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Political and Economic Notes: Reservations for EWS: Myth called Creation of Job and Educational Opportunities In the dying moments of winter session of the Parliament, the Narendra Modi government moved 124 th constitutional amendment to reserve 10 per cent seats in higher education and government employment to all who are in the ‘unreserved’ category, meaning the upper castes, Muslims and Christians. The speed with which the amendment was rushed through Lok Sabha on January 8, cleared by Rajya Sabha on January 9, given assent by the President on January 12 and notified in the gazette on January 14 matched the spate of petitions opposing it came up before the Supreme Court and some High Courts. Within hours of the Parliament passing the bill, the first appeal was filed before the Supreme Court by a so-called NGO –‘Youth for Equality’. Cutting across all the parties in the Parliament, except three in Lok Sabha and seven in Rajya Sabha, all the MPs voted for the bill. The criteria for recognising economic backwardness as notified by the government are: household income less than Rs.8 lakh; owning agricultural land below 5 hectares; homes smaller than 1000 sq.feet; residential plots below 109 sq. yards in municipal areas and 209 sq. yards in non-notified municipal areas. By these criteria 96 per cent of Indian population comes under reservation. The loss of upper caste votes in the recent assembly elections in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh prompted the BJP to resort this move to regain its lost mainstay and sent an election time signal to upper caste Hindus, rather than attempting to create equal educa- tional and employment Feb, March - 2019 opportunities to all Indians. The BJP has tried to woo the upper castes as well as dominant peasant castes in various regions like Patels in Gujarat, Marathas in Maharashtra and Kapus in AP, who are agitating for reservations for their community. The BJP threw a challenge in the form of reser- vations to EWS to its opponents. The ruling class parties in the opposition have knuckled and supported the amendment except calling it as election time manoeuvre. On most of the social issues one cannot answer in simple terms – yes or no, black or white. They should be viewed as part of the whole system. The reservations provided for SC and ST by the Indian Constitution are based on the perception that these communities are condemned to poverty through discriminative and oppressive caste system for hundreds of years and they need special assistance for some time until they catch up with the economically and socially dominant castes and sections. Later, OBC reservations came with the imple- mentation of Mandal commission though it was earlier implemented by some state governments. Reservations in jobs were never implemented in the true spirit. Only during the last two decades some progress has been made. Even after seven decades of adopting the Constitution, the avowed pledge of universal literacy has not achieved. A little less than half of the population is illiterate, not to talk of the quality education imparting skill to our children that provides them with employment. Overwhelming majority of SC and ST population and a major chunk of people belonging to unreserved category find themselves having no chance of advancement. This situation – result of failure of the successive governments at the centre and in the states – caused resentment and frustration on both sides, reserved and unreserved categories. While the reserved categories feel that they were denied of their rights, the unreserved category feel the ‘others’ are taking away their opportunities. This gave rise to various demands like sub- categorisation of reservations, inclusion in the lists of SC, ST and OBC, reservations for econo- mically backward sections in upper castes and so on. The ruling class parties utilized this situation to whip up sentiments and perpetuate caste division in the society in order to maintain status quo in the existing social and political system, that is, semi- feudal and semi-colonial system. Gaining political mileage and votes is only a fall out of this wretched game played by them. The UPA government in 2014 notified Jats as OBC and gave 5 per cent quota to the community, though it was struck down by the Supreme Court. The BJP gave reservations to Gujjars in Rajasthan and Gujarat. After the assembly elections in Maharashtra, the BJP government provided reservations for Marathas. After the enactment of EWS reservations by the Centre, the Chief Minister of AP announced that his government will provide half of the EWS reservation of 10 per cent to the Muslims. The game goes on. 15