Reality Check India

Kerala 10% quota to poor in big trouble

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on August 13, 2011

Yet another spawn of the the scrutiny free quota regime has landed in New Delhi. The Supreme Court now has to pull another rabbit out of its hat to square it with its own earlier inscrutable judgments and long rope policy.


The matter

The Kerala Govt under Mr Achutanandan in 2008 had announced a 10% quota to below poverty line “upper castes” . To be precise upper caste here means, castes currently not allowed to access a quota benefit.

There was a hue and cry among the castes / communities availing of this adhoc benefit. The Muslim Jamath Council challenged the policy in the Kerala High Court.  Here is the state general secretary of the Jammath. In this context, it is important to note all Muslims in Kerala are OBC.

Addressing a press meet, Mr. Pookunjhnu said the government would be betraying the backward classes by implementing economic reservations criteria for higher education. It should change its stance on raising the concerns of only 18 per cent of the population who were crying for economic reservations against the majority backward classes for whom the Constitution had provided reservations for social justice, he said.

Source : Hindu (emp mine)

The Kerala High Court rejected their arguments last year.

“These communities must realise that government’s over indulgence in extending various benefits will only stunt their growth and time has come to awaken these communities from the slumber of satiated insouciance”, the court had said.

Source : DH

Subsequently the Muslim Jamath Council and the Christian Service Society approached the Supreme Court.  The matter was posted to a two judge bench of  Jus Singhvi and Dattu which heard it today. Justice Dattu recused himself from the case as he was involved with its disposition as the Chief Justice of Kerala High Court in 2010. As of now, the case has bounced back to Chief Justice Kapadia who will post it to another bench.

The main argument of the Muslim Jammat Council and Christian Service is :

The Council, in its appeal, submitted that the State had no power to make reservation in the matter of admission to educational institutions solely on the basis of the economic condition of individual students.

There was no provision “in the Constitution giving the power or authority to the State to make law or rules or regulations reserving seats in educational institutions on the sole criteria or basis of the economic condition of students.”

The Council argued that reservation was permissible only for the advancement of socially and educationally backward classes of citizens and for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes and any section of the forward community was ineligible and disqualified constitutionally from making any special provision.

Source : Hindu (names the Christian Society in print edition but edited on web)

The responses of the bench was merely to question the locus standi of the complainants.

During the resumed hearing, Justice Singhvi asked counsel for the first petitioner: “Is it a registered society. Can you represent the society and espouse the cause for others. What is your interest? How many such organisations are there in Kerala?”

When counsel said there were many such organisations, but the petitioner was authorised to espouse the cause, Justice Singhvi said: “There are many organisations but the question is who authorises them to speak for the community. Hundreds of self-appointed champions of particular groups are there. Affected individuals could have come to the court directly.”

Source : Hindu


Reality Check comments

Consider the tragedy of the situation.  These communities who are included in the backward list avail of benefits even when their annual income is upto 4.5 Lakh. This is not considering the blanket creamy layer immunity to various groups. Yet, they cant stomach a 10% quota for poor forward community students who have to be below the poverty line to avail of the benefits. In other words, a Rs 4.5 Lakh per-annum group cant stomach his benefits extended to a Rs 11,000 per-annum group.

But the Christian and Muslim groups have two important questions in front of the court.

  1. What is the rationale for a) including anyone and b) keeping them in the OBC list ?   All Kerala Muslims and a number of Christians (except Syrian Christians) are in the OBC list. They have been there for decades and thousands of people have benefited to the detriment of thousands of others.
  2. The constitution amendment only allows for SEBC (Socially and educationally backward).

It has far reaching consequences :

  1. They are on a strong wicket. The court has never laid down any guidelines nor imposed any scrutiny of classification. In fact, the court noted in 1996 that 80% of all open seats went to castes classified as OBC in TN. They papered over such an astonishing data point.
  2. They want the 10% quota for their communities too.  The problem is all poor in their communities are already covered, it is just that the rich ones don’t let the benefits percolate. Pushing this point further only means that the creamy layer should be revised downwards to that the poor benefit.
  3. Clearly a  10% quota to BPL forward community will be greatly effective in terms of social justice the the existing OBC quota which is lopped off by a few at the higher end. The poor among these communities will then envy the safety net available to the forward communities and start questioning the entire system.
  4. The idea has been burnt into Indians that once a community gets an adhoc benefit – it is permanent – but only as long as their benefit protector is kept in good humour.


The real test of the Supreme Court is whether it can scrutinize this adhoc runaway division of citizens. It started it in the Champakam Dorairajan case by giving the state a long rope with little data overhead. It failed in 2007.  This failure will manifest itself in ways you cant imagine.

The mysterious disappearance of all big ticket items from the voting booth. 

Related Kerala stories on blog : Indira Sawhney ICreamy Layer – A Kerala story



3 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Pappu said, on August 14, 2011 at 11:54 am

    And you still call for free agents, when lobbying is the way to go in India? Perhaps you should do a study on caste groups that have turned free agents en masse, by dissociating themselves to political causes in the name of caste. I’d bet a good number of them are BPL now.

    Your idea makes sense. By iterating a system towards perfection, we can focus on putting a man on mars before the US. Sure, we can. But I prefer Musunurii’s idea, because political empowerment is more useful to these caste groups than mere reservation in education.

    I say every hindu should help his caste group if/when he can surreptitiously/blatantly.

  2. rc said, on August 15, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    >> I say every hindu should help his caste group if/when he can surreptitiously/blatantly.

    That is human nature – nothing wrong with that.

    We are talking about statutory benefits to groups.

    Political empowerment wont work the way Musunurii envisions it to work. There is no such thing called the state. It is just a bunch of humans sitting in parliament – but get to make laws for others. So the first thing the jati/janajati representatives would do is tweak the laws and move it to a new level. Why would they do this ? To prevent competition from disaggregated groups for instance which would reduce the size of their slice. They could also make laws to nix representation is certain fields where they feel there would be net loss.

    I am not saying Musunuriis idea will never work. A pre-requisite for his jati/janajati representation is the emergence of a strong hindu state – must also be traditionalist otherwise the contours of that state will be very different. How is this pre-requisite going to take root ?

  3. […] PS:  Last but not least, the economic quota is probably unconstitutional too. Kerala’s 10% quota to poor is stuck in a Supreme Court case […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: