Distribute quota pie equitably to stop caste clashes: experts

May 28th, 2008 - 11:10 am ICT by admin  

By Rajeev Ranjan Roy
New Delhi, May 28 (IANS) As the Gujjar community in Rajasthan aggressively renews its movement for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status, aimed at better jobs and education opportunities, experts say the violence is a manifestation of the lopsided impact of affirmative action. With the deaths of at least 37 people over the last few days and Gujjars blocking road and train tracks as caste tensions increase in Rajasthan, analysts say the equitable distribution of benefits of reservation in jobs is the key to avoiding caste clashes in the country.

Gujjars are categorised as other backward classes (OBCs), who are entitled to 27 percent quota. Besides, STs get 7.5 percent reservation in government jobs and academic institutions and Scheduled Castes (SCs) get 15 percent - amounting to 49.5 percent, just under the 50 percent ceiling set by the apex court.

“Gujjar violence is an indicator of certain dangerous contradictions in India’s reservation policies. Gujjars, already eligible for a share in 27 percent reserved seats, are asking for ST category, which has only 7.5 percent seats reserved. It should be an eye opener for policy makers,” said Parthonath Mukherjee, a sociologist with the Delhi-based Institute of Social Sciences (ISS).

Added Anand Kumar, senior professor of sociology at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU): “There is no way to avoid such violence except by ensuring equitable distribution of quota benefits among different groups. The Gujjar violence shows that efforts for inclusive growth of weaker sections have not worked uniformly.”

“Gujjars are apparently not getting due benefits as OBCs, perhaps because of stiff competition from other OBC castes like Jats and Yadavs. They want ST status not only because of their socio-economic proximity to Meenas but also presuming that the new category will get them adequate share in the quota,” he added.

Stressing there was an in-built flaw in the country’s quota system, an official in the ministry of tribal affairs said the Meenas of Rajasthan, who have ST status, are visible in every echelon of governance.

“There is hardly any ministry or department where one does not find Meenas holding important positions, while tribal dominated states like Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have not produced a single IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer in the ST category between 2000 and 2005,” he said.

“A few dominant castes among OBCs, SCs and STs should not be allowed to grab quota benefits. The Meenas alone cannot be allowed to seize the 7.5 percent of ST quota, leaving out other STs.”

Interestingly, there is tension even amongst the Meenas with a group called the Akhil Bharatiya Meena Sangh (ABMS) stating in its petition to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) that 90 percent of them have not been able to reap the benefits of quota as the rich amongst them usurp their share.

Stating that the quota policy needs to be reviewed in terms of its impact on different social groups, JNU’s Kumar says that Rajasthan is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

His words can also been seen in the context of the long-standing tussle between the Malas and the Madigas, the two powerful SCs in Andhra Pradesh. The Madigas have accused the Malas of usurping the share of other SC groups in government jobs in the state.

They even petitioned Social Justice And Empowerment Minister Meira Kumar, following which a one-member committee was constituted in May last year to suggest a solution.

The committee headed by Justice Usha Mehra said in her report, submitted in early May this year, that the benefits of quota were not equitably distributed among SC groups and there was a case for apportioning the quantum of 15 percent quota amongst them.

(Rajeev Ranjan Roy can be contacted at rajeev.r@ians.in)

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