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Making a case for sub-quotas

Data from Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab suggest that a small Dalit elite cornered all quota benefits meant for 1,206 Scheduled Castes, reports Vikas Pathak.
Hindustan Times | By Vikas Pathak, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUN 09, 2008 12:56 AM IST

Has a small Dalit elite cornered all quota benefits meant for 1,206 Scheduled Castes? Data from Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab suggest this to be the case.

Analysis of data from the three states indicates that some relatively advanced communities within the Scheduled Castes disproportionately corner the quota benefits at the cost of other Dalit communities.

The Usha Mehra Commission constituted to examine this phenomenon in Andhra Pradesh found merit in the grievance and recommended sub-quotas to ensure that the weaker communities among the Dalits did not get left out.

The commission found the representation of the “advanced” Mala caste in the IAS and the IPS ranges from 76 per cent to 86 per cent against 13 per cent to 23 per cent for the Madiga caste. Numerically, however, the Malas constitute 41 per cent of the state’s SC population against the Madigas’ 49 per cent, showing how quotas have worked to the benefit of the Malas.

Sociologist S.S. Jodhka who studied similar concerns in Punjab found that out of 105 IAS officers from the Scheduled Castes, only three belong to the Balmiki-Mazhabi community that accounts for 42 per cent of the state’s SC population.

“The state should have sub-quotas to identify the more needy groups. Homogeneous quotas can promote identity politics while sub-quotas address the target groups of reservation more comprehensively,” Jodhka told Hindustan Times. Many Dalit intellectuals, however, see sub-quotas as a political ploy to divide the movement and say that each sub-category would then lead to charges of further “cornering” by a few castes.

Haryana shows how sub-quotas can benefit more castes than a uniform SC quota. From 1995 to 2003 when Haryana had sub-quotas against 60 people from the “advanced” shoemaker caste who became Class I officers, 50 from other Dalit castes got such jobs. Class II and Class III jobs show a similar trend. These data, however, do not show how individual castes fared in the sub-quota, leaving open the possibility of some “advanced” castes walking away with the benefits here also.

In contrast, statistics on Haryana collected by the Gurnam Singh Commission appointed by the state government in 1999 show that under the uniform quota existent till 1990, the shoemaker caste occupied nearly nine out of every 10 jobs at all levels while only 4-6 per cent of the Class II and Class III jobs were with the Balmikis (scavengers). In Haryana which has 37 Scheduled Castes shoemakers constitutes half of the SC population, followed by the Balmikis at 19 per cent.

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