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Backwards ho!

Meanwhile, the suggestion that reservations be granted to economically weaker sections among the upper castes has come from various quarters.

india Updated: May 25, 2006 02:19 IST

The UPA government has got itself into a bit of a pickle over the reservations issue. Actually, there is a very simple solution to the problem that they are not even looking at -- instead of more seats, increase the number of OBCs.

We start with the 22.5 per cent Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes -- no one has any problem giving them quotas in jobs or education or in the legislatures.

Then we have the Other Backward Classes, the only count for which is from the 1931 Census under the column ‘caste’. Who are they? The Kaka Kalelkar Commission set up in the early Fifties identified 2,399 of them. A quarter of a century later, the Mandal Commission found that, as a result of all-round progress and development in the country, the number of backward classes had gone up to 3,743.

Since in India ‘backwardness’ grows with economic progress, the trend would, in the 28 years since Mandal, have pushed the combined SC, ST and OBC figure up to nearly 80 per cent. In fact, nine years ago, 132 castes were added to the list and another 90 in 1999. Post-Mandal, Jats, too, have been granted OBC classification in Delhi, UP, Bharatpur and Dholpur districts of Rajasthan, and in Himachal Pradesh.

Meanwhile, the suggestion that reservations be granted to economically weaker sections among the upper castes has come from various quarters. Even the phrase used in the Constitution is ‘backward classes’, not ‘castes’. Brahmins have already asked for job quotas. In kalyug, the soul-saving business is in a slump, so other avenues of employment are being sought. The Rajputs, too, have been throwing hints that they are getting a raw deal. Job vacancies for princes and courtiers have dried up completely.

So, every caste group in India now wants to wear the badge of backwardness on its sleeve. And if these ‘disadvantaged’ Hindu groups are all brought into the backward fold, the numbers would easily cross the 80 per cent mark.

Then we have the minorities who constitute over 15 per cent of our population and who, in any case, been saying for long that they need job and other quotas. Get them on to the bandwagon and there will be a just miniscule number still left out of this great retrograde revolution. We might as well ask them, too, to join our great march backwards.

And when that happens we, the people of India, would all become one big, happy family of oppressed and backward classes. We can then have 100 per cent reservations all around and no one would object.