The government should heed the message from the resignation of two members of the Knowledge Commission, Andre Beteille and Pratap Bhanu Mehta.india Updated: May 24, 2006 00:31 IST
The government should heed the message from the resignation of two members of the Knowledge Commission, Andre Beteille and Pratap Bhanu Mehta. Both have declared that while they are for schemes to promote social inclusion, they feel that assigning quotas will not only leave the problem unresolved, but actually compound it. Delhi University Professor Emeritus of Sociology Andre Beteille has spent a life-time studying the issue of deprivation and social inequity in India, and is known for the passion he has brought to bear on the issue. His reluctance to endorse the quota regime is not based on any elitist principle. In his view, government cannot enhance our competitive advantage in the knowledge sphere and promote identity politics based on caste and community at the same time. He has been rightly scathing on those who cite the 93rd amendment to claim that it is the law of the land.
Those familiar with Indian political history will remember the inglorious laws passed by Parliament during the 1975-77 Emergency or, more recently, draconian laws like Pota. Parliament and politicians are not always right, and all laws not necessarily, in Mr Beteille’s words, “wise or even prudent”. The architects of our Constitution, especially BR Ambedkar, were surely not unaware of the social deprivation that communities had faced on the basis of their caste. Yet their quota provisions were strictly targeted towards the erstwhile untouchables and tribes, and that too for a limited period of time. Politicians thereafter have perverted this progressive impulse to push their respective political agendas. OBC quota protagonists today are deliberately sowing confusion by linking their case -- essentially of inadequate representation in academia -- with the very real and continuing social deprivation and oppression faced by Dalits.
India stands at an extraordinary cusp of opportunity. It is on the verge of an economic revolution that will transform the life of all Indians -- the poor, the OBC, the SC and the upper caste. The critical mass for this exists in the form of a rich land, a talented and hard-working people and a bank of young and educated Indians who will turn the levers of tomorrow’s knowledge economy. To divide these young on the basis of caste is to throw a spanner in this work in progress.