The ugly face of social upheavals are on obscene display again. In the season of #JNURow (raging national Vs anti-national debate after a pro Afzal Guru event was held in Jawaharlal Nehru University on February 9).

Social upheavals are for good if they are society driven but not when they are managed (or rather mismanaged for the overall health of the society).

That is what is happening in Jat reservation case.

The trend of influential and prosperous communities like Jat, Patels in Gujarat, Kapus in Andhra Pradesh or Marathas in Maharashtra is ominous to undo the whatever little good that social affirmative action or caste-based Reservation has achieved in India.

Today again, after days of continued violence, the government had to bow down to ‘public pressure’ (or appeasement politics or votebank politics) and offer the ‘demand’ the Jat leaders had put forward. They stopped trains, burned vehicles, created chaos, engaged in arson and armed protests and what not.

Democracy gives us avenues to raise our voice for anything and everything but within constitutional framework only – the framework that says that Reservation cannot exceed the 50% cap.

And in spite of that, when we engage into violence to coerce state to act on our whims and fancies, based on our numerical strength and history of our influential place in the society, it sends out the clear message that democratic norms are being subverted.

The affirmative action that was rightly intended to the weaker sections of society – is being diverted to them who don’t need really it.

To continue..

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –


It was some 20 years ago or even before that. My elder sister had a friend whose family happened to the big land owner of its area. If I try to remember things with a wise guess, it should be over 500 acres. And most of the members of her community (the caste group) that she came from, were having sound financial conditions, as far as I knew.

Like happens – like happened in those days – my sister, her friend and everyone in her group were consistently applying here or there, mostly for the government ones – colleges, universities, jobs. And being close friends, they would mostly go together to procure and submit forms.

Now, here was the thing that literally pinched me, in fact sucked my soul into a thinking mode even then, those long years ago – for the same application form, my sister, who was supported by my father’s government salary, would pay Rs. 500 and her friend, whose family assets were in crores, would pay just Rs. 150 – because – she was counted among the ‘Other Backward Castes’.

I could not understand the reason then, because there was no logic. I know now that there is no reason, no logic behind such practices in the name of ‘affirmative action’ – to such population groups.

Affirmative action or ‘reservation’ in India ceased to be an effective ‘social change’ tool a long ago – and has been rendered toothless now – because the practice was never looked into for its ‘period relevance’ after a period of time.

I strongly believed then, in my childhood, for the same reason, that ‘reservation’ to such population groups was unnecessary. And I still think with the same reasoning – with my analyses based on socio-economic and cultural context now.

Affirmative action like ‘reservation’ is a welcome step to correct social anomaly in our society and basing it on the socio-cultural context initially was practical and logical.

But equally logical is the aspect that such ‘affirmative actions’ need timely intervention to introduce elements to meet the needs of the target groups in a changing society.

Our ‘reservation policy’ has remained unchanged for decades.

Politicians, after a point of time, and that time came too early, stopped seeing ‘reservation’ as a tool for social change. They started seeing it as an imperative for their caste arithmetic – an easy digression from the rigour of development politics.

Since then, the deterioration has been consistent. And today, ‘reservation’ has been reduced as nothing but a political tool to exploit votebank politics.

Otherwise, it is beyond the common sense understanding that why a parliamentarian or a legislator’s children need reservation in government jobs or schools or why they should pay peanuts for applications forms that are quite costly for the general category candidates.

It is beyond the logic of common comprehension that in a country where poverty lines are in the range of Rs 800 to Rs 1500 a month, how a family earning Rs. 50,000, i.e., the creamy layer limit for the OBC category, can be seen as poor enough to be counted among the economically backward castes and thus are given reservation?

Big land lords like my sister’s friend or businessmen with handsome monthly income enjoying perks of ‘reservation’ are among the banes of the system of ‘affirmative action’ in our country.

And the ongoing row by Patels of Gujarat, the most influential social community there, for ‘reservation under OBC category’ is yet another manifestation of that regressive mindset. Patels have led Gujarat for years and have been at the forefront of state’s growth story.

Now, that some of their youth are facing difficulty in government jobs or getting in government colleges, it doesn’t mean that they have become so socially backward to be counted among the OBC castes in the state. The forwards castes like Brahmin, Thakur, Bhumihar, categories of Kayasth and Vaish or so on, have faced this difficulty for long. But they cannot complain. Here, in Gujarat, Patels come in the same category. Giving OBC reservation status to Patels would start a spiral for many other castes.

That will, in fact, be the most illogical step – even if political compulsions force for some other calculations.

We, as a society, are languishing on introducing the time-dependent changes in our ‘reservation policy’. India needed to introduce an income based reservation system much ago, but the irony is – no one in the policymaking institutions talks about that.

The poor of socially, politically and economically castes are still bereft of the gains while those who are in no need now, are cornering the benefits – making ‘undue’ voices for more.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –


Is it the hundreds of millions of people hovering around the ambiguous line, otherwise ‘termed’ the ‘poverty-line’, a line that is as controversial as the second tenure of Manmohan Singh as India’s prime minister?

Or is it the politicians who, in collaboration, with bureaucrats and number-crunchers, define who should be poor and who should not be poor and who should not be ‘so poor’, obviously, more on the paper?

Or is it the Indian democracy that has come to evolve as an exploitative System where the millions of the poor, who are as important in the eyes of its Constitution, the world’s most extensively written Constitution, as the elite politicians hibernating in the plush environs funded by the pubic money, but have been pushed to the extremes of the periphery where they are not seen even as the entities to be co-opted to mitigate the chances of emerging threats?

Or is it the multitude of the hundreds of millions of ‘poverty-line’ stricken Indians who seem to have forgotten or seem to have never known what should be the ‘quality’ of their ‘quality of life’?

Or is it the multitude of the hundreds of millions of ‘poverty-line’ stricken Indians who have come to reconcile with the developments making them subservient to the political class?

Over 1200 millions of Indians that make India the world’s largest democracy – more or less, it is a functional democracy it is said!

But this functional democracy is yet to find how to count its poor. There are many ways. There are definitions. There are methodologies. And there is confusion. Huge sums are spent on finding how to define the ‘poverty-line’ yet the controversy remains. The Rs. 30 a month ‘poverty-line’, the average of all the expertise involved. Why?

Because, the poor here are not seen as human beings by the prevailing political thought process. They are yet another votebank, a significantly large votebank that cuts across the layers of religion, regionalism and caste.

This significantly large votebank has the tendency to act most impulsively of all the votebanks. Impoverished they have been, impoverished they are, and it can be understood. They don’t know what to expect from life than to survive every coming day. They are not expected to expect from life.

Poor, they are, but they do not own their poverty. They would do all to get rid of it provided they are given the help they need to do so.

But that help is not extended to them by those who own their poverty.

Those, who run the System, the politicians, the policymakers, the elite, the business people, and the likes of them, they own their poverty.

Instead, they are given occasional shots of calculated empowerment, empowerments that gives them borrowed moments of hunger-free and relatively easier days when elections approach. A food security bill is announced in 2009 but is put in motion in 2013 when elections are due in 2014. Farm debt waiver was announced in 2008 when elections were due in 2009.

The borrowed moments of hunger-free and relatively easier days push the voters from this votebank to react impulsively to cast their votes in favour of the political outfit doling out the ‘largesse’, something that should rightfully be their fundamental right.

Those, who run the System, their interest is in keeping this votebank poor.

Once out of poverty, the prospect to get the votebank react impulsively gets a certain negative hit. Why to take this risk?

They, who run the System, own the poverty in India and they don’t look in the mood to bequeath it.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –