By Yuvraj Sakhare
When Haryana Assembly passed a Bill to provide reservation to Jats in government jobs and educational institutions on 30 March the questions were raised on the backwardness of Jats.
India has been seeing reservation demands from the so called dominant communities from last couple of decades. Marathas of Maharashtra, Patels of Gujarat, Kapus of Andhra and Jats of Haryana are have been holding protests and rallies and rigorously pushing demand for reservation.
These castes, primarily seen as dominant castes are basically traditional agricultural communities.
The Common heritage, the common problem
After the implementation of recommendations of Mandal Commission there have been increasing demands from these castes to declare them as socially backward castes.
These ‘shudra upper castes’ are hardly seen in central government services. It is true that some portion of these castes (we will discuss further that not all population of these castes is well off) possess huge land pattas in their respective states but their ‘dominant’ presence in agriculture and industrial ownership of some of them in Europe and United States have no relevance in the Indian bureaucratic set-up and government jobs.
After Mandal era
In 1991 India drastically changed its economic policies and opened doors for foreign investment. India has gone through a chain of reforms after accepting this economic model commonly known as the LPG or Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization model.On the economic front, India was privatizing various sectors while on the social front it was experiencing an unprecedented stir after the implementation of Mandal commission.
In the last two decades India has been experiencing a grave agrarian crisis which is a result of privatization. The aforementioned ‘shudra upper castes’ which are primarily dependent on agriculture have been suffering a lot. The growth of the primary agricultural sector has stagnated over the period and the per capita incomes of agriculturists have been decreasing every passing year.
The decline in the agriculture sector is made clear by the spate of farmer suicides. The central government figures reveal that fragmentation of agricultural land has also increased in last two decades making the situation worst.
This ‘Shudra upper caste’ community which has shown lack of occupational flexibility, unlike the OBCs, brahmins and Muslims, is perhaps the worst hit due to the situation.
Co- operative sector in India which is primarily dominated by these castes is already on death bed and marred by losses and financial mismanagement has lost out on employment guarantees. On the other hand in the government and local bodies there is a freeze on recruitment post globalization era.
Purushottam Khedekar who is a founder of Maratha Seva Sangh pointed out in his Marathi book ‘Sez: Sankat Ki Sandhi’ that agriculture does not enjoy much dignity in India. He is in favour of agriculturists making way for special economic zones (SEZs) and claims that it is necessary to reduce the pressures on agriculture and transform the farmer into a “rich entrepreneur”.
The intra division among Shudra upper castes
The ‘Shudra upper castes’ have adequate representation in politics but not in education and in the government – private jobs. It is always argued that these castes should be denied reservation as they are abundant in State and central politics. There are a handful of them who control sugar factories and cooperatives; there are some feudal landlords among them; but there are scores of struggling, drought-affected farmers who own small plots of land.
The economic, political and social status of the shudra upper catses is not the same within respective communities.
Statistical ambiguity and a possible panacea
Kancha Ilaiah a renowned academician and writer claims that if caste-based reservation is denied to the Shudra upper castes then they will go back to feudal serfdom. Their urge for getting educated will die, their presence in the middle class will decline and their civilization transformation will be arrested.With the growing demand of reservation these castes now seem to be firm on their stand.
As there is a 50 per cent ceiling on reservation ruled by the Supreme Court, the tussle will grow intense in coming years. As the government had not done caste census after 1931, Mandal commission relied on the 1931 data and estimated that 54% of the total population (excluding SCs and STs), belonging to 3,743 different castes and communities, were ‘backward’. In the “Indra Sawhney vs. Union ofIndia” case, the Supreme Court has given some wriggle room to mitigate extraordinary circumstances.In 2010; the Supreme Court had notified that if reservationsare to exceed 50 per cent, there should be quantifiable data on the respective communities.
The only solution in this situation is that the central government should pass a resolution in the parliament calling for the implementation of the Sudarshan
Nachiappan committee’s recommendation to remove the 50 per cent ceiling and disclose the complete caste census data to know the exact percentage and population of each and every caste to finish the ambiguity. The government could follow Tamil Nadu’s example. The state has 69 per centreservation thanks to the government passing an Act in1993 and proving that more than 50 per cent of the State’s population is backward.