JANARDAN CAST(E)S THE FIRST STONE

dwivedi– V.N. Balakrishna | February 10, 2014

Ahmedabad : Congress leader Janardan Dwivedi calling for end to caste quotas has set the cat among the pigeons. Dwivedi deplored caste segregation and called for financial help to weaker sections of all communities.

“The concept of social justice has now turned into casteism…I believe there is a need to dismantle this ….Since Rahul Gandhiji is seeking views of people directly for the party manifesto, I am now urging him that he should take a bold decision,” Dwivedi said.

India’s Orwellian nightmare has come true with caste quotas leading to hardening of caste prejudices and Dwivedi’s alarm call for delegitimising caste so that SCs and STs and others get rid of quota crutches failing to move the Congress high command. Caste forming basis of selection has turned unity of India’s ethos in “We the people of India” a misnomer.

Caste quotas have become the summum bonum for upliftment and in the process have created a monster that now seeks a state of its own as demand for Telangana bears it out. After six decades of quotas, KCR wants Telangana to emancipate his region from backwardness. Constitutional myth of an egalitarian society lies shattered and so are quotas bringing forth government jobs. With SCs/ STs representation in government jobs now less than 22.5% it means universal education and equality of opportunity have been denied to most in these groups. Who then benefits from quotas?

Purveying quotas garner spoils of office and consolidate vote banks. Backwards in India enjoy political and financial clout with almost the entire South in their grip while in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh they constitute half the legislative strength. Even the Centre kowtows to them with deference.

The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth said Article 15(1) of the Constitution. This was upheld by the apex court in State of Madras Vs. Smt. Champakam Dorairanjan (AIR 1951 SC 226) terming caste based reservations as per Communal Award (of the British) as violation of Article 15(1). Not surprisingly the first constitutional amendment was then to bring Art 15 (4). Ironically, “Secular” being basic structure of the Constitution has no role to play in stopping spread of casteism.

Today the argument “suppressed for centuries” is passé. “The rich backwards are not given social status like the poor forwards enjoy” is the new lament. Can respectability be won with quotas by robbing Peter to pay Paul and Paul still weak financially to benefit? Why not delegitimize caste and bring “rich backwards” into national mainstream thereby ending their claim on quota goodies? This will make caste irrelevant and no longer a basis of selection thus enhancing India’s unity in diversity.

Quota politics at its worst was seen when VP Singh unleashed his Mandal gambit in 1989 leaving half of India permanently scarred. Worse many boys and girls immolated themselves taking a deadly toll of 75 bright students and leaving 200 more dead in riots that followed.

Quota tinderbox will explode once again if a VP Singh stirs caste cauldron. Constitution needs a desperate second look as per Dwivedi’s timely call for a society based on equality making economic criterion as the yardstick so that right help at right time reaches the needy.

The Supreme Court has always been wary of caste-based quotas turning into a Frankenstein’s monster and as early as 1962 ruled in MR Balaji vs State of Mysore: “The classes of citizens who are deplorably poor automatically become socially backward. They do not enjoy a status in society and have, therefore, to be content to take a backward seat.”  What this essentially means today is social backwardness cannot ride piggyback on caste as India has moved far ahead from the days of naked poverty. India must get out of caste cleft stick. Given rich backwards making mockery of the quota system, Rahul Gandhi could have done well describing backwardness as a state of mind.

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