Nothing galvanises political parties quite as much as elections drawing near and the prospect of securing a votebank howsoever small. This probably explains why the government appears to be in a tearing hurry to move ahead with reservations for the Jat community among the OBCs for quotas in central government jobs and educational institutions.
But, in its haste, it seems to be going against a decision taken by the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) which had asked the Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR) to conduct a survey to determine the socio-economic conditions of the community in six states.
This would have enabled the government to make an informed decision on whether they deserve to be in the OBC quota. Now, the Union Cabinet, throwing all caution to the winds, has asked the NCBC to advise it on the inclusion of Jats in the Central List of OBCs without waiting for the survey to be completed.
So far the survey has taken place only in one state and is likely to take quite a while although it was to have been completed in January 2014.
In 2011, the NCBC itself had denied OBC status to Jats. This clearly suggests that the Congress is keen to keep Jats within its fold. In recent times, at least in Uttar Pradesh, Jats have been leaning towards the BJP. Though the BJP has not made much of its PM candidate Narendra Modi’s OBC status, the Congress is obviously taking no chances.
There is already a 27% reservation for OBCs and states like Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have quotas for Jats in state government jobs.
The survey would have at least laid the grounds for reservations, hopefully for a prescribed period of time, for needy Jats. Now by bypassing the ICSSR, the government seems to want to decide on this arbitrarily.
As always, any reservations given now will encourage other castes and communities to demand similar sops. This goes against the very grain of equal opportunity.
Such crutches like reservations should be given only to the most socio-economically needy and that too for a limited period of time.
Here, such things seem to be given in perpetuity and more categories added as the years go by. The government must have something to base its decision, when it is taken, on. At present, it has nothing.
By playing the politics of reservations, the government is actually discriminating against the meritorious. This is a backward step and helps no one in the long-term, not even the beneficiaries of this largesse who will never learn to stand on their own feet.