May 19, 2006

Arjun Singh's Quota of Woes

see previous article

Quota Raj shall prevail

It is sad that in the largest “democracy” in the world, the Government of the country has to resort to playing games in order to deal with those who protest in a democratic manner against its backward looking approaches to resolving serious social issues.

As the legitimate protests against the Government’s proposed policy for special quotas for OBC get more intense, ministers in the Government and the politicians supporting such quotas for their own political ends are using all manner of tricks, subterfuge and other means, to divide, weaken and ultimately crush dissent.

In the last couple of days, the Government has been going through the motions of a mock “dialogue” with the protesting students and resident doctors but it is clear to everyone with a minimum of intellect that the sole purpose of such talks is to somehow see that the protests are subdued and stopped.

The actors in this drama being played by the Government and the political parties are many, but the pride of place at this point of time must surely be given to Arjun Singh.

He has played a pivotal role in the present controversy reaching such serious proportions and the manner in which he has acted ever since early April deserves to be recalled to appreciate the mischief and damage he has managed to do.

On the 5th of April, he let it be known that the Govt. would be announcing its decision on quotas for OBC after the elections as the same could not be announced while the elections were going to take place. Whether he actually said those words and the precise grammatical meaning of what he said is a matter of quibbling, which he has already done with the Election Commission after the latter called for an explanation. But to all those who read the news reports, he was not talking of an intention of his party or the Government but of an impending announcement of a decision. He was effectively making an unofficial announcement and saying that the formality would be completed after the election due to technicalities. That was what was understood. What he said was clearly an attempt to influence the voters (even though a little late in the day). Whether he said this at the behest of his boss or, for some reason of its own, is unclear.

In fact, before Singh spoke, the HRM Draft Bill was already sent back by the Cabinet Secretary in view of the forthcoming elections. This then, was the starting point of the mischief.

Then, when the students started agitations and wanted to meet him, he did not meet them. When he did meet, he took cover under E.C. directive and also talked of speaking to the Prime Minister.

All along in this series of events, he has maintained that the government was duty bound by the Constitution to introduce the quota. This was clearly a deliberate falsehood to mislead not only the agitating students but also the whole country. The Constitutional amendment is only an enabling amendment consequent upon the Supreme Court decision in P.A.Inamdar & Ors. v. State of Maharashtra & Ors., delivered on 12th August 2005. (
see here ). In fact, it is the Supreme Court which has suggested the Union or the State Governments to come out with ‘a detailed well thought out legislation’.

The 93rd Amendment merely states that the Government can make “any special provisions by law for the advancement of socially or economically backward classes” or SC/ST as regards admissions to educational institutions. (see the actual Act). It DOES NOT say that government must make such special provisions nor does it prescribe any time limit. “Special provisions” do not mean only reservations and quotas, except in the mind of a non-thinking Government with no vision. Furthermore, it is clear that in spite of the 93rd Amendment allowing the Govt. to make special provisions, any law that may be made will still be subject to judicial scrutiny in future.

A Union Minister who would complete 50 years of political life next year cannot be so ignorant as to say that government is mandated by the Constitution to introduce the quotas. The conclusion is clear that what is being said by him is to mislead. He actually said in a statement once again on the 18th May, knowing full well that it was not a correct representation :

"the Central Government is aware of all views expressed in this regard and shall take an appropriate decision on this issue without in anyway diluting the commitment arising out of the Constitutional Amendment in Article 15 (5)."

Not satisfied, he used the same point while launching a totally unwarranted and undignified attack on the National Knowledge Commission. With due respect to Arjun Singh’s long political life, it can be said that each of the members of the Knowledge Commission carry a lot of respect and are fully qualified to say what they have said with regard to education. In fact, its Statement on Reservations appears to be a well articulated and at the same time a restrained statement and contains nothing that should anger Arjun Singh, except for the fact that it makes public the views of its members. (
read here). Furthermore, the Commission is very well within its rights to have its say on the subject. Its very first Term of Reference is:

Build excellence in the educational system to meet the knowledge challenges of the 21st century and increase India’s competitive advantage in fields of knowledge.

It is the duty and the responsibility of the Human Resource Ministry to respect and give due weight to the views of this body that has been given the task of building excellence in the educational system of India of the 21st Century – a task for which the older generation is simply not well placed to have a concept let alone a vision. Instead, Arjun Singh made various calumnious comments questioning whether they (NKC) were above the Constitution and even mischievously suggesting that they were wanting to thwart the will of the Parliament, that would depict the NKC in a confrontational role.

This tirade by a Senior Government Minister questioning another empowered body of his own Government was absolutely unseemly and deserves to be dismissed with sheer contempt.

Arjun Singh’s latest statements also deserve to be noted to understand how he is consistently tying himself into knots in trying to do a balancing act. He stated in the Parliament that Government was not working with a closed mind but will fulfil its commitment on quotas. Not having a ‘closed mind’ is completely false. This is evident from the fact that the Draft Bill was ready and already forwarded by him to the Cabinet Secretariat perhaps in the end of March 2006 to be placed in the Cabinet for approval. This in itself is evidence of the Government – not he alone – scurrying surreptitiously in a completely non-transparent and non-democratic way to push through its policy as law without allowing a public debate on such a fundamental and sensitive issue. It shows that the Government had indeed closed its mind.

What is more important and shocking is that contrary to the Supreme Court’s exhortation of bringing out a ‘well thought out legislation', not much thought seems to have gone into the proposal. The manner in which the matter has been finalised is an indication that the Government, in particular the HR Ministry, has not done its home work at all. When such a major decision having far reaching implications for the country is to be taken, it would be expected of the government to prepare and present before the public a strong case with full justification, facts and figures, a review of past approaches, actions and results, the vision for the future, the options available and considered and finally a convincing case for the option that is chosen. NOTHING OF THAT SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN DONE. The Government seems not to have even bothered to consult beforehand, the Knowledge Commission, whose terms of reference place a focus on education, and whose inputs would be essential and invaluable in the context of the needs of the 21st Century. The only justification the Ministry and Government seem to have, is political need and expedincy as well as the opportunity arising after the Supreme Court judgement. This brings out an almost scandalous state of affairs prevailing in decision making within the government. Truly a sad commentary on a country preparing for the 21st Century.

Further proof of the closed mind of the Government is the fact that what the other auxiliary corps of ministers like Fernandes, Mukherjee, Ramadoss and Chidambaram are trying, is simply to get the students to end their agitation. Every one of the minsters concerned continues with the quota swansong. Palliatives being offered e.g. to increase seats, to ‘consider’ providing more finance etc. are just an eyewash and worth trash, first because they detract from the basic objections to reservations and second because their objective is simply to coax the students to give up. The democratic government of India thinks nothing of even serving sack notices or blowing lathis on demonstrating medicos (although they are expected to brave these for their cause) whose very careers and future are at stake. They are indeed not fighting only for themselves but also for other youngsters who will have to face the same situation in future.

The government in a co-ordinated effort is also out to discredit the media for ‘blowing things out of proportion’ - an exercise of trying to shoot the messenger. At the same time, a section of the media has reported that the government was trying to "mollify upper classes", an invidious hint to put the colours of a casteist approach on the part of the protestors. In fact, the protestors are doing exactly the opposite by wanting to maintain merit-based criteria. There is also innuendo of some political parties working behind the scenes!

Arjun Singh has led an early charge of the brigade without preparations and without a sound plan except one of ramming through, come what may. Now, with the pressures of vote-bank politics and with other political parties who see themselves as saviors of the OBCs breathing down its neck, the Government, it seems, will stop at nothing to push and rush through its quota policy, howsoever ham-handed it may have to become.


Dipak Singh said...

Why pick on Arjun Singh. He is just carrying out orders. It is as you say yourself of the media - dont shoot the messenger.

I think at this point in his career he is not likely to do anything brave. He must be goaded by others.

Sudeep Chawla said...

I agree with Dipak.

I actually pity the guy who is at the fag end of his political career.

Let him have his say for the time that he is going to be there in Government.

Let him also remembered in the future as the Weepy (VP) Singh of the 21st Century.

Meshram said...

Arjun Singh is only taking an opportunity.

The real people that need to be tackled are the die hard upper caste baiters who are convinced that the problems of the underprivileged are because of upper castes - although this is a bogus myth perpetuated to achieve their own ends.

Salim Mohd. said...

Arjun Singh is the fall guy.

The real cuplrits are his own party, the Yadavs, Pawar, DMK, PMK, the Leftists, all those who comprise of the UPA alliance.

Why dont they talk of Muslims?????

Not to forget NDA which cannot decide which way to go. They too are indirectly to blame.

Dr. S. Kamath said...

I feel that it is not important who is to blame. The very principle of what Govt. wants to do is absolutely wrong and the PEOPLE WILL BE TO BLAME if they do not hold the politicians accountable for the ill-conceived policies they bring.

drpeds said...

is this the world of 21st century in India?
I ask Mr Arjun singh,
that will he go to a doctor when he knows the doctor is from reserved category and is not passed by his merit?

Will he give his life into somebody's hands who isnt intellectual enough to handle the life efficiently?

what kind of Indian breed are we creating by travelling backwards?

Dr. Sudeep Singh said...

drpeds has raised a pertinent issue. Equally important, perhaps more so, is the question:

Why should you in the first place give preferential treatment for entry to a specified group of people over:
1) those who have more merit, thus actually depriving those better merited of entry
2) those who are simlarly placed as this preferred group of people but do not fall under the arbitrary label of OBCs as fixed by the govt.

What you are indirectly doing is saying that those falling in this specified group actually deserve more than those with full merit. i.e. they are placed on the highest footing.

Readers should send their urgent protests to Human Resource Minister, Govt. of India, at:

email address:

Murtuza said...

Compliments to drpeds for his point.

And why should there be reservation at all, even at MBBS level or any other levels after high school in any faculty?

If govt. feels that some people deserve special treatment for getting more votes, they should be given such special treatment by giving them free schooling, free breakfast, lunch and dinner, free clothes, free pick up and drop service to and from the school etc.

If they still insist on their policy, also give reservations to underprivileged minorities.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Ability grows by education not by reservation so reservation must end. All able persons are leaving India because India has no value of ability. India is going to be centre of unable persons. and USA is progeressing because all able persons are coming here.

Sheela Sinha

Anonymous said...

Majority of persons are suffering by the reservation ,but politicians fear that without reservation they will lose their seats but it is not true.Be brave and once try to win the post without giving bribe. All will succeed.

Sheela Sinha

Anonymous said...

Please stop the politics of vote bank by reservation. Sheela Sinha

amalh said...

Arising from the quota issue it appears that many Doctors, Engineers and other professionals are feeling that their voice is not being heard sufficiently by the present political leadership. When this happens protests and strikes are not the only way to get an opinion heard. If an important and sizeable section of population feels that their interests are not being catered to fully in a democratic set up, perhaps the only viable option is to form their own political party. The professional section of population has by and large stayed out of the political process in India. It was not so when the process started during British times. Now they have no one to blame, if they feel they are not being heard.

Doctors, Engineers, Lawyers, Chartered accountants, experts (Professors and others with Ph.D.), Journalists,MBAs, Industrialists (of pvt. Ltd. Companies) NRIs and professional students (for student wing) should then be the only persons allowed to Join the new party if it is to make a difference. Some existing politicians would qualify to join if they wish to. Such a party will be elitist no doubt, but it can win elections, if people see hope of progress and prosperity in this new Professional Party of India. Many are unhappy with the present lot. Person such as Karan Thapar or Ratan Tata would be the right persons to initiate such a party.

Rooting out corruption and casteism should be a priority for this new party and focusing first on basics like electricity, water, roads and timely justice in courts, should be the focus, rather than a million other issues, while innumerable citizens thirst for healthy drinking water during their waking hours and timely justice in courts is not even a dream during their sleeping ones. It is not so in most other civilized countries of the world.
more in my blog at

Manisha said...

Amazing you have been able to predict how the issue is going to go. Looks like you are involved in Govt.workings.

Dr. Abhi Swaroop said...

This govt. is proving to be the successor to the British Empire which was praised by the present PM when he visited Oxford.

Anonymous said...

the muslims were the first to ask for quota's ,when the muslim league asked the british to reserve special seats in elections for the muslim candidates , the english obliged(divide and rule)
now the UPA wants to divide the country remember u divide people ,u divide country pakistan is a traumatic example ,when idiot terrorists cant be handled by indians i worry what will happen if some intelligent guys when kicked out of the society because of quots raj turn to become terrorists can do....

vasu said...


just giving a different perspective.

To the last anon. Even before muslims asked for a Electoral reservation also called elctoral colleges for themselves prior to independance, Dalits under Ambedkar had the same option and were planning to go for that. It was the Govt. of India Act, 1935.

The Indian national congress (which represented all sections of society and was a pan inia movement. Not to be confused eith the congress party) led by Gandhi and supported by Nehru, Patel persuaded Ambedkar to ambandon the line of electoral reservation (electoral colleges) which meant dalits will vote only for dalit representatives similar to what muslims had then.

In return they promised reservation in all government jobs, representation in parliament. India made a deal with Ambedkar on reservation issue. Ambedkar negotiated for inclusion of OBCs in this deal and the reservation policy is nothing but honouring this deal. Popularly called Yeravada pact, Gandhi had fasted unto death to preserve the unity of India. The muslims rejected this and the Muslim league got its first breath of fresh air during the elections. Muslim league till then was practically non-existent and this elctoral reservation law was the foundation for creation of Pakistan. Muslim league gained solid ground and Jinnah returned from England to lead the muslim league party. Based on this electoral reservation Muslim league demanded creation of Pakistan as a muslim homeland. We should remember that the same could have happened for Dalits.

Had Ambedkar not buckled under Gandhi's satyagraha and done a muslim league. We might have had not one partition but two partitions. Dalits would have had a dalitistan. Lets not forget that the population of dalits was as much as that of muslims prior to independance.

Very similar to whats happening in Iraq today would have happened then.

That was prevented by the deal struck by INC with Ambedkar. INC's side of the deal is reservation. Ambedkar single handedly saved India from if not centuries but decades of civil strife, anarchy and ultimately death.

The promised reservations had not been implemented for quiet a long time and the OBC and dalit communities have been fighting hard for their share of of the yeravada pact.

Mandal comission was saying nothing new but reminding the nation of the promises made to the OBCs and dalits by it prior to independance.

Mandal comission episode itself meant little in concrete gains for the oppressed classes because all that the government did was accept the comission's findings and table it in the parliament. Yet it opened up the debate in the politcal relm. Meanwhile
no concrete action was taken on the report because of agitation by uppercaste, the self immolation of Goswami, SC's intervention on the whole issue.

It depended on the political will off the government to ammend the constitution and make reservation out of perview of judiciary.

The congress under Rajiv, Rao and the BJP under Vajpayee successfully hatched eggs for 15 years. While the uppercastes prospered and India achieved 8% growth majority of India had been given a raw deal. What is legitimately there's was robbed. The uppercaste lobby in beureucracy, industry and politics conspired.

One of the reasons why today's india is such a contradiction of poverty and grandeur. A whole generation of OBCs were pulling the proverbial yoke, cleaning the proverbial dirt (of the society) while the uppercastes migrated west, became rich and formed the engine of growth of new india. The spread of wealth never penetrated the top 20-30 % at most. All this was also a factor of which caste you belonged to.

However this situation was not universal. Some states took the lead by themselves and went ahead with implementation of the mandal comission (e.g. TN, Kar, AP, Mah, Guj). Despite the supreme court verdict the political will prevailed because the OBCs, SC/STs had political freedom to fight their cause. The SC even recogonised the legitimacy of reservation by fixing a ceiling of 50% instead of 22.5%. We should ask why did SC accept 50% ?

Though the realities of tamil nadu meant more was required and hence the 69% reservation brought in by MGR in 1980 (much before mandal). TN was the first state to include that bill within the 9th schedule of the constitution and thus beyond the SC's perview.

South India has therefore implemented the full scope of the deal India made with Ambedkar much before north India had.

The current constitutional ammendment is the culmination of the political debate and start of the action. All political parties have unanimously supported the bill and the implementation of the bill as spoken by Arjun singh is carried by all political parties.

How come congress which sat on this bill for 7 years suddenly woke up ? Answer is the age of coalitions. The coalition structure in this government makes it more unstable than the one ruled by vajpayee. Obviously the smaller parties like DMK, Left and RJD which are closer to the people are finding their voices heard in the center. After 20 long years.

For once the politicians are implementing their electoral promises.

Its been a long wait for the OBCs. Had Ambedkar been a jinnah and not given up on the elctoral colleges, we would have had a three way split of India. Pakistan, India and Dalitistan.

Ambedkar being a learned man and a giant in his own stature had felt that Gandhi and Indian national congress were genuine and sinciere about its itnentions of changing the course of centuries of oppression.

Gandhi died and so did patel. Nehru the shrewd politician did not live upto the deal. Infact he even sidestepped Gandhi's advise of disbanding Indian national congress. And for the next 30 years, we were lost in political machanisation plauging new India. A nation's obsession with the nehru-gandhi family distracted us from the real task at hand.

I think its only fair to implement what was politically agreed upon.

Isnt it ?

sobhag chand said...

vasu has a different perspective and he has taken pains to put forth his views.

however, the plain fact is that quotas and reservations reflect an old mindset that is anachronistic now.

Things have changed and if the nation has to survive, it has to think on different lines, not simply quotas and reservations.

that's old hat. new solutions have to be found. after all all 1.1 billion people cannot be made equal howsoever we may like

Vasu the terrible said...

reservation is a must. If we need to have opportunities for all, lets create that many higher education seats ? Why artificially restrict the number of doctors coming out into the society.

Let patients chose who to go to and who not to go to ?

isnt that simple ?


s.chand said...

vasu it has nothing to do with where patients want to go. it is the concept of it thats not with the times. we need people who do not have this infreiorirty complex and fixation that they are inferior and deserve quotas for it.

s.chand said...

vasu i think you are not getting the point. the issue is not about patients seeing this doctor or that.,

it is the very concept of quota that is wrong. this arises from an inferiority complex whereby some ppl THINK they are inferior and therefoe they must be given quota.

except with the politicians who want to divide and rule and those sections that want to be ruled in this manner, everyone else believes that quota is wrong.

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Manzoor Aga said...

The comments of india-awake made exactly a year ago were so right!

Now the Govt. and the parties involved in supporting it are competing to identify other classes including minorities to grant reservations. They just want to keep fooling them with such sops.

Kiske Baap ki Diwali!