A Suicidal Step

The country has suffered infinites cuts on its soul owing to quota politics in government jobs. The major reason is that only the creamy layer among the Scheduled Castes (STs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) has availed itself of this quota politics, whereas the remaining categories of the SCs and STs have not been benefitted from this quota politics and even the general categories are bearing the brunt of quota. But as if it was not enough, now the government is endeavouring to introduce quota in promotion in government jobs. The Union Cabinet put its stamp of approval on a Constitutional Amendment provision last week to clear the residual legal hurdles in formalising reservations for SCs and STs in promotions in government jobs. Although the bill could not be passed in the monsoon session of Parliament, given the near-unanimity across political parties to be seen as the champion of the interests of SCs and STs, no wonder it is passed in the next session of the Parliament. The provision is packaged as an affirmative action proposal intended to uplift the SCs and STs, but it will end up accentuating and reinforcing caste identities in a regressive way. Reservation in promotions has been a sphere of intense disagreement between Parliament and the Supreme Court. To prevail upon the verdict of a nine-judge bench in Indra Sawhney and other judgments that disqualified reservation in promotions and consequential seniority, the Parliament promulgated three constitutional amendments in 1995, 2000 and 2002. The Supreme Court in 2006 made it very clear that Article 16 (4A), which was inserted through these amendments, was only an enabling provision. In essence, every time a government or the legislature sought to provide reservation in promotions under Article 16 (4A), it would have to pass constitutional muster. While justifying each attempt to provide reservation in promotions, the state would have to demonstrate backwardness, inadequacy of representation and maintenance of efficiency. Against this backdrop, the question arises: Has the government gathered all the necessary data, due to lack of which the apex court had disallowed reservation in promotion? It is worth mentioning that the Supreme Court has also struck down the same provision advocating reservation for minority.

Unfortunately, the government is moving with unusual alacrity to amend the Constitution to overturn court rulings that restrict reservations in promotions. It is unfortunate to note that constitutional safeguards such as reservations for backward groups have strengthened caste identity and so stymied the national goal of a casteless society. The political consensus on this subject is not a sign of normative consensus; it is a sign that the chasm between citizens is so deep that the only tactful thing seems to be withdrawal in silence. It is sad that despite the verdict of the highest court, the political class wants to give the go-by to the ideal of a casteless society to further its selfish interests. It has decided to abandon merit and offer promotions on a platter to those who get jobs on the basis of caste. The move does not augur well for the welfare and betterment of the nation. On one side, our leaders pat them on their backs in the global fora about our expertise, but in India, they are moving, for vote banks, to legislation which will encourage de-merit in the system. When will these leaders wake up for a need to face stiff intellectual competition in the world? The government is going to promote a person even though he is less efficient and less experienced than some of his colleagues. Today, he is subordinate to a person and tomorrow he will be the same person’s superior because he is born in a caste that constitutes a vote bank. Hence, the move will destroy efficiency in government organisations. The work culture in these offices has improved in recent times, thanks to competition from the private sector, but reservation in promotions will lead to deterioration yet again. Furthermore, these measures almost make it seem like it’s a crime in India to be a general candidate. Why doesn’t the government ensure availability of quality primary, secondary and tertiary education to those people who are genuinely depressed instead of these vote-minded steps which act as deterrent to quality of work? Those whose promotions are ensured by quota have no incentive to work hard, while those who are discriminated against by these quotas will feel anger, which will spoil quality of work and divide the nation. When a person is given employment on quota basis, all the issues about his social backwardness are addressed. Now, it is purely on his work culture, efficiency, dedication and of course the seniority that his future promotions should depend. Not with this retrograde step, the day is not far off when even corruption will be justified based on one’s economic and social backwardness. On one side, we have the young India going places and challenging the world’s best in all spheres and pulling India ahead, on the other, we have this rotten brigade who does everything to stick to power, nullifying the country’s progress to meet their petty ambitions. We cannot sleep, we have to wake up or else the country will be buried.

Deepak Kumar Rath

Deepak Kumar Rath

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