Opinion

Moving backwards

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on January 20, 2018

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If the issue is not addressed now, quota stirs will only increase

Nineteen people killed, nearly 200 injured, shops and property destroyed, around 17,000 trees felled and mindless mayhem. The Jat agitation over reservations has transformed Happening Haryana into Horrifying Haryana. With this kind of violence, it is hard to feel any sympathy for the demands of the Jats, a socially and numerically dominant community.

But behind the seemingly absurd demands lies a story of socio-economic problems brought about by the collapse of an agrarian system and a rapidly industrialising and urbanising society. If not addressed at the root, this will unleash many more agitations all over the country. The Patels in Gujarat, the Kapus in Andhra Pradesh, the Marathas in Maharashtra, the Gujjars in Rajasthan are already all on the warpath. The Jat case may be slightly different because the community is aggrieved at losing political power to a Punjabi Khatri, but rising unemployment is usually at the heart of quota stirs.

In many States where farming prospects are dwindling, the rural youth find themselves at a crossroads. Especially those whose families have sold out land holdings and are finding the going difficult. As the money runs out, they find themselves without skills. Given that urbanisation is a phenomenon that cannot be reversed, it’s imperative to re-skill communities engaged in dying occupations.

But the issue cannot be addressed so simply. It’s also time to bite the bullet and look at our reservation policy squarely in the eye. The original SC/ST quota system inspired by BR Ambedkar was meant to be a temporary scheduling. But the 1990 Mandal Committee report that also added OBCs to the mix ended up imbuing a permanency to it as well as opening the door to many more demands. Successive governments since then have shied away from reviewing the reservation policy because of the fear of polarising an already polarised society, but certainly it’s time for a dialogue on this.

Editorial Consultant

Published on February 28, 2016

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