The Supreme Court on Friday, while refusing to stay the 10 percent reservation for the economically-weaker sections of society, decided to hear petitions challenging it and served notice on the Centre.
The reservation came into force on January 14 after the President gave his assent to the Bill. In an interview with The National Herald, Dr Ramesh Nathan, general secretary of the National Commission for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) and the National Dalit Movement for Justice, voices serious misgivings about the government’s move.
Dr Nathan says it is clear evidence of the RSS agenda being implemented- this is only the first step, according to him. “The new quota severely dilutes the original concept of social justice and strikes a serious blow to Dr. Ambedkar’s vision and ideals.”
What is the justification for this quota when the promise of Article 17 (which abolishes untouchability) of the Constitution is not being fulfilled and the established and sanctioned quotas for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are not being filled up and instead are being handed over to the General Category, he asks.
Reservations should be introduced and implemented for achieving social justice for those sections of society which have been oppressed for centuries, not as a poverty alleviation measure or a sop to privileged sections or groups, he strongly felt.
Dr. Nathan pointed out that Dalit Sikhs get the benefit of the SC quota because they are regarded as Hindus, but asks, “why should Dalit Christians and Muslims be left out? For more than 68 years, their rights are being denied, despite the recommendations of the Ranganath Misra Commission,” he fumes.
As for the 10 % quota, he challenges the government to give caste-wise data of the BPL (Below Poverty Line) population in all states, and then introduce quotas proportionately. But the government, he points out, would not disclose the caste wise census data.
A strong votary of reservations to be extended to the private sector, and not only in education, he says, “Real justice would be delivered only when the government introduces reservations based on the population share of communities, across all sectors.” But he rues that the private sector’s emphasis on the much-misconstrued idea of merit will always be opposed to this concept of justice.
The government should enact a‘Central Equal Opportunity and Equality Law’ or specific legislative measures to prohibit discrimination in the capital and labour market , private workplaces and enterprises.
Regarding the public sector, according to the Working Group on Empowerment of SCs, over 113, 450 job opportunities were lost by SCs in the central government over a period of ten years. A decline of 10.07% job opportunities was noticeable. This is in addition to the loss of opportunities in various state government employment sectors.
Regarding the income ceiling which has been fixed for availing of the quota, he is of the firm belief that it is an act of grave injustice to fix Rs. 3 lacs for Dalits, SCs and STs, and 8 lacs for the forward castes. Demanding access to economic entitlements, he mentions the Scheduled Caste Component (SCC) introduced by the Planning Commission which was a policy instrument designed to ensure the fulfillment of constitutional guarantees and entitlements enjoined for the SC communities.
The spirt of this plan has been continually thwarted by most government departments at the central and state levels, denying Dalits across the country millions of rupees which are legitimately due to them, year after year, he adds bitterly.
As for the creamy layer, Dr. Nathan is of the firm belief that it should be implemented when Dalits have risen to the top rungs and there is overcrowding at the top, not when they are languishing in the lowest rungs of education and employment.
“Now that the government has notified the Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019 which allows this quota, and Gujarat is set to become the first state to implement it (despite the appalling conditions of Dalits and SCs in the state), we are exploring all options to mount a legal challenge,” he informs.