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'In the case of reservations, there is no exit'

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  • prk1949@googlemail.com <prk1949@gmail.com
    The Rediff Interview/Social scientist P Radhakrishnan In the case of reservations, there is no exit May 30, 2008 Dr P Radhakrishnan Dr P Radhakrishnan, the
    Message 1 of 1 , May 30, 2008
      The Rediff Interview/Social scientist P Radhakrishnan

      'In the case of reservations, there is no exit'

      May 30, 2008

      Dr P Radhakrishnan

      Dr P Radhakrishnan, the well-known social scientist and professor at
      the Madras Institute of Development Studies, is a specialist on issues
      concerning backward classes and reservations, backward class politics,
      caste system, untouchability, etc.

      In this interview with Contributing Editor Shobha Warrier, he talks
      about the need to remove the "creamy layer" as the Supreme Court said
      in its recent judgment. According to him, a social churning and
      uprising would take place in the days to come, like the ongoing
      uprising by Gujjars in Rajasthan, when some groups continue taking all
      the benefits of reservation.

      In 2006 when I interviewed you, you said the issue of reservation was
      in the safe hands as the Supreme Court had intervened. Do you call the
      Supreme Court verdict removing the creamy layer from reservation, a
      landmark one?

      No, I don't call this a landmark judgment. I would say they have come
      half way in the case of OBC reservation in education. The government
      also has come half way in response to that.

      Why do you say so?

      We have not yet properly identified the OBCs. That is where the
      dilemma is. Even the judiciary has not identified them. After the
      Mandal Commission judgment, the first step taken by the Government of
      India was to list all the castes and communities common to the states
      and central list. The Centre already had a list which the Mandal
      Commission had prepared which was in dispute for several years.

      But more than 80 pc of the population in Tamil Nadu comes under the
      OBC list. Do they come in the central list also?

      Eighty-six pc (in Tamil Nadu). But not all these communities are under
      the central list.

      Reservation for central services started only in 1993 after the Mandal
      Commission report. Each state was supposed to appoint a permanent
      commission to look at the inclusion and exclusion of communities. But
      most states are interested in placating the population.

      At that time, (former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister) Jayalalitha managed
      to have 69 pc reservation for 86 pc of the population without
      excluding the creamy layer either in education or employment through
      an Act passed in 1994. (Former Prime Minister) P V Narasimha Rao
      managed to get the Tamil Nadu Act in the 9th schedule. Once something
      goes into the 9th schedule, the judiciary's role is very restricted.

      Two days after this, when the Karnataka government wanted to have
      70-80 pc reservation, the same judiciary asked them to stall it as the
      judiciary had already laid down the criteria and reservation should
      not exceed 50 pc. But in Tamil Nadu, the judiciary could not do
      anything. Tamil Nadu could not have a special act which is not there
      in other states.

      Is that the reason why you say the work is half done by the judiciary?

      This is not the only reason. There is more to it. Reservation politics
      in Kerala [Images] was stranger than fiction all along. Kerala did not
      follow the directive of the Supreme Court to eliminate the creamy
      layer; instead it passed a bill in the assembly that there was no
      creamy layer in Kerala.

      Did Tamil Nadu also say the same thing?

      No, they are opposed to the elimination of creamy layer while Kerala
      went to the other extreme saying there was no creamy layer in the state.

      After 15 years, it was in December 2007 that a decision was taken on
      the creamy layer by the Supreme Court.

      Though the Supreme Court verdict now talks about the central
      reservation issue, do you feel it will have an implication in states
      as well?

      Yes, it will have an implication in all the states.

      Directly or indirectly?

      Directly. But most of the states have taken the directive in a cynical

      Does that mean according to the new judgment, the creamy layer has to
      be excluded in the states too?

      Yes, but based on the state reservation list, whether it is in
      education or employment. The verdict says that the quota should not
      exceed 50 pc and creamy layer should be excluded. Both are mandatory
      but most of the states have taken this very cynically. States look at
      other states and decide.

      Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Karunanidhi says the very concept of
      creamy layer is not acceptable, Kerala said 15 years ago that there
      was no creamy layer there. That gives rise to another question. Who
      has benefitted from the reservation in the last several decades?

      That is where we have to understand the meaning of "creamy layer". You
      don't see this usage anywhere else. The judiciary, for convenience,
      used this term. Very often, politicians don't understand what creamy
      layer is. But Karunanidhi understands it very well.

      But is the term not self-explanatory?

      Yes, it is self-explanatory. By creamy layer, the judiciary does not
      look at any individual caste group. There is a large group of socially
      and educationally backward classes which contains around 200-300 caste
      groups. So, the judiciary is talking about the cream that is there on
      top of this large group. After they claim the benefits of reservation,
      it is not the caste that is important but the individual.

      But the judiciary is not talking about caste groups but individuals in
      a caste group.

      In the case of identifying the creamy layer in a group, take for
      example, if I had taken the benefits of reservation, all I have to do
      is give a declaration whether I am affluent or not.

      The Justice Prasad committee constituted to prepare the criteria to
      identify the creamy layer for OBCs had laid down six categories.

      Then why is there this ambiguity about identifying the creamy layer if
      it has been properly classified? Is it very difficult to remove the cream?

      It is difficult. Multiple tests have to be applied to eliminate but
      they don't use it. They use only the income test which is the last in
      the list and it was fixed in 1993. They have made it so simplistic.
      Even the IITs also use only the income category. And students are
      asked to bring a certificate stating that they don't belong to the
      creamy layer. And it is very easy to manipulate income. By simplifying
      the whole exercise and sticking only to income, we have manipulated
      the whole thing.

      If a group of people continue to reap the benefits of reservation,
      won't those lag behind revolt?

      That has started happening. The lowest categories in the SC/ST
      categories in many states have started agitating for special status.
      You see the violent agitation of Gujjars in Rajasthan.

      Do we see those who have benefitted agitating against the
      beneficiaries of the same caste?

      You will not see a group from the same caste agitating because we
      still live in a caste society. Caste patriotism is still there in
      Indian society. Unless there is a split, it will not happen in a

      If we look at many politicians from the backward community, they are
      still taking the benefits of reservation. How can we call the son of a
      minister backward?

      We are not saying they are backward. They are saying they are
      backward. They also won't call themselves backward other than taking
      the benefits of reservation.

      Sixty years after independence, is it not high time to assess India's
      reservation policy?

      It is not that the government has not done it, it has done it.

      But how do you make an assessment? We don't have a baseline. And
      states are not willing to do it. It has to be a huge sociological

      The judiciary wants to assess and remove the creamy layer as a group
      of people is blocking the way of others. In the case of reservation,
      there is only an entry; there is no exit now!

      The forum Youth For Equality is a dissatisfied lot...

      One of the biggest contributions of Arjun Singh [Images] is the birth
      of the Youth For Equality. Yes, they are dissatisfied for various reasons.

      If you look at India, 50 pcof the population are below the age of 25.
      Youngsters are innocent and they have no caste or religion or
      community. That is what I see in Youth For Equality also. It started
      off as a movement and continues as a movement. What YRF works for is
      against the manipulative politicians.

      But for the protest by YRF, the prime minister would not have
      constituted the committee headed by Veerappa Moily.

      Is it good for the country if 50 pc of the population is discontented?

      Obviously 50 pc of the population is discontented. The frustration of
      the youth at this level may come out in different forms. You have to
      go to villages to see the real discontent.

      I will give you the example of an institution in Tamil Nadu. Generally
      universities do have only 20-30 seats at the post graduate level. Out
      of 30, 20 seats are reserved under the 69 pc category. Out of the 10,
      there is reservation for the physically challenged. So, the general
      category gets only 3 or 4 seats. Obviously there is frustration. They
      start drifting, all because of state inaction. A misguided State is
      misguiding the youth.

      If you want to know the discontented youth of India, you have to only
      look at the Maoist, Naxalite movements. The attitude of the State is,
      crush the movement. I would say 'no' to this. They are our children. I
      wouldn't equate Naxalism or Maoism in India with terrorism. When the
      State is mismanaging things and making life miserable for millions,
      discontent will appear in different forms. It will lead to chaos. You
      cannot have a Mahatma Gandhi [Images] all the time.

      I would say, you address their problems instead of shooting at them.

      Photo: Sreeram Selvara
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