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Reservations, The Way Ahead

It’s often said that public has a short term memory. In India, policy of reservations has successfully defied this notion. Some thing or the other keeps popping up in the news every few days. So, what’s exactly reservations all about?

Reservations were envisaged by the founding fathers of the constitution as means to reverse the ill effects of the historical suppression of the lower classes of society by the upper class. They envisioned equality in the constitution as Equality among Equals. Keeping this view in mind, it’s not difficult to see that the lower classes needed a push and this is how Reservation Policy came around.

Not going into the political nature of the issue, the reservation was extended to the Other Backward Classes by VP Singh govt on the recommendation of Mandal Commission. After a subsequent Supreme Court judgement, the current status on caste based reservation is as follows:

  • 15% for SCs
  • 7.5% for STs
  • 27% for OBCs – Non Creamy Layer

This reservation is with respect to  access to seats in the different legislatures, government jobs, and to enrolment in higher educational institutions.

Ever since OBCs have received reservations, the general population have, time and again, vocally protested against the policy for obvious reasons. After realising that reservation policy wouldn’t end so easily, many castes have often agitated for reservation for themselves.

In light of the present situation, keeping the impact of the policy and changing times into view, one needs to critically examine the policy now. Taking the broader issue first. Should the policy be ended?

I believe this would be a bad idea. Taking “Roti, Kapda aur makaan” as still the basic needs, lets look into few numbers to see why.

  • Literacy Rate for SCs and STs stood at 62% compared to the national average of 73%  in 2009-10. In 1961, the respective numbers were 8.5% and 28.3%
  • Poverty: While around 42% of the rural population was poor, around 47% STs, 37% SCs, 28% OBCs and 16% from the general category were poor in 2004-05. In 1993-94, the numbers were 37.3% (total), 53% (STs) and 48% (SCs) src: http://www.nird.org.in/Rural%20Development%20Statistics%202011-12/data/sec-10.pdf

The above numbers make two things very clear. Firstly, reservation policy has been successful. The beneficiaries have taken advantage of the policy to make it into the mainstream. Secondly, there is a need to continue the policy as there is still a stark difference between different sections.

However, the policy in its current form seems inefficient. Something is definitely out of place when a policy isn’t able to give the desired results in a span of over 70 years. This brings us back to the first intervention made by the Supreme Court when policy was extended to OBCs. SC introduced the concept of Non Creamy Layer, thereby excluding the economically and administratively inclusive sections of OBCs from the umbrella of reservations.

I believe same should be extended to SCs and STs. In the present form, it’s major beneficiaries are those sections of SCs and STs whose previous generations were benefited by the policy. Taking creamy layer out of the umbrella would give better opportunities to those sections of societies who really need it, making the policy more efficient. Even the general population criticises the policy when they see those unworthy of it, taking advantage of reservations.

Some might argue that reservations should be made for economically weaker sections of the societies but this argument doesn’t really stand ground. Reservation is an Indian Jugaad to uplift the suppressed “castes” of societies to reverse the effects of “their historical suppression”. To cater to the economically weak sections of society, government has several measures in place. This said,  economic inequalities are bound to remain in every society no matter what you do. Compromising meritocracy for achieving economic equality is undesirable in a liberal society.

Thus, a more robust policy, where only the needy get the benefits, would help the policy achieve its goals and I don’t see a better way than extending the principle of Non Creamy Layer to the policy of reservations to make it robust.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer” – William Blackstone

In his seminal work “Commentaries on the Laws of England”, William Blackstone expressed this idea which though not new, was then cemented and became a profound principle in criminal law.

I find this quote rather under celebrated. To confine it to the brim of law and judiciary seems unjustified. For me, this summarises the differences between every ideology with a tinge of liberalism and those inclined towards radicalism. The focus on the rights of an individual associated with the quote has served as baseline for Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the stepping stone of liberalism.

Having journeyed through different ideologies and philosophies, it seemed we were converging to Liberalism. Year 2016, however, has seen a lot of diversions. Brexit could possibly be marked as the first event this year to reflect the shifting ideologies. People of Britain in a historic referendum chose to exit EU. If I may, British willingness to make innocents suffer (migrants) to salvage the economy (equivalent to punishing guilty which the move may or may not) goes to point out the shift.

In another part of the world, Colombians rejected the FARC peace deal, albeit marginally, because the idea of letting ten guilty persons escape than an innocent suffering apparently didn’t appeal to the citizens. People want FARC members to be punished even if it means prolonging an already consuming civil war and unrest. To top the above events, Americans didn’t mind choosing Donald Trump as the “Leader of the Free World” neglecting his inherent xenophobia, racism, sexism. Making America great again got priority over the side casualties to every other section of American society except for white males.

This finally brings us back to India. The government has demonetised the notes of INR 500 and INR 1000 to curb the growing menace of black money, counterfeit currency and terror financing, but at what cost? When the dust settles, it will be interesting to see what price of a human life can be used for future policies to be paid as collateral damage.

We are living in “exciting” times, witnessing a change in the prevalent ideologies. This period will definitely make a mark in History; good or bad is yet to be seen. If something can be said for sure, it’s that “The Times They Are A-Changin’ “!

Uniform Civil Code: The dilemma

Much has been discussed and debated recently about Uniform Civil Code with Central Government being asked by the apex court of its response on Shayara Bano’s petition. Petitioner Bano challenged the constitutionality of Section 2 of the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, in so far as it seeks to recognise and validate polygamy, triple talaq and ‘nikah halala’. The Union government told the Supreme Court that ‘triple talaq’, ‘nikaah halaal’ and polygamy, as practised by the Muslims in India, were not “integral to the practices of Islam or essential religious practices”.

This has brought the topic of Uniform Civil Code into foreground again. While a large majority approves of UCC, the critics of UCC come mainly from Islamist groups who claim this would be a violation of their Right to practice their religion. Interestingly, apart from the aforementioned fundamental right, Constitution also says that “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India” in Article 44 (Directive Principles of State Policy)
However, Directive Principles of State Policy are not enforceable by any court, but are fundamentals to borrow for efficient, progressive and constitutional governance. This said, one needs to emphasise that in case of conflict in Fundamental Rights and DPSP, Fundamental Rights are to be upheld as they are enforceable.
But is Uniform Civil Code a mere reflection of the mentioned DPSP? Isn’t it enforcing the Right of Equality for women suffering because of regressive laws? Right to Life granted by the constitution comes with Right to dignity as stated by judgements of Supreme Court. Isn’t the practice of Triple Talaaq a violation to the Right of Dignity to the affected women.
A religion which doesn’t evolve with time to absorb the contemporary changes either dies or kills. The motivation of the Central Government behind implementing Uniform Civil Code shouldn’t let us diverge from the main topic in hand which is Right to Equality. It is about time good decisions are taken for the benefit of all.

How to visit Pakistan in 5 easy steps!

Hello Folks,

Have you always wanted to visit Pakistan but couldn’t, due to reasons like Visa issues? Now, here is a tutorial on how you can achieve your goal.
1. Log in to your Social Media Account, either Facebook or Twitter. I recommend Facebook, because if you reading this post, I don’t think you have many followers over Twitter.
2. Scrabble something on intolerance. Don’t forget to add that this has risen during Modi regime.
3. Now, if you have pro BJP or Hindu extremists in your friend list, the job has been done. Also, this would make you the eye candy of all the Seculars/Muslim extremists/AAP fanboys you have in your friend list. *Don’t expect me to include the fictitious tribe of Congress supporters.*
4. If you don’t have such friends, no worries; we have a way out. Go to the Facebook page of any BJP leader and comment on a post there, about intolerance. This should serve the purpose.
5. Voila, your trip to Pakistan has been sponsored by the people who got hurt at steps 3 & 4.
Cheers!

Things that matter

With Independence Day coming up, lots of people are putting up tricolour as their display picture and that leaves me wondering if not doing so makes me any less patriotic, and then I remember this little incident I read in the newspaper.

An accident occurred on the road and there was a huge gathering of spectators. Everyone was busy taking snaps and passing comments when a taxi driver came up, informed the police over phone and drove the victim to the nearest hospital in his taxi. When I read about this incident, all I could do was smile. I was pretty sure that the taxi driver did not have any Facebook profile to show his patriotism!

Modi and India

Mr. Narendra Modi, the person whose name needs no introduction, is in the centre of the dais now. No more debates over AAP vs BJP, no more discussions over the Gujarat development model, all we are looking forward to, is for him to deliver, to rise to the occasion and fulfil all his promises.

 
The elections have given “him” a clean majority, the people of India gave their mandate solely on the merits of Narendra Modi. The general elections 2014, might in fact be arguably remembered as the elections when a person rose above everyone to garner the popular support. To date, it has been almost 30 days for Modi ji since he took in charge of the Prime Minister Office. This period has seen a lot of hustle and bustle in the PMO. Many decisions have been taken, some of which received a positive response while some have been criticized heavily.
 
Modi sarkar received a warm welcome from the market which showed tremendous growth as soon as the results were out. People could see the much hyped “achhe din” into making. Modi-Sharif meeting generated a lot of buzz and was welcomed warmly by everyone across the globe. However, the new government had barely opened its eyes that controversy over article 370 and the educational qualifications of the ministers fumed and Modiji’s silence was something which caused more panic than these controversies. Amongst all this, several steps were taken to end the dynasty culture and the hate oppsition politics. PMO passed regulations advising ministers not to rename the projects passed by UPA government and Modiji himself came out asking state governments to restrain from having a chapter on him in school text books. Modiji further cemented his personna of a dedicated worker by abolishing all GoMs, thus increasing the accountability of his ministers and expedite the decision making process. People could see MODIfication of the entire machinery in process. 
 
But before this could happen, the murder of a techie in Pune took over the entire country over storm. The communal touch given to this incident followed by similar comments from the BJP MP from Pune and other organisations associated with BJP made people wonder if their worst fears were about to come true! Add to this the recent arrests over misleading and unfortunate comments on Narendra Modi on Social Media, and you get the idea why his haters emphasized on Gujarat riots and his being undemocratic.
 
Since then it has been a roller coaster ride for Modi Government. On one hand, Modi promoted transparency by ordering ministers to disclose their assets within two months and focused on making government procedures simpler by abolishing GoMs and allowing self-attestation, while on the other hand, measures such as hike in the prices of Diesel, frequent power cuts and defending the Rape-accused minister worked against Modi. As if  this wasn’t a sufficient dent in the upcoming “acche din”,  Mr. Modi, who wrote a letter in March to then Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh against the decision to hike passenger rail fares, announced that the rail fares would be hiked by 14.2%, a decision which is being termed as the biggest U-turn in Indian Politics of recent times. All efforts to explain this decision have so far been in vain, the prime reason being the earlier stand.  Hike in import duties on sugar and the plan to increase prices of LPG, natural gas and kerosene have only generated more negative response.
 
Now, one thing is for sure. Government is definitely working and setting things straight. It had to take some unpopular decisions but upon thinking rationally, one can see the justification. The sole problem here lies in people’s expectation. People want to see the same Gujarat Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Modi work as the Prime Minister, who they used to read about. The pre elections image of Mr. Narendra Modi, one with 56″ inches chest and no-bullshit attitude, the once who transformed Gujarat (at least this is what is known to everyone in general) has definitely raised the bar. It might get a bit difficult for our Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi to live up to that image. Things would have been simpler if he was being compared to Dr. Manmohan Singh and the previous UPA government. But that is not the case. He has to compete with himself, live up to everyone expectations which were raised by him during campaigning.
 
Now that he is in office and is our Prime Minister, we can only hope that he does not lose out to the ex chief Minister of Gujarat,Mr. Narendra Bhai Modi. Wishing all the very best to him and our country!

AAP supporters jobless

While everyone is busy changing their Facebook profile pictures to show their support for their favourite team, there is chaos everywhere in the regional offices of Aam Aadmi Party when a whole week passed without  announcement of any dharna by their leader Mr. Arvind Kejriwal. This unexpected and uncharacteristic move by the senior leaders of the party created a state of frenzy with people speculating if the party still existed.
A news channel claimed that it already knew about the party losing the plot. Arnab Goswami was the first one to announce that ever since the party compromised with its main agenda and took support from Congress to form government in Delhi, he was sure that this would happen.” When a party with only two ideals does not stick to the first one, you know it wouldn’t hold with the second one for too long as well”, he was quoted as saying.
As far as the AAP volunteers were considered, they weren’t taking it too well. Mr. Harish Chandra, a member of AAP since its inception, was getting restless. When enquired, he cried over being jobless. “Ever since I became a member of AAP, I would regularly attend dharnas, take part in protests. But, now it has been over a week and I have been sitting idle in my home”,said Harish Chandra. Another member claimed that he even went to Party headquarters in New Delhi to make sure that everything was fine with the party.
Later, Mr. Arvind Kejriwal tweeted that AAP volunteers needn’t worry and that there would be a dharna soon. As soon as the tweet was out, a wave of celebration spread. Mr. Harish Chandra himself fed me up with Motichoor ke laddu which he ordered specially to celebrate the upcoming dharna.

The man we don’t know

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Dr. Manmohan Singh, the 13th Prime Minister of India, only 2nd after Late Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru to hold this office twice in succession! Sometimes I wonder what went wrong, what led to the downfall of this resilient Sardar.

The 2004 general elections threw something unexpected. BJP was thrown out from power and Congress led by Sonia Gandhi had managed to turn the BJP’s India Shining campaign to its favor. The results were a surprise, exit polls were refuted; politics pandits were nowhere to be seen. However, we did not have a Prime Minister. The idea of Sonia Gandhi as Prime Minister was vehemently opposed partly because of her Italian origin.What then followed has always been a proof of Sonia Gandhi’s sharp political acumen. 

Dr. Manmohan Singh, a lesser known name amongst the Indian households, was nominated by UPA as the Prime Minister. Barely a politician, this man had already proved his mettle as a brilliant economist and bureaucrat. Having served as the Governor of RBI, deputy chairman Planning commission of India and later as the Finance Minister in the Narsimha Rao’s government, there weren’t many who opposed him.

Nation had its Prime Minister, a person known as a thinker and a scholar. In his first stint as Prime Minister, he encouraged growth of Indian Market. Continuing from where he left off as the Finance minister, his focus was upon making Indian economy strong. He was a firm believer of Liberalization and he enjoyed a lot of success in his efforts. The economic growth rate and GDP growth were impressive. He had silenced all his critics. Even when 2G scam was exposed, it was the UPA that suffered a loss in their public image but not Manmohan Singh. Despite the fact that Singh had never won a Lok Sabha seat, according to the BBC, he “has enjoyed massive popular support, not least because he was seen by many as a clean politician untouched by the taint of corruption that has run through many Indian administrations.” When it came to foreign policies, the man in command got his way through. Despite the third front withdrawing their support, he went ahead with Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Agreement.Whether or not this was the best decision is still argued, but what is important here is the point he madeSingh, who was always criticized by his opponents as the weakest Prime Minister ever, sent a message that UPA government under his leadership was not going to give way to the constant naggering of the opposition. 

In the next general elections, Dr. Manmohan was the obvious choice of the UPA for their prime ministrial candidate. His silence which had constantly been criticized got the better of BJP’s Prime ministrial candidate Lal Krishna Advani’s blabbering.The faith shown in him reflected in the results when UPA returned to the office, this time with a greater number of seats.So far everything was picture perfect.

But things slowly began to change. No one could have predicted what was to come. With a series of scams being exposed (Commonwealth Games scam, Coal scam to name a few), Dr. Manmohan Singh took a back seat. It was increasingly becoming clear that the government headquarters was 10 Janpath. His silence on such issues when nation needed an answer, worked against him. The UPA had nothing much to show to its credit. The constant projection of Rahul Gandhi as their upcoming leader and the willingness of the local leaders to give him the authority made us wonder about the authority of Dr. Manmohan Singh in the party itself. People soon grew tired of accepting his silence as a sign of his intellectuality. It became a symbol of his incompetency. 

In his first interaction with journalists, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had to defend himself from the Oppositions’ criticism which described him as the “weakest” prime minister ever.
Singh had then said, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating. I have not done anything to deserve such epithets. I should be judged not by what Mr LK Advani says but what I do.” If only he could continue with this philosophy in his second tenure as well, he would have undoubtedly led us to prosperity and growth.

However, what still holds is the contribution made by Dr. Manmohan Singh to Indian politics. His policies which helped us survive the 2008 Recession, his liberalization policies, his perseverance during the negotiations of Indo US Civilian Nuclear Agreement, The recent scams might have made people to doubt his integrity but he would still be our man given that nothing substantial has yet been found against him.

The Independent described him as “one of the world’s most revered leaders” and “a man of uncommon decency and grace,” noting that he drives a Maruti 800, one of the humblest cars in the Indian market. Khushwant Singh lauded Singh as the best Prime Minister India has had, even rating him higher than Jawahar Lal Nehru. In 2010, Newsweek magazinerecognized him as a world leader who is respected by other heads of state, describing him as “the leader other leaders love.” The article quoted Mohamed ElBaradei, who remarked that Singh is “the model of what a political leader should be.” Singh is number 18 on the 2010 Forbes list of the world’s most powerful people. Forbes magazine described Singh as being “universally praised as India’s best Prime Minister since Nehru”. Australian journalist Greg Sheridan praised Singh “as one of the greatest statesmen in Asian history.”

With this elections, his political career comes to an end. His rise in the Indian politics can never be disregarded. The government failed us but as an individual, Dr. Manmohan Singh stands tall above his compatriots.