Video Editor: Varun Sharma
The Parliament has passed a Bill providing 10 percent reservation to economically weaker sections within the general category. But in Tamil Nadu, it is an entirely different ball game. The Quint, in its special Chaupal series, travelled to Vellore in Tamil Nadu to find out if people approve of the government's move and how this will change the reservation game in the state.
While most applauded the Bill because it was based on economic status, instead of caste and religion, others felt the criteria was the biggest fail.
"Because it brings the whole of India into this. For a developing nation, a normal family earns about 8 lakh per annum. So, this isn't economically backward for India. The criteria doesn't justify," said Pavithra, student, Lakshmi Garden School, Vellore.
In Tamil Nadu, in addition to the constitutionally guaranteed reservations to the SC/STs and OBCs, the state government offers quota to several backward and specially backward castes and classes, taking the total percentage of quota to 69 percent.
The government had told the 50% quota cap in the Mandal Case judgement would not apply to Tamil Nadu. But now with the 10%, the reservation quota would go up to 79%.
"79% doesn't seem much in Tamil Nadu because the population of forward castes in Tamil Nadu is lesser compared to other states," said Arun, resident, Vellore.
The state has a population of 88% in different reserved categories and many said that such a reservation won’t matter to the government in the state in terms of vote banks as well.
Another point raised was the timing of this Bill.
"Elections are nearby. Within 100 days, the Lok Sabha elections will be held and now they are implementing this Bill. They could've done this two years ago," said Sanjay, student, Lakshmi Garden School, Vellore.
Some said, there aren't enough government jobs in the country, so this quota would make no difference. They felt that appointing a Commission, and increasing job and education opportunities, would be the best way to ensure that the economically backward are benefited.
"If you base reservation on cash (economic situation) and caste, then those who are using that reservation, once they reach a good position, their reservation should be cancelled. In that case, people who have never got an opportunity can finally benefit," said Madhusudhan, a resident.
In an attempt to provide a rationale for the need for reservation, Sanjay, student, Lakshmi Garden School, Vellore said, “There is a popular quote: If your ancestors were handicapped, why do you need wheelchairs?”
"Of course, if my grandfather was born a handicap, I won't be asking for a wheelchair. But he was not born a handicap, his legs were broken. Broken by who? People belonging to the upper caste," retorted Arun, a resident in Vellore.
"It doesn't matter if it is 10 or 15% reservation, all that people want are opportunities," concluded Madhusudhan.