Beyond Haryana’s Quota Politics: After the Tragedy Comes the Farce

Mayank Mishra questions the Haryana government’s decision to grant reservation to the economically well off Jats.

Updated
Opinion
4 min read
Non-Jats of Haryana stage a demonstration to press for their demands in New Delhi on March 28, 2016. (Photo: IANS) 

Consider the implications of the Haryana government’s latest decision. Of the 80-odd major caste groups in the state only 10 are out of the ambit of reservation now. What it essentially means is that roughly 80 per cent of the state’s population is eligible for some quota in government jobs and educational institutions.

The decision follows the letter of the Constitution. But does it follow its spirit? The constitutional provision on equality of opportunity in public employment mandates that the state is well within its rights to provide reservation to any backward class if that group “in the opinion of the state” is not adequately represented in services.

Under-Representation Criterion

The key is whether any community is adequately represented or not. Take the case of two of the six communities, according to the Haryana government’s recent decision, who will enjoy reservation benefits at par with other backward classes: Jats and Bishnois.

Jats constitute nearly a quarter of the state’s population and their share in Class I and II government jobs stands at little more than 20 per cent. But in case of Class III and IV jobs, the community’s share is far in excess of their share in population. Some reliable reports suggest that it is in the range of 40-45 per cent. Is this anything but more than adequate representation?

Bishnois constitute another influential community and one of the two non-Jat chief ministers in recent years has been from this caste. According to authoritative estimates, Bishnois and Brahmins are the only two communities which have more than adequate representation in Class I and II jobs in the state.

The five communities – Bishnois, Jat Sikhs, Tyagis, Rors and Mulla Jats – who are to become part of backward classes henceforth, along with Jats, constitute just 7 per cent of the population but wield clout in politics and administration in excess of their numbers.

Snapshot

Idea of Social Justice Defeated?

  • Of the 80-odd major caste groups in Haryana, only 10 are out of the ambit of reservation now.
  • Claim of adequate representation also falls flat because representation of the Jats in Class I and II government jobs is at little more than 20 per cent.
  • Bishnois and Brahmins are the only two communities which have more than adequate representation in Class I and II jobs in the state.
  • When it comes to including groups in the OBC list, logic is the last thing to be considered by the political class.
  • Random reservation may defeat the purpose of social justice and a less representative democracy can weaken democratic institutions.

Claiming Backward Status

But they are backward now. It only shows that logic is the last thing in mind among the political class when it comes to including groups in the OBC list. It is all dictated by which class/caste is more vocal and knows how to get things done. Given the way the reservation cauldron is brewing, it is going to be tough for the political masters in other states to deny OBC status to very influential communities like Marathas, Patidars and Kapus.

Incidentally, the Manohar Lal Khattar government had imposed restrictions on people contesting panchayat elections. It had stipulated that besides educational qualification equivalent to matriculation, electoral candidates should have no arrears from cooperatives and pending electricity bills.

A functional toilet at the place of residence was made mandatory for prospective candidates. As a result, nearly 1,900 positions at various levels were left vacant in the recently concluded panchayat elections because of non-availability of suitable candidates.



 Haryana Chief Minister M  L  Khattar being greeted by Khap leaders after the Haryana Backward Classes  Bill, 2016, was passed in the state assembly  in Chandigarh on Tuesday. (Photo: PTI)
Haryana Chief Minister M L Khattar being greeted by Khap leaders after the Haryana Backward Classes Bill, 2016, was passed in the state assembly in Chandigarh on Tuesday. (Photo: PTI)

Less Representative Democracy

What is more, according to a news report, the number of unanimously elected representatives stands at 56 per cent! The dearth of eligible candidates would certainly have played a role here. What it highlights is that democracy at the lower level has become less representative.

The two decisions – including more castes in the backward category and fixing minimum qualification for candidates contesting panchayat elections – look dissimilar on the face of it. But both will have long-term consequences.

Weakening Institutions

While randomly putting castes in the backward category may defeat the purpose of social justice, a less representative democracy at the grassroots level has the potential to weaken democratic institutions. Needless to say that democracy and social justice have been at the core of the idea of India since Independence.

Only recently Haryana, otherwise known for its thriving business hubs and prosperous countryside, witnessed a series of tragic inter-community clashes claiming scores of innocent lives and destroying property worth of crores of rupees.

The business sentiment took a hit and dilon ka milan may still be years away if recent reports of inter-community tension is anything to go by.

Is tragedy almost always followed by farce?

(The writer is Consulting Editor, Business Standard, and contributes regularly for The Quint on politics and contemporary issues)

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