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Debate : The quota for promotions bill should be scrapped


26 Dec, 2012 10:27p.m.

Defending the motion
Venky Vembu

The proposal to amend the Constitution to remove all residual legal obstacles to providing for reservations for Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes in promotions in government service is a dangerous perversion. When the Constitution was being drawn up, its framers intended reservations for Scheduled Castes as a temporary measure for 10 years and an enabling provision – not as a matter of birth right. The goal then was to work towards the erosion of caste divisions, not provide a crutch for perpetuity. Competitive casteism and political populism has extended reservations and reinforced caste-based identities to extreme limits. They were then subsequently sought to be extended to promotions, and the courts have repeatedly struck it down as unconstitutional. The current effort to circumvent those judicial pronouncements and formalise reservations in promotions will only accentuate the social divide even further, in addition to weakening governance at every level. If anything, the more compelling need is to initiate a debate on the demerits of reservation in their entirety. There are many other ways in which affirmative action programmes to uplift the socially backward can be channelled. This proposal needs to be scrapped

Against the motion

Reservation is a contentious issue and the debate has mostly been between the OBCs and the upper castes. In simple terms, as was witnessed during the Mandal agitation, the upper castes are forever peeved that their opportunities are taken away by “less meritorious” people because they belong to backward castes. Instead of appearing to be anti-OBC, they argue for respect for merit as well a quota for economic backwardness, overlooking the fundamental logic behind affirmative action – empowerment of socially backward sections of society. In the end, it is nothing but the fight for supremacy by the intermediate castes and their political parties. They try to conflate their demands for reservation with that of the severely oppressed Dalits and are at the vanguard of this willful conflict. That is precisely why the union government should go ahead with the proposed Bill and ensure that it is legally sustainable.
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