Reservation politics : General category castes’ demands a dangerous fallout

By: | Published: September 29, 2016 6:22 AM

To be sure, the Maratha muk (silent) agitation started as a protest against a crime—the alleged rape-and-murder of teenaged Maratha girl in Ahmednagar district by Dalit men.

The problem is rooted in how India has chosen to address the ills of caste. (PTI)The problem is rooted in how India has chosen to address the ills of caste. (PTI)

To be sure, the Maratha muk (silent) agitation started as a protest against a crime—the alleged rape-and-murder of teenaged Maratha girl in Ahmednagar district by Dalit men. But as the protest gathered momentum, the protestors—representing a community that constitutes almost a third of the state’s population—have demanded the scrapping of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and 16% reservation in education and jobs. Caste conflict playing out as it has done so far, you would think. But, the reservation demand underscores a far more dangerous trend—that of communities in the general category demanding reservation. Marathas—who raised the demand earlier as well, only to have it rejected by the Backward Classes Commission—are now in the league of the Patidars in Gujarat and the Jats in Haryana who have raised similar demands. None of these communities can remotely be considered socially or economically disadvantaged.

The problem is rooted in how India has chosen to address the ills of caste. The fact that the country has to offer reservation for jobs and higher education institutes indicates the policy is not working at even the school level. Those historically discriminated against need government support, but policymakers also must ensure such support doesn’t alienate the other groups. Given higher education makes all the difference to individual income, a more pragmatic yet effective route would be to find ways to support both general category students and SC/ST students, perhaps through a mix of direct benefits transfer for poor students irrespective of caste and caste-based reservation.

Get live Stock Prices from BSE and NSE and latest NAV, portfolio of Mutual Funds, calculate your tax by Income Tax Calculator, know market’s Top Gainers, Top Losers & Best Equity Funds. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Switch to Hindi Edition