidedness, three editorials stand out as serious efforts relatively of objectivity.  They are

  • The Indian Express editorial dated 23.9.2015
  • The Hindu editorial dated 3.10.2015
  • The Asian Age editorial dated 1.9.2015
  • The Indian Express editorial dated 23. 9. 2015 titled “Quota Fracas”

This is the most forthright among the three. Referring to Shri Mohan Bhagwat’s statement and the BJP’s clarification that that statement “has not supported any reconsideration of the existing constitutional provision of reservations”, it rules out any scope for a Committee to undertake a review of the Reservation policy by pointing out

(a)  “Social Justice, the objective of affirmative action, has always been debated on the terrain of politics”  —  this is correct except for the inappropriateness of the term “affirmative action”, coined in the United States in the context of the lacunae in its Constitution unlike our Constitution where the objective of Social Equality is laid down and the path of Social Justice spelt out to reach the goal of Social Equality through the preambular enunciation and a number of specific Articles including a series of Articles contained in a whole Part, i.e., Part XVI.

 

(b)        “Reservation policy is the outcome of extended debate in Constituent Assembly”

 

—  this is also correct, but the Reservation policy has a pre-history in peninsular India before the Constitution and Independence. The Constitution, which emerged from the Constituent Assembly debates covered this policy with the Constitutional objective of Social Equality through comprehensive Social Justice measures and imparted to it an unshakeable Constitutional foundation.

 

(c)        “Parliament and courts have supervised the working of the Constitution to ensure that its provisions are implemented in the true spirit.”

 

(d)       “No ‘autonomous’ or ‘non-political’ committee can encroach” on the domain of parliament and courts or of the Commissions tasked with specific responsibility of identifying the communities qualifying as Scheduled Castes, tribes or  Other Backward Classes.

— This is correct and important — the standing constitutional statutory and institutional mechanism, processes and procedures have been explained in my Paper on ‘Objective Facts’.

 

(e)        Constitution does not provide space for extra-constitutional bodies to formulate public policies.

This is also correct and important.

  • The Hindu editorial dated 3.10. 15 titled “Social Movement to Political Party”

After the main discussion in this editorial about dim prospects of Hardik Patel’s decision to launch a political party called  the Akhil Bharatiya Patel Navanirman Sena, describing it as “a big gamble”, this editorial  makes one important point  clear— “there is no way the new Party can immediately advance the cause of the community’s demand for reservation”. I would add that not only immediately, but even in the long term, neither the new Party nor any movement or agitation can secure Reservation as a Socially and Educationally Backward Class for this community, which is neither socially nor educationally backward, and for other similar communities.

(3)  Asian Age editorial dated 1. 9. 2015 titled “Base all Quotas on Economic Criteria

Along with two errors, which I have pointed out separately, and a wrong recipe, advocating reservation based on economic or class principle, rather than a caste mandate, this editorial brings out some correct facts seriously:-

  • Ambitious and inexperienced Hardik Patel does not have a grasp of the country’s social reality. The editorial gives as an example his description of Kurmis  — to be found mostly in  Bihar and partly in UP —  as being from his own caste.   The editorial rightly points out that the only similarity between Patels and Kurmis is that some Kurmis use Patel as a last name. The Kurmis of North India are already a designated OBC group, and have traditionally been educationally and socially backward.
  • Patels are not socially and educationally backward, but a socially and educationally advanced community, which is the most well-to-do community of Gujarat in all respects — and one of the most well-to-do in the whole country —, disproportionately represented in business, industry and government employment without the crutch of quotas, and are prominent among the prosperous Indian diaspora, particularly in North America.
  • There are bound to be disadvantaged folk among the Patidar of Gujarat just as there are individuals and families among upper castes who are in need of support in any State —
  • the editorial could have further clarified that this does not qualify a Socially Advanced community to be classified as a BC caste and the support that could be given to the disadvantaged individuals among Patidar and among other upper castes is scholarships and bank loans and other  such assistance, but never Reservation which, under the Constitutional schema, is only for castes and communities which have been the victims of “Untouchability”, tribes which are isolated under vulnerable conditions and have distinct ethnic features and castes which are socially backward (i.e., low position under the traditional caste system) and also educationally backward.
  • “Normal logic would suggest that just as the brahmins and other sections of the traditional upper castes cannot be made beneficiaries of caste-based  reservation for educational opportunities and employment, the system would be hard-pressed to include the Gujart Patidar into the OBC category so that they may quality for state support.  Doing so would make a mockery of the very purpose of affirmative action in the framework of the Indian system of reservations”
  • This is the only editorial which has brought out this important point clearly except that the term “affirmative action” is inappropriate in the Indian Constitutional context, as I have already explained, and the word  “hard-pressed” is an understatement, and the correct world would be    “will find it impossible”.

Yet, in an anti-climax the editorial tapers down to advocating the economic or class based principle, in the following words:-

“The cause of the genuinely needy may have been served better if quotas followed the economic or class principle, rather than a caste mandate”.

This contradicts its correct formulations mentioned above and the editorial’s correct statement of justification for SC and ST reservation that “they had suffered extreme backwardness and hardship for millennia and need positive discrimination in order to advance socially, educationally and economically  — except that what they suffered from was not “extreme backwardness”,  but something far worse, namely, the humiliation and all-round deprivation accompanying “Untouchabiltiy” in the case of  SCs and exploitation in various forms of both SCs and STs and what is sought to be done for them is not “positive discrimination” or discrimination of any type,  but a step towards correction and rectification of the past oppression and inequities.

Further, as mentioned by me separately, they are not aware of the fact that BCs also have suffered indignity and discrimination though not as much as the SCs and STs and, therefore, they too had reservation in peninsular India since well before Independence, as explained by me in my Paper on ‘Objective Facts’.

  1. CONCLUSION

Media have got great responsibility to place correct, full and bias-free facts before the readers. They should not operate as the mouth-pieces of one small section of society, i.e., the section which has monopolized or near-monopolised all advantageous positions and opportunities through the caste system. The editorialists in particular should come out of the skin of their castes.  I am widely circulating this paper and also sending copies to the six newspapers mentioned above.  I can only place facts before them. But I cannot compel them to read those facts.  I hope good sense prevails on them in the interest of the country, as Indian cannot progress optimally unless the social inequalities, suffered over the centuries and over the demands of Independence till now on account of the castes system-with-”Untouchability”  by the SCs, STs and BCs, who constitution the vast majority of the population of India, are removed.

 

  1. 11. 2015 (P. S. KRISHNAN)

 

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