No endgame for Jats PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 24 March 2017 06:41
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Sarthak edit

Court won't ok reservations, govt fanning flames

The Haryana government might have successfully convinced the Jat leadership to call off its agitation for now, but neither the state nor the central government seems to have any plan other than fanning the flames by continuing to promise reservations. There is no case for Jat reservations as the community cannot be considered backward, and an even smaller chance of getting this past the courts; and, to the extent the reservations happen, this will trigger more violence as groups that get left/squeezed out will feel the need to agitate—by not coming up with a plan to end reservations, both the state and central governments are causing a ratcheting up of the demand for reservations. In 2013, when the UPA was pushing this, it asked the National Commission on Backward Castes (NCBC) for a recommendation. Despite NCBC saying, in February 2014, Jats “as a class cannot be treated as a backward class”, the UPA went ahead and notified this the following month—a year later, the Supreme Court (SC )struck this down saying that while only the most distressed should get reservations, “any other inclusions would be a serious abdication of the constitutional duty of the State”. It also spoke of the need to move “away from caste-centric definition of backwardness”.

This didn’t deter the Haryana government which, last year, passed a Bill declaring Jats, along with Bishnois, Rors and Tyagis, as Backward Classes (Category C) and giving them 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions—this takes reservation levels in the state to 67%, well above the 50% cap set in the Indra Sawhney case in 1992. Not surprisingly, the state has sought protection for its Bill under the Ninth Schedule, oblivious of the fact that, in 2007, in IR Coelho, SC had ruled that Ninth Schedule protection was not sacrosanct if a law violated the Constitutional provisions on fundamental rights. 

Even as it capitulates to threat politics, the Haryana government—as also the Union one—needs to keep in mind the case stands little chance of getting past the courts. The current Haryana law has been challenged before the Punjab and Haryana High Court and, after the petitioner contended 31-56% of teaching posts in state government schools were filled by Jats, the court has asked the state for data on socio-economic status of different caste groups within the state. Given this problem applies to other groups like the Patidars in Gujarat where a similar negotiation is going on, the Centre and the states need to find ways to wind down reservations, or else the flames will keep rising. One such solution can be seen in an IIM Ahmedabad study which finds OBC admissions in college are more a function of the availability of schools than reservations; it also finds that, where parents are educated—particularly if they have gone to college—the chances of children going to college are higher. In which case, a process of reservation—along the same caste lines as today—only for children whose parents did not go to school/college will boost SC/ST/OBC numbers in college and will also be more acceptable since it will be self-limiting instead of, as today, continuing to compete, to use Justice Dipak Misra’s terminology, “with eternity”.


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