[Editorial Analysis] On caste, the road not taken

Mains Paper 2: Social Justice
Prelims level: OBC reservation
Mains level: Issues related to Vulnerable Sections


• The author talks about the need for third backward classes’ commission.

• The two recent rulings of the SC have frayed nerves in Maharashtra on the broader question of reservation.

• One relates to creating a separate backward class consisting of Marathas and granting them reservation in jobs and education.

• Other relates to OBC reservation in local bodies.

The Supreme Court Rulings:

• The ruling in OBC reservation in Local Bodies goes at the root of the 73rd and 74th amendments.

• The crisis emerging from this ruling symbolizes one aspect of the wrong implementation of social justice policy.

• Over decades, rather than understanding the socio-economic situation of different OBCs, the issues of actual population share of OBCs are much focused.

• But the central problem goes far beyond making available the numbers.

• In this backdrop, the SC ruling in the Maratha reservation case was predictable because the political class has consistently followed an ostrich-like approach of avoiding the juridical reality and clinging to a new consensus among parties that the % cap needs to be set aside legislatively.

• However, the SC response has made the state govts helplessness in the matter of OBC reservation in local bodies that represents a deadlock between political class and society in general.

The 3-Dimesnisonal Consensus:

• Three decades ago, the three-dimension consensus between politics and jurisprudence originated:

• Accepting that caste is the main cause of tradition-born backwardness among a large section of the population.

• Resorting to the reservation is the easiest policy response.

• Recognizing and accommodating the political aspirations of the backward sections by expanding the social base of the political elite.

• Since the 1990s, this consensus has helped India’s elite and policymakers in bypassing the caste question.

• However, this consensus gave origin to an unintended consequence of the current social justice deadlock.

The 3-Dimensional Deadlock:

• Today the social justice deadlock has resurfaced again in a distorted and political attractive manner, with the dominant casts claiming that vast numbers among them left behind in the contemporary economy.

• However, granting reservations on an economic basis seems to have complicated matters.

Similar to consensus the current deadlock too has three dimensions:

• It is represented by demands for reservations made by dominant castes.

• It represents the deep chasm that exists within backward sections.

• It sits at the cusp of sharpening caste identities and a weakening social justice agenda and tends to consolidate caste boundaries more than connecting to social justice issues.

The Five Systematic Considerations:

• Today the misuse and overuse of reservation weapons have exhausted the energy generated by the Mandal commission.

• The need is for political mediation and policy rejuvenation.

The new rejuvenation requires the systematic considerations of following five issues:

1. Intra-OBC differentiations:

• Most states have resorted to the clumsy arrangement for most backward.

2. Intra-Caste stratification:

• It is increasing rather than limiting.

• As per Sociologist D L seth, Classicization is now becoming the central issue with much complication.

• Specific advantages and logic of reservation in the 3 different arenas of employment, education and political representation.

• The need for limits of reservation and need to think of additional measures to augment social justice policy.

• Finally, the most challenging issue is setting boundaries:

• In a country like India where poverty and suffering is the norm, it is difficult to distinguish between backwardness primarily due to the group’s social location in traditional social order and backwardness resulting from political economy distortions.

Way ahead:

• Unless the backwardness is grappled, the reservation is bound to become the plaything of the political clout of different communities producing a regime of separate reservation for relatively dominant castes.

• It is high time to constitute a third backward classes commission to make inroads for tackling backwardness among the communities.


Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the Council of Ministers, consider the following statements:

1. According to Article 75(2) the Ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the President.

2. According to Article 75(5) a Minister must be a member of any of the houses within 6 months.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: C

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