Reality Check India

The fork in the road has come for India

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on September 4, 2006

There is no parallel track left. We have finally come to the fork in the road.

Tony Blair – about the IRA peace process


Many are wondering why this blog is obsessed with the OBC quota. Cant we just let this one go ? Everything is broken in India, from fair price shops, to electricity theft, to illegal mines, to child labor, to corrupt babus, to pollution, to unlivable cities. Why this focus on this one issue ? Why are you not asking for data on economic zones or data on Narmada dam displacement ? Cant we live with one more broken window ?

The answer is no. None of the above issues divide the country along rigid lines. OBC quotas would be welcome if it were monitored and we could actually define who a “backward” class is. This central fact is ignored on purpose by the politicians and now even the media.

Ladies and gentlemen – We have reached a fork in the road. The politicians alone cannot be blamed because the judiciary has not been absolutely watertight in its rulings. The exception (TN) is now becoming the rule across India. The creamy layer which is in effect in all states is also sought to be done away with. There is no attempt at measurement or enumeration of OBC castes – even though their economic, poliltical, and educational power is visible for all to see.

This is it. How the judiciary handles this overt votebank politics will determine the future course of this country.  If the current OBC lists are accepted without questioning or data, they will be extended to more and more areas. There is no turning back. This will also spell the end of national parties like Congress and BJP, leaving the regional caste based parties to occupy centrestage. Just watch the next election results.

Every caste in the OBC list must have data to prove that it is socially and educationally backward. This singular requirement, which would be a given in all countries except India, will clip the wings of casteist elements and put an end once and for all to vote banks. We can then focus on helping those who are really backward based on actual data and continuous monitoring.

17 Responses

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  1. xyz said, on September 4, 2006 at 4:33 pm

    dear rc,

    you don’t have to be apologetic at all.this issue is is going to decide whether india’s evolution to a modern nation will continue,or whether we will revert to past ages.

    still one thing disturbs me.the multi lingual character of india.the chauvinism of tamils,the cunning opportunism of thakurs,the indifference of maharashtians,gujaratis and kannadigas.mulayam and lalu are drifting without any purpose.bengalis,toothless,are caught in a time warp.(the political species,that is ).

    even we are discussing this issue in english.(the lingua franca of the educated,the modern version of sanskrit).not that the ‘backwards’ want to give up english.only one section of our society seems to have assimilated ‘western’ values.others are clinging to their own world view.

    i believe that the creamy layer among sc’s should also be removed.reservation for one generation is sufficient,if it is reservation in iits,IAS,Gr A civil services,higher judiciary,engineering or medical or other professional courses.reservation for creamy layer among sc’s is also fuels envy among obc’s.A constitutional amendment would be in order.The constitution is a contract with the people.i think ,excluding creamy layer among the sc’s is neither unfair nor against the spirit of the constitution.

    Keep up the good work.i am an unabashed admirer.

  2. Ramanan said, on September 4, 2006 at 8:13 pm


    Good post. The TN focus has been on removing one particular community from all possible economically rewarding occupations. As a result, the reservations in TN has been focused on blocking access to that community to its traditional areas of strength – higher education, media, public sector. If the TN government really wanted to help the poor people, it would have focused on other areas first – primary educations, land ownership, and business. It is a lot harder to break into a business controlled by specific communities than into public sector. For example, Chettiars and Andhra Chettys control the jewellery business. Mudaliars control health care. Naidus control textiles and textile manufacturing. Other communities will not be able to enter these businesses that easily. If it really believes in reservations (I don’t) the government do it in businesses first! This is the case with Affirmative Action in USA..

  3. tamilan said, on September 5, 2006 at 6:27 am

    hey your feed is not working, man. please look into it.

  4. xyz said, on September 5, 2006 at 7:31 am


    duryodhan(arjun) says the ordinance for private unaided colleges will be tabled very soon.this is even more poisonous.Prof.Indiresan has called this move worse than anything that even aurangzeb could conjure.

    i am increasingly coming around to barbarindian’s view that reservation is unnecessary in iit’s.there is no reservation in princeton,MIT,Berkeley,Stanford,harvard,cambridge,ecole normale superiare.iits are our only world class institutions in should be altogether exempted from reservations.(pipe dreams?..,i am a dreamer)
    In TN,50 years back judges commanded respect,then IAS officers commanded respect,then iits and now IT professionals.what i mean is the general trend.every society needs balanced growth.but still some capable persons set the standard.if reservation is implemented in iits ,they will lose their prestige because 50% would have come through the quota.what karu wants is prestige through short cuts.This is has nothing to do with backwardness.

    in maharashtra,marathas are not backward.patels are not backward in gujarat.these are landowning castes.they feel pride in being indian.vokkaligas are reasonable when it comes to reservation at the centre.look at deve gowda or s.m.krishna.

    even mulayam seems reasonable on this issue.the villains are thakurs like v.p.singh and tamil rotten apple is spoiling the whole bunch.

    obcs are getting into iits through sheer merit.particularly from UP,Bihar,orissa.there was no demand from obcs as well

    what the govt. should have done was to stop the crass commercialisation of education,particularly the minorities (especially the christians)who are abusing their privileges.

    this whole legislation which was enacted in the wake of the Supreme court judgement in the TMA Pai case,should have taken the complete picture.But duryodhan is playing dirty politcs.

    murali manohar joshi was far superior in comparison.

  5. Bruno said, on September 8, 2006 at 10:42 pm

    Some idiot has given wrong figures about TN.
    //the TN government really wanted to help the poor people, it would have focused on other areas first – primary educations, land ownership, and business. //
    Tamil Nadu was the first state to implement Mid Day Meal Scheme. It gives free textbooks free bicycles and even free bus pass to school students. Not many states do that

    Hope you know the present programme on 2 acres and that settles the land ownership issue

    // For example, Chettiars and Andhra Chettys control the jewellery business. Mudaliars control health care. Naidus control textiles and textile manufacturing.//

    Ha Ha Ha….. You seem to be joking…
    If at all a community controls business, it is the Nadar Community and Muslim Community…

  6. realitycheck said, on September 9, 2006 at 4:34 am

    >>It gives free textbooks free bicycles and even free bus pass to school students. >>

    And free colour TVs to their parents. This has nothing to do with social justice. The central question is your caste must be backward to be classified as OBC. Forward castes cannot and should not get preferential treatment.

    >>2 acres..>>
    1) You cannot give 2 acres to everyone or even to a majority of the poor. There is simply not that much land available to the government.

    2) 2 acres of wasteland is worth nothing. Does the government gives two acres in Tanjore / Periakulam / Bodi / Pollachi fertile belt ?

    >>Ha Ha Ha….. You seem to be joking…
    If at all a community controls business, it is the Nadar Community and Muslim Community… >>

    You have a lot to learn about communities in TN. Every caste has its domain and is very tough for others to get in. That is why private sector quotas are not viewed favourably in TN. Nadars are successful no doubt, but by no means dominant. Visit Kovai, Tirupur, Pollachi, Valparai (tea estates) to see the economic power of Gounders / Naickers. Mudaliars have always been dominant in the medical and educational field. In spinning Chettis have always been at the top. Many including our own finance minister have spinning mills with thousands of spindles. This is nothing new either, it is their family business.

    Nobody likes to talk about all this. The bottom line is all the communities mentioned above are forward castes, how can they be classified as OBC ? They may be backward compared to Germans or Japanese , certainly not to the Indian average.

  7. Ramanan said, on September 10, 2006 at 7:35 pm

    Bruno seems to be confused. Nadars and Muslims do not control all business in TN. Nadars and Muslims do control a large section of the retail business in TN — one more example that proves my point that certain castes have a vice-like grip on certain businesses, preventing anybody from other castes from surviving in that business. Once a particular caste gets to control a business area, it is virtually impossible for another caste to make headway in that. So, where is the demand for reservations in business??

  8. None said, on December 30, 2006 at 2:11 am

    Among the various communities of South India, the Nadars have perhaps clearly evidenced the impact of change over the past 200 years. Considered by high-caste Hindus in the early nineteenth century to be of extremely low status, the Nadars – toddy-tappers, climbers of the palmyra palm – suffered severe social disabilities and were among the most depressed communities in the Tamil country.

    When history dawned on the Nadars, traditionally known as Shanars, they were found principally in the two southern districts of Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari. Palmyra climbing and toddy tapping were their traditional occupations. The entire family was engaged in producing different palm products such as fermented juice, jaggery, baskets, mats, cots, and roof beams.

    Trade in a small way supplemented their livelihood. Local caste associations (sangams) grew out of this channel of commerce. A tiny fraction of the caste, known as Nadans, were wealthy landowners. In the Hindu caste hierarchy the Nadars ranked very low because of their association with alcohol.

    The Nadars have had a turbulent and colourful history. Their struggle to rise above their depressed condition assumed dramatic forms in a series of escalating confrontations between the caste and its antagonists.

    Hostility to the efforts of Nadars to establish a new status resulted in a series of violent outbursts culminating in the riots of 1899 known as the Sivakasi Riots. Their old name of ‘Shanar’ was abandoned and the honorific title ‘Nadar’ was adopted. The Justice Party government adopted the term in all public records from 1921.

    Because of their sensitive response to social and economic change over the past century and a half, the Nadars have today become one of the most successful groups in the South, in both economic and political terms, and command considerable respect. From among their numbers have come leaders in business, industry and other professions; With foresight, the Nadar community elite controlled management of local temple festivals and established a network of institutions such as schools, colleges and hostels.
    From the breast-cloth controversy through the sack of Sivakasi to the Nadar Mahajan Sangam, the Nadars’ rise, exemplifying the processes of mobilization in Indian society, provides rich material for an analysis of the social life of a community in change.

  9. realitycheck said, on December 30, 2006 at 4:57 am

    Yes, the success story of Nadars as well as their counterparts from Kerala, the Ezahavas is exceptional. The Nadars (who are 50-50% hindu and christian) are quite dominant in the economic area mostly due to their caste associations help and their own hard work.

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  11. sujata said, on February 8, 2007 at 8:43 am

    It is very interesting why nowhere (these days) do we read that the Nadars also owned the trees they tapped Toddy from. All palmyra and coconut plantations were owned by Nadars and their business was off that tree (be it selling the sugarcandy, the toddy, the leaves for writing, the leaves for roof or the wood or any such). Isn’t it curious that one hears only about the tapping part and not the owning part or the selling part. It makes one wonder………It might be just the Indian crab at work.

  12. none said, on February 18, 2007 at 7:16 am

    Taking up clean habits for progress with the community banish over traditional toddy

    The MARAVANADU “country” (nadu) appearing on no map is a discontinuous territory that runs north from Tirukkurungudi (hamlet nestled at the foot of the ghats in southwest Tirunelveli District, near Kanya Kumari) across a dry landscape dotted with irrigation tanks spanning about twenty miles across the edge of mountains (western ghats in the west) and the plains below; and from Madurai (in the North) it curves east down to Rameswaram (inthe East). It is the territory in which Maravars or Tevars have exercised
    dominance for roughly 400 years. It is marked by the old fort towns founded by Marava palayakkarar under the royal Nayaks of Madurai. This Marava territory was historically defined by its separation from areas of Telugu Nayak power in the east and Vellala/Brahman power in the south along the Tambraparni River.

    In the 1890s, riots broke out regularly in this territory as the dominant community tried to restrict

    -the rising status of Nadars merchants who were fighting in the courts and
    on the streets for rights of temple entry.
    – Keeping people out of temples, defending sacred temple precincts from
    pollution, expressed a wider power over space.
    – Land ownership, access to forests, privileged house sites, places of honor in processions, a place at the table of the Raja or in the court of the British Collector – all of these constituted power by control over symbolic space


    The construction of identities is an interactive social process in which multiple actors, states, governments, civil society and individuals all play a part.

    States invent social categories to map society and to depict the objects of social policy so that they can collect taxes, provide services, maintain law and order, enforce legislation.

    States often work under the positivist illusion that social categories are objective, “out there,” needing only to be actualised in administrative records. They do not recognize that the very act of naming creates or transforms reality.

    When the ruled experience the consequences of being categorized, they often respond by denying or challenging the naming that has taken place.

    The construction of difference is not the exclusive domain of the state or of elites.

    Groups and individuals that constitute civil society confront states in a contest over the content and consequences of discursive formations and social constructions.

    The debate in the U.S. about the ways to represent racial categories in the 2001 census, whether to provide predetermined categories or let respondents give their own version, illustrates the role of the state data apparatus in the construction of difference.

    The state must have categories in order to make social policy. Somewhat surprisingly, the American state did not assert that its categories were objective. It recognized they were political: the categories represent a social-political construct designed for collecting data on the race and ethnicity of broad population groups in this country, and are not anthropologically or
    scientifically based

    And the state was not the only actor. There was strong opposition to self-designation by parts of the black community, fearing the effects on black-targeted legislation if numbers were reduced by defection n to mixed race categories. That seven million persons chose to report themselves in the 2001 US Census as multiracial suggests the fluidity of social categories.

    More than a century back, the Census of India under the British raj too provides an example of how states can take a lead role in naming and ranking social groups.

    From their reading of classic Sanskrit texts, raj officials inferred that Indian society consisted of discrete social groups with firmly ascribed rules of conduct and specifically ranked positions in a social hierarchy. They reified the meaning of texts that native interpreters were in the habit of using more flexibly

    Starting in 1888, raj officials used the census in ways that were supposed to lend scientific precision to these social categories. They defined and enumerated: Brahmans, literate persons who perform ritual functions, advise authorities on correct Hindu conduct, and occupy the top of the socio-religious ladder; Gujars, herdsmen, of modest social standing; Jats, sturdy cultivators; Nadars, laborers who climb the coconut palm and whose polluting work of making liquor relegates them to the lower end of the social ladder.

    Such listings created both a certified reality and resistance to it. The certified social designations became the basis for social policy, which further confirmed the categories. The census story does not end with a document-creating state freezing social phenomena in stereotypical categories run, the state did not succeed in imposing a neo-Brahmanical view of Indian social structure.

    Civil society groups countered the census descriptions by organizing self-help caste associations. The associations mounted legal, administrative and political challenges to the names, occupations and histories that the census imposed on them ,

    In the case of the cocopalm-climbing Nadars, their caste
    associations presented evidence to the authorities that many of their caste fellows had left the polluting work of palm liquor production, developed clean habits by personal renunciation of liquor intake and become merchants, and that by history they had been part of Kshathirya clan or regional lords.

    Hence they were incorrectly named, characterized, and ranked. Nadar associations vigorously lobbied the authorities to change what the census said about them and encouraged thousands of Nadars to offer a different occupational description to the census takers.

    In the Nadar story we see the creation and re-creation of identity and status as a result of interaction and contestation between state and civil society.

    The nature of caste identity are complex than is indicated in the text and this complexity is particularly clear in the case of the Nadar Mahajana Sangam (the Nadar Association). An expert treats this is actually a caste clusters of several sub groups formed as a
    single caste. It is questionable to what extent all of the Nadar castes constituting the Nadar caste cluster ever organized themselves even in a purely modern political fashion, let alone whether they interacted with respect to occupational, affinal, and martial considerations.

    On the other hand, discrete Nadar subcastes do seem to have operated as corporate groups, with respect to a variety of considerations, over a wide regional territory. Nadars while turning away from their traditional occupation by leaving the toddy processing to jaggery and distilling to make arrack formed associations to take up cluster based mercantilism network.

    Simultaneously they strived to gain the elevated social status by practicing clean habits with the disapproval of alcoholic consumption and staking claim to Kshathirya status. Nadars, who utilize mercantile and business sites, which are called pettais , from the term for a fortified market in which itinerant traders protected their mercantile goods and cattle used for goods movement and in which they engaged in trade.

    Coordination of their pettais through self help and micro-finance paved way for local business-cum- merchants promoted community schools started in pettai premises with the support of community philanthropist and whose consolidation is accomplished only through branches of their own organized committee developed caste associations.

    When the Nadar community were suppressed to depend on Folk Community Life and the community had exhibited extra ordinary cooperative efforts based on Native Oriental Culture and then started adopted learnings from the advantages of western schooling & business principles.

    When the Vedic temples were reopened to the Nadar community after the legal battle, the community life shifted away from co-
    operative movement and humanitarian based community living & economy development has lost momentum for progression and prosperity.


    By and large to meet any cause, resources are not a problem. The problem is the presence of committed people. If there are people committed to a particular cause, resources come. Instead of thinking of funding and resources, we should try to create better human resources for the purpose of promoting human rights.

    Cultural institutions should be looked at intelligently and imaginatively to be able to become effective support for human rights education. There are examples of actual use of culture to be able to promote the interest of disadvantaged people (e.g. the case of Nadars in Tamil Nadu in India who created a new myth of origin—making them descendants of the sun god—to help them raise their status in society.)

    The issue of caste, for example, can be seen in light of human rights principles. Instead of saying it is bad or dangerous, caste can be questioned on whether it is hostile to other communities, or hierarchical.Or, whether untouchability is practiced by caste. Caste is undergoing a change in India. From being a hierarchical, interdependent system, it is moving into a situation where each caste is functioning like ethnic communities.

    Values that are within the community can be used to deal with the presentproblems. Human rights education can bring out the fact that people in the community have values which people such as technicians who develop industries do not have. And these latter people can learn much from the former such as in protecting the environment.

  13. […] be exagerrating to say that this issue is set to change Indian politics forever. We have come to a fork in the road, there is simply no parallel track […]

  14. […] have been avoided by taking a data driven approach to quota issues. See previous articles (The fork in the road has come for India,  Quota confrontation […]

  15. […] You cant fault the Marathas either for wanting to be included in the list.If he can have it, why cant I ?  We passed that fork in the road long back. […]

  16. […] at the complete lack of debate about such a ground breaking policy as the women’s quota.  We are past the fork in the road.  The courts have stepped aside and let the political class have their way with our […]

  17. Yanira Maccarone said, on October 21, 2010 at 5:32 am

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