One Size Fits All?

The SC decision has sent a wave of anxiety among the OBCs. They feel that the uppercaste decision-makers are out to virtually end the utility of OBC reservations. Recently, the Congress, with an eye on the polls, launched an exercise to provide 4.5 per cent reservations to Muslims, also from the OBC quota

In a historic judgment, the Supreme Court has given eunuchs the status of “third gender”. Now, besides male and female, there will also be a third gender,  which will include the eunuchs. In its order, the SC has directed the central and the state governments and the administrations of Union Territories to extend all facilities available to the socially and educationally backward classes to the eunuchs. There are around 20 lakh eunuchs in the country. The court has also directed that they be given reservations in educational institutions and in government jobs under the OBC quota. The question here is, why should they be given reservation under the OBC quota? When they have been designated as the third gender then why, like women, should they not be given reservation from the general quota? The provi-sion of reservations for OBCs has been made for castes which are socially and educationally backward. Eunuchs belong to all castes. At the same time, it is also true that they have been victims of apathy at social, economic and political
levels from time immemorial.

The SC decision has sent a wave of anxiety among the OBCs. They feel that the upper-caste decision-makers are out to virtually end the utility of OBC reservations. Recently, the Congress, with an eye on the polls, launched an exercise to provide 4.5 per cent reservations to Muslims, also from the OBC quota. Sometime
ago, Jats were included in the list of OBCs despite the fact that the Jats are socio-economically quite advanced.

Almost 54 per cent of the country’s population falls in the category of OBCs. This includes about 8 per cent backward Muslims. OBCs are, currently, entitled to 27 per cent reservations. While the number of persons entitled to reservations under the OBC quota is growing by the day, the quantum of reservations has
remained static. This is bound to raise doubts about the real intent of the policymakers.

It’s like inviting the entire village to share meals of two families : Prem Kumar Mani

There can be no objection to providing reservations to Muslims and eunuchs. The eunuchs have been shunned by society for hundreds of years and hence they should be provided opportunities to acquire education and get jobs. They should be given every possible assistance to bring them on a par with other sections of the society. But the proposal to give them reservation under the OBC quota is akin to inviting the whole village to share the meals meant for two families. Eunuchs should be given separate reservation; likewise the backward or the most backward Muslim castes.

Here, I would like to quote a story from the Mahabharata. Dharmaraj Yudhisthir organizes a yagna. A mongoose arrives and partakes of the feast that follows the religious ceremony. After having his fill, it murmurs something about the yagna being useless. When Yudhisthir asks him why it was saying so, the mongoose relates a short story. It says that at another yagna, after having the food, half of its body had turned golden. “Even Lord Krishna is present in your yagna but I have got nothing except a simplemeal,” it  said. This whetted the curiosity of Yudhisthir, who asked the mongoose to tell him in detail about the yagna. The mongoose said that it had gone to a yagna held by a poor Brahmin. The Brahmin’s family, including his wife and a son, had received sattu (roasted black gram flour) as wages for their day’s labour. After the yagna, just as they were just sitting down to take their meals, a beggar turned up asking for food. The Brahmin gave him his share of the sattu. After the beggar had consumed it, the Brahmin asked him whether he wanted some more. The beggar said yes. Then, first the Brahmin’s wife and then his son gave their share of the food to the beggar. Having fed him, the Brahmin asked the beggar for how many days he had not eaten anything. “Four days”, the beggar replied. “But now, what will you eat?” the beggar asked the Brahmin. The Brahmin said, “I have not eaten anything only for two days. So your need was greater than mine.” The mongoose said it ate a little leftover sattu at the Brahmin’s place and half of its body turned golden. But nothing like that happened at Yudhisthir’s yagna.

The moral of the story is that before deciding to give reservation to a caste or community, let us find out for how many thousand years it has been deprived, for how long it has been forced to endure misery. And then
let us grant reservations to build a more equitable society.

A related question is why controversies crop up with unfailing regularity over sharing of the reservation quota. The Supreme Court, sociologists and politicians seem to harbour a misconception about the concept of reservations. They think that it is meant for the economic wellbeing of the OBCs. That is not so. Even business can make one prosperous. In fact, one can make much more money through business than by taking up a job. In my view, reservations are a weapon to end unotuchability and social inequity. I welcome the decision to grant reservations to Jats in Delhi. If members of this community study and enter government service, the casteist rigidity deeply entrenched in their hearts and minds would give way to a broader outlook and they would shed their social inertia. If more communities and castes are to be given reservations from OBC quota, then its quantum should be increased from the present 27 per cent.

-as told to Swatantra Mishra


Published in the June 2014 issue of the Forward Press magazine

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