By Satinath Choudhary
Justification of quota on the basis that weaker segments need a helping hand to get up is a very weak argument in favor of quota system. It immediately begs questions like how much helping hand and for how long. Possibly that is the reason why the opponents of quota system like this premise for quota system, and have popularized it so that it can be shot down any time they have enough political will and strength.
In a segmented society, even if somehow power were equitably distributed at a certain point of time, statistical perturbation is likely to cause some increase in power of one or a few segments compared to that of others. These segments with greater power would be in a position to recruit more of their own in positions of power, thus increasing their advantage over the stragglers -- power begets more power. Soon the harmonious democracy with equitable power to all segments is going to look more like a squabbling oligarchy-cracy dominated by a couple of oligarchies. Current situation in India is more like oligarchy-cracy than democracy, with most of economic, bureaucratic, judicial and educational power concentrated in the hands of upper caste segment; so much so that even in the States where political power has gone into the hands of OBC, and in one State where currently political power appears to be in the hands of an SC leadership, behind the scene it is the upper castes who wield maximum power.
The only way to ensure peace, harmony and associated ambience for rapid development is an agreement on the part of various segments to "equitably share power" by whatever means necessary. Setting equitable quotas (in proportion to population of various segments) for seats of power and learning opportunities is one of the means of equitable power sharing for positions to be filled by selection rather than election. Unless someone comes up with a better way of equitable power sharing, we are going to be stuck with the quota system.
As for positions to be filled by election, the right way to do the same is via a suitable version of list-Proportional Representation system of election. In the interest of brevity, we would not elaborate on this part.
Many people pooh-pooh quota system without giving any convincing reason for their scorn for the same. All that they have to say is that it leads to inefficiency. They have to be asked if the atmosphere of constant squabbling and strife is more conducive to rapid progress of the society. Is an atmosphere of hate, derision and ridicule on account of existing disparities more conducive for "efficient" progress in the society?
"Efficiency" is nothing but a ruse for those enjoying ill begotten goodies and privileges. Yes, their forefathers have accumulated wealth and advantages over others by depriving the latter of fair opportunities in gaining ability to read, write and understand things, with the help of "the most unfair religions practiced on the earth". Enjoying these advantages is nothing short of the heirs of bandits enjoying the loot collected by their forefathers. Progeny of the victims do not ask for the heirs of the bandit to be penalized for the misdeeds of their forefathers. However, are the latter justified in continuing to enjoy the advantages associated with the spoils of their forefathers' plunder? Instead of seeking justice for the children of the deprived by letting them have their due share of power, the inheritors of the plunderers appear to be hell-bent over increasing their ill-gotten advantages. When their opposition to just demand for quota cannot be sustained, their agents sitting various positions of power come with things like "creamy layer" concepts.
First of all justification for quota has to be rooted in the imperative need for "power sharing" in the interest of peace and harmony and progress based on such harmony. Quotas must not be equated with doles for the destitute. It must be considered to be right rather than charitable hand-out. Existence of groups with greater power than their equitable share has to be considered to be bane (a source of disharmony, conflict and obstacle on the road to progress) and equalized as soon as possible, by any means possible! Once this position is accepted, there is no justification to 50% bar for total reservation, leaving 50% for the so called "general" category, to be monopolized by the inheritors of the ill-gotten wealth and privileges. The general category must be reduced to the percentage of people who claim to have no caste. The upper caste is likely to claim that they have no caste, that they must not be burdened with a caste tag that reduces their share compared to what snatch today. In such a case, the percentage of people claiming to belong to the upper caste is likely to reduce to almost nothing, with corresponding increase in the percentage of persons without any caste – the general category.
As far as creamy layer concept is considered, there are two kinds, and we should not confuse one with the other. There are (1) creamy layer castes like Jats, Kurmies and some others who are economically and educationally close to the upper caste group. Then there are (2) creamy layer individuals (based on economic criteria) among OBCs whose economic and educational condition is reasonably better off compared to the rest of their compatriots. For example, individuals who may be MPs, MLAs, IAS officers, 1st class & 2nd class government officials, doctors, engineers, and so forth, have been defined to constitute economic creamy layer.
The proper way to prevent creamy layer OBC castes from gobbling up share of power allocated to OBC, thus preventing the benefits to accrue to lower level OBCs, is sub-categorizing of OBC into a number of sub-categories. Keeping practicality in mind, the larger the number of sub-categories the better will be distribution of power over OBC or any other category like SC or ST. For example, each of the castes bigger than, say 2% of the society could constitute a category by itself. Numerically smaller castes could be put together with others with similar educational status until their net size comes to more than 2%. Then each category of OBC may be allocated reservation in proportion to the size of the category. Additionally, we could have the provision that if the quota for a particular category is not filled up due to unavailability of qualified candidates, the position will be open for filling, starting with the lowest sub-category of OBCs, if they do have qualified candidates. Unfortunately, this kind of logical solution to the problem is not promoted even by the OBC leaders because most of them belong to their creamy layer castes, and would be prevented from gobbling up their brethren's shares. Even the educated EC/ST individuals do not wish to air such thinking, as most of them belong to the creamy layer castes of SC/ST.
To prevent the economic creamy layer from gobbling up all positions of power allocated to OBCs, what could be done is to agree that the economic creamy layer would not occupy more than, say, 10 or 20% of the seats allocated to OBCs. Rest of the OBC quota could go to non-creamy layer, if they have enough qualified persons available. If the latter does not have enough qualified persons among them, it should be backlogged and should go to the creamy layer. However, any such provision should apply to the general category as well, be that 10% per earlier arguments, or 50% as currently improperly imposed by the unjust High Court Supreme Court judgments. When economic creamy layer provision is applied to OBC and not to the general category, the selected OBC candidates would be weaker in "connections" and ability to retain their job and get promotion compared to those coming from the creamy layer, and they would have harder time keeping pace and facing off the "dream de cream" upper caste colleagues. So, if economic creamy layer concept is applied to OBC, the same must also be applied to the general category.
Throwing the creamy layer OBC into the general category is improper, as argued below, with fictitious numbers. Possibly 0.01% of OBC community may belong to the creamy layer who constitute about 50% of the society. Thus creamy layer of OBCs would constitute barely 0.005% of the society. Let us assume that nearly 5% of the upper caste community (which may be assumed to be about 10% of the society) belongs to the creamy layer. Thus creamy layer of the upper caste will be about 0.5% of the whole society. Thus by throwing an OBC candidates in the general category, the justices are getting these OBCs to compete against a vastly large number of creamy upper caste candidates, in the ratio of 5:500 = 1:100. Thus the chances of the OBC creamy layer candidate competing for a position will be 1/100th the chance that the position would go to an upper caste individual. Further, the seats reserved for general category is open to the non-creamy layer of the society, which also has some chance of bagging the vacant position. So the chance for the OBC creamy layer candidate competing for the position will further reduced to a value less than 1/100th. Thus putting an OBC candidate (belonging to a caste other than their creamy layer castes of Jat, Kurmy, etc.) into a general bin is as good as denying him/her the sought position, and hence it is improper.
Considering an OBC person who gets a Bachelor's degree to metamorphose into a creamy layer is even more ridiculous! In their definition of creamy layer they have not bothered to declare all bachelor degree holders as belonging to creamy layer, and yet, to prevent such a graduate from entering post-graduate institutions they declare him/her to be part of creamy layer. These strictures have been put up by the inheritors of ill-gotten wealth and privileges without caring to see the consequences of their strictures – severe reduction of the OBC candidates from getting into graduate programs. Today they test these unjust strictures on OBCs for acceptability only to impose the same on SC/ST candidates as well, tomorrow.
By the way, there are a number of other countries that use quota or semi-quota system. The best one among them is Switzerland, which uses the most comprehensive quota system under their "power sharing" concept. They have four linguistic groups:
German speaking: 75%
French speaking: 20%
Italian speaking: 4%
Romasch speaking: 1%
They share power equitably at all levels of their Federal Government, including judiciary, armed forces, all kinds of other scientific, economic as well as cultural institutions, including even their sports federations without any ifs and buts like creamy layer and so forth!
Way back in 1830s, they decided to share power equitably, lest they will be bickering and squabbling among themselves and unable to face the enemies from outside their border. To this day they are guided by their beautiful concept of equitable power sharing! It has not punctured their efficiency!!
We need to study and learn from their system!
Dr. Satinath Choudhary used to teach Computer Science at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, the USA. Now a days I spend most of my time as an activist in Delhi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
An earlier article by Satinath Choudhary, “The Only Solution To
Reservation Imbroglio” can be accessed at countercurrents.org site.