QUOTAS-If South Africa and Lebanon Can ,Why Can’t India ?

Q

uotas in legislatures ,government jobs   and educational institutions were resented by a majority of Indian population till the late 80s.The myth of  ‘merit’ was conceived and circulated  to spread fear , paranoia ,opposition and hatred  towards the policy of reservations for SC-STs.The quotas in legislatures  were originally mandated only for ten years and have subsequently been extended  by another decade at a time via  repeated constitutional amendments. There used to be  an overwhelming sentiment against these extensions in the name of equality for all,and the principle of merit.Times have now changed.

In enforcing the Mandal Commission recommendations ,VP Singh  created a strong  bulwark in  support   of quotas.Now all backward classes were aligned  in favour of affirmative action.The tide had decisively turned.It was no longer politically feasible for any political formation to rail against  quotas and hope to survive at the hustings.SC-STs and OBCs ,afterall,constitute an overwhelming majority of the country’s electorate.

Now with the September 26 judgement of the Supreme Court which has cleared the way for  Reservation in Promotions in jobs ,as well as buzz surrounding introduction of job quotas or some kind of affirmative action in the  private sector ,socio-political ecosystem is  rife with anticipation and speculations .These politically potent ideas have been in vogue for quite some time ,but due to some legal constraints (M.nagraj case)  and lack of political will ,have not yet become  laws .With the General Elections 2019 looming over the horizon,temptation on the part of  the beleaguered  government to introduce these quotas must be quite strong.It might appear that there are many hiccups on the path, but it should be  kept  in mind that every change  or reform engenders a lot of resistance,but once enforced  with the right intent and strong will,gains acceptance with time. Stranger or more unpopular and even some bizzare laws have found traction with times. It’s a matter of acting on them  ,and not just speculating over their outcomes.

There have been proposals promising large quotas for the local job-seekers in public as well as private sectors  in  Gujarat,Karnataka and Maharashtra.On similar lines,it is not quite fantastic  to think about quotas in the  private sector.If one can be promised,the other can be delivered as well.Of course ,there can be riders,like minimum standards,provision of vocational instructions and other ways to implement this proposal.

Selling these ideas to the public does take some convincing skills.One was shocked when  the South African Cricket Board (SACB) was directed by their Government  in 2016 to include an average of six coloured players,two of whom must necessarily be African Blacks,in every match ,to be averaged over a  season.Their Rugby giants,the Springboks,were also directed to follow a rigid quota policy.Performances were expected   to suffer,but going by the trends ,the policy has worked quite well . For every Kyle Abbot or Wayne Parnell , who has  opted  for Kolpak deals to play in UK  ,there is a Bavuma or an Ngidi who has managed to thrive under support .The net loser is neither SACB  ,nor Cricket itself ,but possibly  the  whites who constitute just about 9 percent  of the country’s population,but have ruled the country with an iron fist for a long time .

It is in this light that I read Union Minister Ramdas Athvale’s statement wherein he demanded team spots to be  reserved for players from weaker sections   in the BCCI’s National Cricket Team.Athvale received bad press and ridicule over social media for his suggestion .Since independence only  three Dalits players (Palwankar Baloo,Vinod Kambli and Karsan Ghavri ) and no tribals  have  been lucky to represent India . This is certainly below par.It is also a direct result of denial of opportunities at local levels.Why cant we  follow suit and implement something like the  South African quota system in Indian sports as well ? What is so outrageous about it ? Heaven would not fall if that happens.Most sports federations are led by career politicians .Why have they never taken lead in this regard ?

In the political sphere, BJP currently has fifteen CMs of its own, out of which none is a Dalit,and a couple of them are tribals .This needs to be addressed.Since free will has not worked  ,quotas are the only way to address this anomaly. We have not had a Dalit PM so far.How can we hope for one when so few Dalits have even become  CMs ,despite their numerical strength ? If the idea of quotas for top posts seems shocking ,just look at what Lebanon has managed to accomplish .

Lebanon’s consociational government, which distributes power among the country’s religious communities,has managed to keep a fractured country intact. Seats in parliament are split evenly between Christians and Muslims, and the main offices of President, Prime Minister, and Speaker of Parliament are reserved for Maronite Christians, Sunnis, and Shiites, respectively.The Taif agreement allots 64  seats each  to both religious groups,which are further subdivided into Maronites ,Eastern Orthodox ,Melkite  Orthodox,Armenian Orthodox ,Protestants,Armenian  Catholics according to their numerical strengths in case of Christians and among  Sunnis,Shias, Alawites and  Druze in case of Muslims . Belgium,Cyprus,the Netherlands and Switzerland also follow similar consociational systems for power distribution. India is an equally divided society ,if not more. We need reservtions in  Cabinets and topmost spots as well.

Our  Armed Forces and higher judiciary still don’t allot quotas.This  begs the question why not ? If the martial and non-martial race divisions,and the caste –based nomenclature of army units have not  adversely impacted the unity ,why should  quotas do ?  Higher judiciary must be socially sensitive  and  reservation for backward sections would   enhance  empathy among   judges which would  aid in progressive interpretation of law  .Denial of reservation in these institutions gives weight  to the myth of merit and raises the levels of  suspicion between haves and have nots.

South Africa has job quotas too .Bangladesh Civil Service reserves 30 percent  of total seats for children and grandchildren  of freedom fighters,and some for  women and tribals.Pakistan  and Sri Lanka  follow the same practice.We are not unique in this .Brazil and South Africa follow policies of  affirmative action in the economic field as well .Points are awarded  if companies recruit the  disadvantaged  and they  get preference awarding of  government contracts.Private sector,the largest job provider ,must also play its part in dispelling entrenched myths and ushering in a more equal society.

Rather than half-hearted execution of quotas,India must overcome doubts,and implement quotas for SC-STs in promotions,private sector ,Sports ,Armed forces , Higher Judiciary and topmost political and executive posts  without further delay.Creamy layer exclusion can take care of the  grievances of other sections of society.The sooner we act on this,the faster we break age-old barriers and become more inclusive as a nation.

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