Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Beleaguered (Re)Public

Updated: February 11, 2012 1:02 pm

India has celebrated its 63rd Republic Day this year with much pomp and circumstance. On this occasion, I was shocked to know the apathetic attitude of both the Central and state governments towards Lt. Sushil Khajuria who breathed his last after taking bullets in a heroic gun battle with terrorists of Lashkar-e-Toiba group at Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir on September 27 last year. The brave Khajuria was only 26 years old and his life was cut short just few months before his marriage (February 4, 2012). His family is only having a few condolence letters to contain with and has been waiting for getting his due ex-gratia payment for last four months. Nobody from the Army, or from the Central or state government did even meet his family. It decided to award the Kirti Chakra, the second highest peacetime gallantry medal to Sushil just a day before January 26. The caretakers of the biggest democracy need to draw their urgent attention on the serious issue and the authorities concerned must be punished if held responsible. Further, the country has not achieved the goals that our forefathers had envisaged while framing the Constitution. Still there are several ills that are eating into the vitals of the country. It is very unfortunate that economically resurgent India still remains home to the world’s largest population of poor, unhealthy and illiterate people. Tragically, hunger remains India’s biggest illness. Along with chronic hunger, deep poverty and high illiteracy also continue to blight the lives of hundreds of millions of Indians on a daily basis. India ranks 66th position on the Global Hunger Index of 88 countries. It ranks at the top of the nations of the world with its 270 million illiterate adults, the largest in the world, as detailed by a UNESCO report on education. India’s gross fiscal deficit—Centre and states combined—is likely to exceed 10 per cent of the GDP in 2011-12. Despite these facts, India has the dubious distinction of being at number four in military spending in terms of purchasing power parity, behind United States, China and Russia. Not only is India the lowest among BRIC nations in terms of human development, but India is also the only country among the top ten military spenders which, at 134 on a list of 182 nations, ranks near the bottom of the UNDP’s human development rankings. Given the military spending figures, one wonders why India is at the bottom. Reasons for this are many but the major reason can be attributed to reservations—whether they be on caste based or on religion based—which debar the meritorious candidates in every field from serving the country and thus the professional standards of every profession have fallen. As if the caste-based reservations were not enough, the Congress-led UPA government has introduced the religion-based reservation. In fact, the Congress-led UPA-II government first gave a boost to communal violence by the Communal Violence Bill. Then, by introducing the unconstitutional and anti-national reservations for the minority in the 50 per cent reserved category of the Lokpal Bill, this government jolted everyone. Thereafter, by making a 4.5 per cent reservation for the minorities in the 27 per cent quota reserved for the backward classes in jobs and educational institutions, the government has sown the seeds of one more Partition of the country. The judiciary in the country has time and time again given the verdict that reservations on the basis of religion are unconstitutional. But for wooing Muslim voters, Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid said that the Congress party would provide nine per cent sub-quota for backward Muslims if it was voted to power in the coming Uttar Pradesh assembly election. Salman Khurshid’s statement can very well be understood against the backdrop of elections in five states and Rahul Gandhi has staked his reputation on the outcome of the polls in one of these, namely, Uttar Pradesh. If he fails in UP, then his enthronement to the royal throne could be in jeopardy. To win in UP, he needs Muslim votes, hence this unlawful move.

Ideally speaking, democratic politics is the art of the possible—the art of getting things done and governing a country in which diverse communities, interests and perspectives exist. But in our country, the pseudo-secularist politicians believe in achieving power and imposing controls on others by any means. They will participate in standard democratic politics as if they believed in its principles, but their long-term goal is to gain enough power to undermine the system entirely and replace it with a new system controlled by them. Although people with this agenda may lie about their goals, they can’t entirely hide their true intentions. You can watch their rhetoric and behaviour and see to what degree they truly believe in the importance of true democratic spirits. In fact, the subject of religion-based reservations had figured prominently—and divisively—during India’s freedom movement. Mahatma Gandhi had opposed the British government’s ‘Communal Award’ of 1935, under which seats were reserved in the legislature in favour of religious groups. The issue again reared its ugly head in the immediate aftermath of Independence, when the stalwarts of the movement were busy drafting a new republican Constitution for India. The matter had been conclusively settled with an emphatic “No” to communal reservations. Therefore, it can be stated with the authority that Constitution of India does not provide or mandate any reservation which is based on religion. The Supreme Court in number of cases has stated that religion in itself is not a class and cannot fall within the category of Articles 15 and 16 as a criterion of reservation. So in the way the government is providing religion-based reservations, lies not only folly but disaster. Thus, after more than 60 years of implementing reservations, it is time to see how well the system worked. Those groups which availed the benefit of reservations and prospered should be taken out of, whereas the present UPA government is only endeavouring to milk its vote bank by further bringing more groups into reservations. The system of caste and religion is still being practised because of reservations on that basis. It is high time the system of reservations was scrapped and the government reflected and acted on the urgent need for careful balancing of its genuine problems of food, education, health care and human resource development for securing a better future of the people.

Deepak Kumar Rath

Deepak Kumar Rath

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