The Gujarat High Court observation clubbing reservation with corruption as hindrances to the country’s progress is a landmark one. In the judgment on the Patidar reservation agitation in the state, Justice J B Pardiwala noted: “It is very shameful for any citizen of this country to ask for reservation after 65 years of Independence”. Justice Pardiwala termed the policy an ‘amoeboid monster’ that has sown seeds of discord among the people. The reservation extended to candidates belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), a heterogeneous collection of castes which can hardly be considered economically or socially deprived, is very telling in this regard.
If the Patels (Patidars)—a well-off agrarian section of the Gujarati population—demanding OBC reservation seems rather illogical, OBCs elsewhere getting reservation is equally so, if not more. The Supreme Court order striking down the UPA’s decision to include Jats in the Central list of OBCs earlier, in fact, should be treated as catalyst to clamping down on the politically expedient practice of lengthening the list of the reservation-worthy. With rising levels of education and economic growth, the disparity in incomes across caste groups has come down considerably. The real problem to be addressed is highlighted in FE columnist Surjit Bhalla’s analysis of data from the 1999-2000 NSS round—OBCs were just 25.9% of those who had passed high school, indicating that instead of reservation, the real need is to focus on the high-school dropout ratios, again tied to household income. So, while it is hard to quantify how much damage RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s demand for a review of the reservation policy inflicted on the BJP’s poll prospects in Bihar, his stand seems to have just got a resounding endorsement from the judiciary.