Reality Check India

Is there a workaround for quota politics

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on January 21, 2012

So I read an article today called “Playing quoits with quotas” by Sushant K Singh, fellow of National Security at Takshashila Foundation and Editor of Pragati.  It was written in response to the single issue in the UP polls. The tone of the piece seems to suggest that the quota offer by the Congress and subsequent re-alignment of its opponents are par for the course.

Here is the harsh truth : If you cant control the states power to confer benefits to groups at its pleasure, you cant have any  of the other goodies like a capitalist ecomony. Economic freedom is not a workaround, it is not even desirable because you wont have the political checks against cronyism.

Consider the Congress’ promise of a Muslim sub quota ? What are the issues involved ?

UPA government’s announcement, put on hold by the Election Commission, does not cover all Muslims or Christians. It carves out a sub-quota of 4.5 per cent for minority groups already included in the list of OBCs, from within the existing 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in government employment. The unreserved component of jobs thus remains unaffected.

Source : Mid Day

Should it not matter how the reserved components arrange themselves ?  Is it okay if  just a few groups within the 50% duke it out ? I am going to show you how easy it is to overlook the adhocism that lies at the root of this.

Some facts first

  • Muslim groups are today part of the 27% OBC quota
  • Based on some study, it was determined they they are not adequately represented in the 27% quota.
  • So it was decided to allocate a sub quota of 4.5 % to all muslim castes to ensure a near proportional representation for this group.

Here are the main issues:

a ) Why should only Muslim castes be analyzed for representation ? What if there are Hindu castes who are also being clobbered by the dominant OBCs ? What if they dont have the numbers to matter at the poll ?

b) Why should the new group be along religious lines ?  Why not a MBC or EBC model here ?

c) What are the checks to prevent almost all castes of Muslims being notified as backward ? (TN/KL style)

d) If Muslims have indeed been grossly underrepresented after 20 yrs of quota, that is a damning indictment of the ‘lets not scrutinize this’ policy of the court.  So, how do we find out other groups that arent represented ?

Dont worry if you dont have the answers. No one does. The whole thing is adhoc with benefits purely at the pleasure of the politician. If each community receiving benefits  (including Muslims) were in a scrutiny regime, issues of under representation would never arise. Lack of representation would feedback into the system. There is no role for politicians because data drives the car. In the UP elections,  Congress are offering the Muslims a special social justice deal that others are being denied.

We looked at adhocism, next the growing powerlessness of the free agent to direct things.

To contain the divisive politics around job quotas, the next best alternative then is to make government jobs both unattractive and irrelevant. Evidence from southern and western India shows that economic growth and rise of private sector is the best way to reduce the relevance of government jobs. These growth models can be replicated across the country only by initiating the second generation of economic reforms.To inverse the cliche, it will be a case of good economics leading to good politics.

This paragraph pretends like quotas only apply to government jobs. In reality, it pervades everything from education, scholarships, loans, panchayat elections, petrol pumps, even Lok Pal.  But lets stick to jobs because it doesnt diminish my point.

The quota system determines which set of humans sit in parliament and legislatures. This group  and only this group represent the Indian state.  It would be naive to expect them to desert the interest groups who voted them in and focus on policies that undermine the very system that got them in.  The benefit regime is not about government  jobs (or any of the other benefits such as petrol pumps or gas agencies,which were announced between the time I began the draft of this post and now!). It is about who gets to sit in parliament and the concentration of big interests in the Indian state.

By the same yardstick, how can you expect them to measure the system

Thats a good question. This hits at the very core of the contemporary Indian state.  The state (which is nothing but a bunch of humans) will encroach as much on your fundamental rights as the judiciary allows it to.  That is their nature.  The judiciary is shirking its constitutional duty to scrutinize the benefit regime even thought it impinges on rights of equality and social justice.  Why else do we have another pillar of democracy ?

One Response

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  1. Another Axis said, on March 10, 2012 at 2:33 am

    Whether quota politics exists or not, the inefficiency of parliamentarians also needs to be addressed..

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