In October 2017, a commission was set up by the government under former Delhi high court chief justice G Rohini to work out a ‘scientific’ method to subcategorise the Central list of OBCs who benefit from reservation of jobs and in educational institutions. The task was to be completed in three months. Three years on, the commission is still at it, with end-July being the latest deadline. The commission isn’t responsible for the delay. It’s a thankless task doing fine-grained analysis of over 2,000 castes to slice and dice the Central OBC list to provide for equitable distribution of benefits.
Will this exercise achieve its aim? Turn to states for answers as India’s reservation history has distinct regional patterns. In Tamil Nadu, over three decades after a successful agitation by the Vanniyar Sangam led to a carve out of 20% MBC sub-quota for some castes within the 50% BC category, trouble is brewing again. Vanniyar representatives want an exclusive internal reservation within the MBC quota. The permutations are limitless. In Karnataka, even a dominant group such as Lingayats is pushing for a bigger share of reservations.
The tendency to slice and dice is a reflex emanating from India’s poor record in providing quality education to all children and inadequate vibrancy in the economy. This also leads to pernicious identity formation. People are trapped in narrow group identities, with fresh reservation demands representing benefits for one group at the expense of another. It’s an endless zero sum game, like a cat chasing its own tail; the very obverse of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’. If distribution of benefits is inequitable, the existing provision to remove the creamy layer is a better way to broad-base benefits. History teaches us slicing and dicing eventually creates more problems while inhibiting fraternity and solidarity in society.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
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