The Lokpal quota and the Indian state
I am glad that the Lokpal protests building up over months culminated in a completely farcical quota fight in Parliament. Who on earth could have thunk that exactly zero clauses of the Lokpal bill would matter to our elected representatives ? Did we not write them enough letters explaining the nuances ? Their attitude can be summed up as, “It doesnt matter what the bill is, as long as we get to subject it to the adhoc quota system”.
I anticipated exactly this denouement within hours of seeing the Jan Lokpal draft, but then I am special. I recognize with awe that the adhoc quota system is the man behind the curtain in every issue in India. He is there in every room, driving every policy, controlling your life in unimaginable ways, laying down his tyranny on backward people, all the while claiming to protect them. You are accustomed to his presence. Sure it gets weird at times, what with his shoes sticking out from under the curtain and the unnerving movement of the drapery. But you trudge along. Refusing to let him reduce your brisk intellectual arguments to mere noise.
On Thursday, Dec 22nd you were forced to pay attention to the man behind the curtain. It would be futile for me to point out that Lalu Prasad has 4 MPs and Paswas had lost his own seat for them to be relevant. It doesnt matter. On that day, they represented the sum total of all benefit protectors.
A small digression to explain some terminology. Free agents are those who arent attached to any concrete benefits extended by the state, or who are so unfortunate that any such benefits have no hope of reaching them, or those enlightened individuals who despite having access to these benefits choose to defect. Adhoc benefits are concrete identity based benefits that exist solely at the pleasure of certain people, mostly front ended by politicians. They are “adhoc” because they are not subject to scrutiny. If they were placed under a scrutiny regime the benefits become automatic and the politician loses his sheen. So the primary goal of the benefit protector is to maintain the arbitrariness of the platform and thereby preserve his own relevance. Back to the post now.
The Muslim sub quota non issue
First, are we okay with having a quota at all for the Lokpal ? Certainly if we are against any kind of quota , the Muslim quota question is moot. On the other hand, if you are okay with OBC quota and are against a Muslim subquota, you will look foolish and hypocritical. The minority quota can be presented as a fine tuning of the OBC quota to ensure a guaranteed slice for a group that is apprehensive of under representation. The burning question is : Why have a quota at all for a body such as the Lokpal ?
Beyond crude territory grabbing, the kindest explanation for this quota is this :
The Indian state represented by the humans in parliament on Dec 22 2011 officially acknowledges that its citizens are incapable of investigating or adjudicating with fairness across caste lines.
I will let the ramifications of this sink in for a moment.
Team Anna is making the fatal mistake of humouring the above. They should have immediately retorted that a good faith effort at diversity is far more desirable. I have seen the diversity of the crowd in these protests. Team Anna has nothing to be defensive about here.
Playing along with the quota will destroy whatever they are trying to achieve with the bill :
- The constitution of every Lokpal bench will be called into question.
- The sheer anomalies of the system will bite making one grab the nearest Delhi super lawyer and run to the Supreme Court. Here are samples – you need a roster system for the Chief Lokpal so every community gets a shot – you need to reflect other staging groups such as MBC/EBC in it, bench corum, etc.
- 5 reserved seats out of 9 cannot mean 4 seats are reserved for Hindu upper caste males. So, some have to be counted against the open category. This insanity will render the whole setup prone to more litigation push the judiciary and fatten the lawyers.
Beware the insidious
A natural extension of quota in Lokpal is quota in the judiciary i.e the Supreme Court. In fact, Keshava Rao (Congress) an elected representative blasted a fellow guest on TV rubbishing all his arguments by saying “you went to a better school” and that he supported quota in the judiciary. Lalu Prasad claimed “We are there to change the constitution no – dont worry” when an anchor posed some weak constitutional issue to him. In due course, it would be considered “curiously amusing” if a judge does not recuse himself from hearing a case across benefit lines.
Moving on, if you concede that expecting an Indian to adjudicate across caste/religious lines is foolish, then obviously you cant expect Indians to have a sense of justice to investigate across these lines. So we will setup police corps to reflect these lines. Paraphrasing Arun Shourie’s words. As the edifice rises, what you think is todays ceiling is tomorrows floor.
All together now
Lets see what we got.
The country is split vertically such that the new benign socialist state plans for each group its own route. Just the right length and width. From childhood education, scholarships, to college admissions upto the post graduate level. From food rations for the poor to bank loans. From contesting in elections from reserved constituencies, to public jobs in the services. From getting caught in corruption and getting investigated by Lokpal bench of your group, to be investigated by a police corps from your caste or religion, to a final judgment in the Supreme Court by a bench of your caste.
When this happens,
We will cease to be a country,
But multiple countries sharing a territory.