Tamil Nadu's quota stir an assertion of its 69 percent? (NEWS ANALYSIS)
Apr 1, 2007, 7:45 GMT
Chennai, April 1 (IANS) Many are puzzled as to why Tamil Nadu, which has been implementing 69 percent reservation for more than 10 years, held a shutdown Saturday to protest a Supreme Court stay on quotas in elite educational institutions as it would not directly affect the state's colleges.
Perhaps the state fears that the Supreme Court's interim order on Thursday could be a step towards deciding on the constitutional validity of an act concerning the state's quotas, which is included in the 9th Schedule that puts it beyond the pale of judicial review.
The Tamil Nadu Reservation Act passed by the state assembly was included in the 9th schedule (under Article 31B of the constitution) in August 1994. It was immediately challenged before the Supreme Court. Fourteen years on, the apex court is yet to decide whether or not this act should be in the 9th schedule.
This is the decision Tamil Nadu fears most and the quota protests now are a build-up to future struggles against dilution of quotas.
The Supreme Court's interim order Thursday is in the context of reservation in admission in central educational institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs).
'The stay has no bearing on educational reservations implemented by the states,' Prof. P. Radhakrishnan, professor of sociology, Madras School of Development Studies, told IANS.
Radhakrishnan said Tamil Nadu has about 254 groups in the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) list. This excludes the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs).
He said a Supreme Court judgment (given in January) on inclusion of various central and state Acts in the 9th schedule could affect the state's reservation policy.
'Going by that judgment, a three-judge bench will look into the various acts included in this Schedule right from the beginning, and eliminate those acts which should not find a place in the Schedule,' Radhakrishnan said.
'Tamil Nadu's 69 percent will be affected only if this bench (yet to be constituted) decides to take out the related Act concerned with Tamil Nadu from the 9th schedule. Till then the status quo will continue,' Radhakrishnan said.
'The excess quota (beyond the 50 percent laid down by the apex court) and failure to eliminate the creamy layer (as in Tamil Nadu)' could be affected if the apex court decides to take the related act concerning Tamil Nadu from the 9th Schedule, he said.
The non-Brahmin movement and the Backward Classes emancipation drive from 1910 to the 1950s made caste a power tool in Tamil Nadu's politics.
From 1951 onwards, Tamil Nadu's Backward Classes enjoyed 25 percent reservation.
In 1969, the first Tamil Nadu State Backward Classes Commission, with A.N. Sattanathan as chairman, recommended a separate 16 percent reservation for the Most Backward Classes and 17 percent for the Backward Classes.
In 1971, the DMK government hiked the BC quota from 25 to 31 percent and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes quota to 18 percent.
In 1980, the M.G. Ramachandran government increased the BC quota from 31 percent to 50 percent.
Soon after that, the Tamil Nadu government implemented 69 percent reservation for backward classes in educational institutions and jobs, which continues.
Both, the DMK and its rival, the AIADMK have been playing the caste card since the 1980s.
The population break-up in Tamil Nadu is: Backward Classes 46.14 percent, Most Backward Classes 17.43 percent, Denotified Tribes 3.44 percent, Scheduled Castes 19 percent, Scheduled Tribes 1.04 percent and Others 12.95 percent.
The state's reservation quotas stands at 30 percent for Backward Classes, 20 percent for Most Backward Classes and Denotified Tribes, 18 percent for SCs, and 1 percent for STs. The overall reservation is thus 69 percent, encompassing as much as 87 percent of the state's population, Radhakrishnan explained.
'The apex court's interim order March 29 gives the impression that if the central government provides adequate data on OBCs, it can go ahead with reservations, probably with some modifications,' Radhakrishnan said.
'What is required is not reservation, but affirmative action and expanding the entire education system from primary to the tertiary levels,' he explained.
'India had a complete caste census only in 1921. In 1931, the exercise was of a limited nature. But in the highly charged atmosphere of caste-based politics in the country, backwardness has become too covetous,' he said.
© 2007 Indo-Asian News Service