In demand of reservation in Central services like other backward classes, the behaviour of Jat community, which has for the past one week disrupted the rail traffic in the adjoining states of National Capital Region, would be termed as anti-social. There can be some basis behind the demand of reservation of Jat community, but it could not be overlooked that the Jats of Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh own better agricultural land and most of them have availed adequate compensation in lieu of the acquisition of their lands. This has made them wealthy too. Although they are not counted among socially and economically weak segment of society, Jat leaders are demanding reservation for their community. Jat leaders seem to be taking political mileage of the increasing number of unemployed youths in their states. The Jat agitation has paralysed the rail services, affecting thousands of people. The affected lots are compelled to think that how one could be given right to hold people captive to get one’s demand fulfilled. Everybody is asking what kind of movement is this, but there is nobody toanswer this question.

Nobody seems to moot over questions that those who availed the benefit have come out of backwardness? Whether reservation is able to bring equality in society? After Independence, the system of reservation was introduced for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes only for a period of ten years but after every decade the period is increased and now it seems it would be repeated in future too, because reservation has become the most effective tool for vote-bank politics. Whenever the demand for reservation is raised, one or the other political party comes forward to support it. Political parties do not dare to oppose the demand for reservation as they fear losing their vote-bank. Consequently, the demand for reservationis increasing day after day. The Central as well as the state governments have also been supporting these demands.

The politics of reservation has got the impetus and full support during the regime of VP Singh government when the Mandal Commission report championing 27 per cent quota for other backward classes was implemented. Since then the demand for reservation is going on, moreover, because political parties begin to support such demands without looking into the fact that the particular community really deserves it or not. Off late, few communities deprived of this benefit are either demanding reservation under SC/ST category or under other backward caste category. Now, the demand for reservation has begun for Muslim community as well as the neo-Dalits. A few states have started putting efforts to demand reservation of the Muslim community on the basis of Sachchar Committee report. A few states are mounting pressure on the Centre in this regard.The leaders belonging to reserved category have also demanded quota in the Judiciary.

This is a fact that Mandal Commission had not included Jat community among the Other Backward Classes, but due to vote bank politics a few states have included them under this category. Therefore, the community is demanding reservation in the Central services stating if they are able to get reservation in the states services why can’t they get the same in the Central services? The Jat leaders had launched their agitation last year also and stopped water supply to Delhi. Now, the governments of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have extended support to their demand as they started supporting their stir. The leaders who vigorously support quota should be asked to cite the reason for including several such segments which are well off in comparison to other communities under the reservation ambit, considering the number of government jobs is decreasing and the competition is getting intensified.

If politically well off communities are provided reservation benefits due to political reasons, it will hamper the rights of reserved categories at one stage or the other. Obviously, it may add to bitterness among people. It would be better if political leaders understand that creating wedge among castes is not good. Whatever claims the leaders make, nobody is bothered about the fact that reservation is meant to bring socially backward classes into the mainstream of society rather than distributing jobs. According to the Supreme Court, the reservation cannot exceed the limit of 50 per cent, and Constitution also doesn’t permit to cross this limit. Consequently, the government jobs for reserved categories would remain limited. Perhaps this is the reason that there is a demand to enhance reservation limit through Constitutional amendment and extend it in private sector also. To extend reservation in the private sector would be like compromising with the nation’s competence. Now, when there should be a talk over how long reservation would continue, there is a scramble for doling out government jobs, which is not good. The time has come to debate over new ways of reservation so that only socially and economically backward segments of society could get concession in educational institutions and government services.

The ongoing census in the country will also count castes, therefore, expectation is that real counts on socially and economically backward castes will come out. Our policy makers should give a new dimension to the reservation system on the basis of these counts, because the Mandal Commission report was based on the caste data of pre-independence. If new avenues of reservation system are not adopted, the tendency of political use of quota will keep increasing, which may be profitable for politicians, but is harmful for society.

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on March 13. 2011 translated by the English Editorial)