India: Out of sync (Reservation policy today)

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by utubekhiladi, Oct 24, 2011.

  1. utubekhiladi

    utubekhiladi The Preacher Elite Member

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    Reservation policy today is less an instrument for promoting socio-economic uplift than a tool of competitive populism. No surprises that, in UP`s poll run-up, politicians should start shouting for quotas with an eye to fatten vote banks. State chief minister Mayawati demands quotas for Muslims, significantly taking care to recommend the same for upper caste poor. As if to leave no one in doubt about her championship of the "sarvjan" constituency - dalits, Muslims, Brahmins and the most backward classes - she wants quotas taken beyond government jobs and educational institutions and slapped on the merit-based private sector as well.

    Eyeing electoral revival in the state, the Congress seemingly can`t risk letting anyone carry off the Muslim vote, Muslims constituting 20% of UP`s population. As if on cue, Union law and minority affairs minister Salman Khurshid has said the UPA is mulling reservation for the minority. In this myopic game of one-upmanship, both sides come across as representing a stale, tired and divisive politics. It was with reason that the framers of the Constitution envisaged quotas as time-bound while ruling out religion-based reservation. Caste-based quotas proved socially fractious once they had outlived their utility, prompting a veritable race to the bottom among clashing social groups. So, in a nation with a history of communal discord, the augury for religion-linked quota can`t be good

    By politicking over reservation for Muslims, parties like BSP and Congress court the danger of the electorate`s communal polarisation, which saffron outfits too would doubtless welcome. It evidently suits politicians of all stripes that the first casualty in a contentious poll lead-up would be debates on development, law and order, corruption, etc - issues on which voters must make informed political choices. Else, the political class would have long seen that the only way to make quota relevant today is by linking it to the economic criterion. That way, it would benefit the needy across the social board.

    Welfare`s logic must, in any case, go beyond reservation. The UPA`s schemes to deliver rural jobs, food security or financial inclusion have an inclusive, secular approach, prioritising need over niche interests. That`s surely the path to tread. Ultimately, neither quotas - creating `creamy layers` among targeted beneficiaries - nor patronage politics can make up for empowerment emanating from people`s access to schools, hospitals, roads, power and other services. That`s why old-style vote-bank politicking ticks less and less with voters nowadays relative to development-related planks and report cards. Citizens of 21 st century India can no longer be treated as a faceless collective: passive recipients of arbitrarily dispensed largesse. Rather, they`re individuals with specific rights and entitlements, choices and aspirations. Politicians who blink at that will have reason to lament when the votes get counted.

    Out of sync - The Times of India
     
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