UNBRIDLED POLITICS

In a rare re-visiting of the polluting, caste based, class based reservation Government has reneged on its promise of a more pragmatic, inclusive, socio-economic growth & development agenda.  

BY SUNEEL KOUL

Indian polity is fast sliding into the mercantilist mindset. It must be immensely frustrating seeing government after government anchoring their stay in power to the numbing gullibilities & vulnerabilities of our society, regardless of caste, color, sex, creed or religion.The only goalis to hold the aspirational audiences captive to doles, promises &sops that are never meant to be. The recent passage of the 10% reservation bill for “General Category- poor” in educational institutions & public sector employment,by both houses of Parliament must be worrying for the common citizen, the supposed beneficiary. He / She must fear the real intent behind such optics & theatrics at play. Not because he/she doesn’t see himself/herself automatically employed or guaranteed a berth at the table of his/her choice in any college or a university, but because this opens him/her up to a Pandora’s box of inconsistencies, guile & nepotism, reminiscent of the erstwhile License Raj & Inspector Raj.

More worrying should be the bipartisan support, akin to pusillanimity & disrobing of their fundamental duty, to the people of this country, by parties, who played along, the most lacklustre, meaningless sham in the name of a debate in the Parliament. None whatsoever,barring a couple of entities, had the gumption to put forth a real reading of the job & education market & a dire need for a systemic overhaul &upliftment of the deserving ones, whilst bringing in such legislation. Instead,everyone, stumped, as they foundthemselves by such a clandestinely orchestrated exercise,a heist by the incumbent Government that the bill got passed into a law in less than 12 hrs. Undoubtedly this legislation wasa political messaging by BJP, brought about with an eye on the polls & beyond. The worry though is, how prepared,are we, to tackle the tsunami of job crisisthat could lead to chaos &social unrest, disharmony & disenchantment among the youth, who have in anycase been bearing the brunt of aunattractiveeducation system &a scarce job market.

Why Such a Hurry?

There seems a ploy, a pleasure that this government derives from bypassing every parliamentary norm, every precedent; being disruptive & shunning mainstream governance in an attempt to project itself as a very authoritative &decisive dispensation. Nobody grudges them the right to act in a manner that is packaged or perceived to be seen pro –poor or pro-people at large, but the least it could do was to send this critical piece of legislation to the business affairs committee, as has been the norm. Yes, such a demand has been waiting in the wings for a long time & been featuring in almost every manifesto, every poll promise, but how does that justify any radical approach in bringing about such critically significant bill into the realms of law, without a proper debate & discussion amongst various stakeholders &the lawmakers. If the intent is one of concern for the deprived class or a sub – class, for the disgruntled youth, it would make more sense to come up with a more balanced doctrine,encompassing crucial amendments to the constitution that actually ensuresthe fruits of such legislation,for which such furtiveness is at play,are actually harvested.

It is frightening how none of the political outfits would gather courage &bring forth their collective wisdom, to confront this masterly conceivedconspiracy,a fraud perpetrated on the youth of India. By speaking the obvious& not be seen as stumbling blocks, made no sense to the rampaging, modern India. So much for the maestro Modi himself, whose own conviction to support a legislation,he so eternally loathed, citing the pitfalls of a reservation based economy&a fledgling job market, must be on the wane.  Has this got to do more with RSS, the ideological parent of the party in power, having red flagged the ominous resentment in the upper middle class segment, evidenced by the recent electoral defeats & NOTA voters in Madhya Pradesh & Rajasthan? Coupled by an insider assumption that people have been quite unhappy by this government move of having restored the stringent provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act; It is also true that the Sangh parivar believes that the current system of reservations should also accommodate the poor who qualify as ‘General Category’& that reservations should not be given on the basis of caste but on economic criteria. However most scholars’ fear that reservations based on economic criteria is a back-handed method to render the current quota system ineffective and deny benefits to historically marginalised communities. And in combining its ideology and electoral strategy, the BJP has strained to integrate the interests of Dalits and adivasis along with its core support base of upper caste groups.

Ominous Signs

On one hand you wish to close down some colleges & educational institutions who have not been filling up for one reason or the other. You have also mooted the idea of no licenses& approvals for newer ones. These are pointers in the direction of a saturated job market & the government doesn’t want to see engineers, doctors, semi skilled & skilled workers, technocrats, MBAs, being churned out in millions & then left to fend for themselves. Given such ascenario, how would any promise of a reservation to any class or sub – class make any sense? The recent resignation by Shah Faesal must worry the average Indian.  The 2010 IAS topper, whose rise to name & fame is no less than a fairy tale has pre-maturely shunned the civil services job citing some very disturbing reasons behind doing so.Someone who hadtamed the ruthlessfangs of terror & poison & overcome the most debilitating obstacles,back home in Kashmirin his zeal & journeyto conquer the most coveted Indian civil services exam, could bow down in such fashion is heart breaking. So deep has the muck & malaise infested our bureaucratic echelons, that no longer do the Indian youth take any fancy or pride in joining the public sector. Be it the army, the large Navratnas or the other government controlled sectors like railways, telecom, banking &infrastructure, none curries any favour by our youth, who incidentally constitute 65% of our population, the highest in the world.

Coming as it does in the backdrop of another high profile sacking in the form of CBI chief, one is left wondering, if this is the new norm of governance? Add to this basket, two resignations from the central bank, of RanguramRajan&Urjit Patel & you have buried some of the most respected institutions under your overbearing idiosyncrasies. The common man is very concerned today for the independence of our institutions that have been under savage attacks by the dispensation. From CBI, RBI, ED, NIA, Judicial institutions etc, this government has shown scant respect for the democratic polity, thereby weakening our faith & setting the most debilitating precedent ever, in executive functioning. And if we were to dispassionately decode each of these “protest Resignations” one can safely conclude that all is not well with this government & its style of functioning.

The Real Plot

The granny’s pearls; when the coffers are empty, you don’t send out invitations& when the crop is not abundant, you don’t take orders in advance. Reserving seats in educational institutions & guaranteeing jobs is just like giving a ration card to a family but with no ration supplies at the stores. Notwithstanding the apparent motive, with which this government chose to move such a landmark legislation on the penultimate day off the winter session of the parliament, one is left wondering if the party with a difference has begun to resort to populist governance, so reminiscent of Mandal kamandal era. By taking us back to the tired, old time politicking, NDA has sounded a very un-healthy and noisy bugle among the aspiring class, who continue to battle the vagaries of a scarce job market.

What would this law mean to an average job seeker? With only a handful of vacancies &a million challengers, that shall only increase after the enactment of this law, there is bound to be a great mismatch between opportunity & employment prospect. But with rising expectations, the applicant would feel that he/she stood a better chance of getting a job under the current scheme of things. And when that doesn’t happen, there is bound to be frustration & anger creeping in the youth. There could be consequences of this & grave danger of youth slipping downs the slope into a psychological, emotional, social &economical whirlpool. You may have fuelled expectations& taken them down a garden path, but with no real engagement in sight, you could well land our youth in unwanted anti- social dragnets, naxalism, terrorism, drugs & encourage brain drain of the worst order. While the talented ones shall leave for foreign shores leaving our country intellectually poor, the not so affording ones shall either settle for a non- skilled profession or get hooked to something unwanted. From this we are reminded of the ambitious skill development ministry established by the government. In more than 56 months of its announcement, it has barely broken any grounds. Skill development, we are afraid is not creating masons, carpenters, silver smiths, painters or ironsmiths. Creating skill is creating an abundantly rich pool of talent that is useful in nation building & that creates an eco system of self reliance, financial independence & social index upliftment. Unless the government thought of using such talent at some stage for catching stray cows & bulls & rein them from the roads, parks, garbage pits & localities. Don’t be surprised. The UP government is engaging its police & other machinery to do exactly a similar chore, ridding localities, crop fields & roads of the stray cattle.

Class vs. Caste

NDA is losing one ally after the other in recent times. Only recently, Union minister Upendra Kushwaha walked out of the alliance citing the inaction of the Modi government on categorisation of other Backward Classes (OBC). “The policy of bifurcation of OBC category has not been submitted by the committee headed by Justice G. Rohini,” he wrote in his resignation. “It clearly indicates that the government is not serious, hence there is a fear and confusion amongst the OBC category.”Kushwaha was referring to the Justice Rohini Commission, constituted in 2017 to suggest sub-categories within the OBC for reservation benefits. It was given its fourth extension late last year.Similarly, Kushwaha wrote that confusion about the new roster system  in university teachers’ recruitment has entirely stalled new appointments, freezing jobs in Indian higher education.

For a country that has scarce and limited public resources, reservations unquestionably have important social, economic and political implications. Since the day caste-based reservations were implemented in India, there has been simmering disgruntlement among the groups. The resentment may have increased over the past few decades due to the expansion of reservation policy, which now incorporates general classes as well. Despite the continuation of reservations for over six decades, discrimination against Dalits is still a part of everyday life.Hence a comprehensive assessment of reservation policy not only calls for engaging in a dialogue with opponents and supporters alike, but also ensuring that the voices of less vocal groups who are not even aware of such programmes are represented as well. The National Human Rights Commission report (2004) observed that Dalits have low levels of representation in national universities and colleges. According to the report, in the country’s 256 universities and 11,000 colleges funded by the University Grants Commission, Dalits and tribals comprised only 2% of all teaching positions, while 75,000 teaching positions reserved for these communities remained vacant. Although the prime minister announced plans for Dalit outreach, the government is planning to cut funding for research centres at several universities that study social discrimination.

Counter VIEW

Reacting to the enactment of the newest law guaranteeing reservation to “Gen. Cat – Poor”,former CM of J & K Omar Abdullah has said that “Politics is a strange thing and politicians are masters in using the people. They think people are naive and gullible. The PM suddenly announced reservation. Had he been sincere, he would not have waited for nearly five years. Citing some of the terror attacks in the state, more notably in the Jammu region, Omar has indirectly hinted at the growing anger & frustration in the youth, who have no opportunities. Echoing a similar sentiment, Shiv Sena, the disgruntled ally of BJP, in its editorial in party mouthpiece Saamna, has said that “When those in power fail on the twin fronts of employment and poverty, they have to play the reservation card,” with an obvious reference to the Modi Government. “If this decision has been taken for votes, it will prove costly, it further noted.

It is pertinent to mention that, in the last two years, job opportunities have decreased instead of increasing and about 1.5 crore to two crore jobs have been lost due to decisions like demonetisation and GST implementation. There is a feeling of helplessness among youth,” the Marathi publication said. “After the government’s 10 per cent reservation, will the eligible youth be able to gain anything? The prime minister, who had advised youth to fry ‘pakodas’ (snack), had to eventually give 10 per cent reservation to the economically backward classes,” it quipped.

For a party eternally besieged by issues of Hindutva, Ram Mandir, Sabarimala & uniform civil code, abrogation of article 370; turning a new leaf over by brandishing reservations, championing triple Talaq, controlling RBI, taming CBI, guiding NIA etc, there can’t be a biggerparadox& duplicity defining the new age  BJP & its shenanigans. That the self styled champions of ethical governance, public probity & nationalist doctrine could indulge in fear mongering, resort to reservation politics & shy away from answering some vital questions involving country’s defence procurement, speaks volumes of the degenerative mode that this party has driven itself to. With the new law being enacted, we are sure to find ourselves inundated in lot of noise & chatter in days before the election process kicks in & the code of conduct steps in.

Conclusion

Almost whole of India is now covered in one form of reservation or the other. These are no sixes hit in slog overs, as Ravi Shankar Prasad would like us to believe. These are retrograde, self goals scored at the altar of a systemic overhaul, forward development, executive efficiency, public accountability &moral governance. Coming as these comments have from one of the most articulate & busy ministers, one is tempted to think that this government is suffering the “Yes Boss” syndrome, so inherently paradoxical of its existence.  Governance, it may be argued, is a very serious business & any attempt at trivialising this constitutional responsibility is nothing but undesired machismo, bordering on arrogance.

Add to this the dimension of certification& evidence for someone to qualify for the new largesse & you have a perfect recipe for chaos, corruption & class wars at your doors. Who would be the competent authority verifying such criterion? We are afraid; the government whilst assuaging the hurt sentiments of its upper caste vote bank may have inadvertently, given birth to an undesired, long dusted inspector Raj. A flawed mechanism that has the potential scope of prejudice &that is susceptible to malpractice,thereby reducing such legislation&its perceived rewards in-fructuous.

We know that politics is about the power of vested interests. Unless the government honestly debates all the issues relating to the proposal on reservation in the private sector, youth & the deprived will see it only as a political gimmick, that is, one, a ploy to garner their votes; two, intended to grant legitimacy to the private sector; and, three, an attempt to thwart the development of the emerging independent youth assertion. The solution therefore does not lie in applying balm to the scar but by cleaning the rot around this first; by developing the job market, involving the private sector, infusing investments, fixing criteria based on genuine need & qualifications. Only then, shall we be ushering in a pure legislation and letting people dream about their coveted degree or an elusive job.