April 27, 2006

Quotas - an idea whose time has gone

Youth power - resisting injustice

Voice of sanity and sense
Kapil Sibal

Making others cry -
Arjun Singh

Mr. Arjun Singh, a life-long practitioner of fake secularism has been lately seeing himself in the role of the self-styled messiah of the minorities and OBCs.

In his desperate attempt to remain in the limelight in the face of an ebbing and lackluster political career and with fear of being consigned to oblivion by his own party, he is trying to play base politics that may well result in ensuring that the country is never rid of caste and religion based thinking and in dividing up the 'generation next' of the country.

In pushing for reservations for OBCs in higher education that will have far reaching repercussions on the country in the years to come, he is trying to fool the people by claiming that the government is duty bound to do so in terms of the mandate of the 93rd Amendment to the Constitution. This is a patently mala fide misrepresentation and a bogus argument. The 93rd Amendment simply makes an enabling provision that allows the Government to make special provisions for socially or economically backward classes of citizens related to admission to educational institutions. To buttress his argument, he is making much of the fact that the amendment was supported by all political parties. Even if that were so, the amendment DOES NOT PLACE ANY COMPULSION on the Government that it must impose the quota raj that is being proposed. For that matter, the amendment does not even say that the special provisions that the government is enabled to make must be in the form of reservations and quotas. (Read the actual Amendment Act).

It must be realised that it is the young generation of this country that is going to build its future. The V.P. Singhs and Arjuns Singhs who try to push for such reservations for petty career gains or politics of the vote bank are not going to be around to be accountable for their acts when the adverse impacts of such divisive policies become evident.

It is indeed heartening to note that the young generation has rightly come out to oppose the proposed reservations policy. From the interviews in the visual media with many of the young students, it is clear that there is strong logic, clarity and the courage of convictions behind their opposition. On the other hand, some of the advocates of such reservations have been seen and heard proposing palpably unintelligent and even laughable arguments. For example, one of the justifications proposed by a lady professor of a university in Delhi on a discussion on TV was to the effect that in any case there were thousands of applicants even with merit whereas the seats were not enough. Ipso facto, reservations would not matter, she seemed to imply. Another advocate for the quota said that there were students who had studied in schools where there was only one teacher. Therefore, such students needed reservations. Can any government that takes decisions influencd by such arguments be considered fit to govern in 21st Century India?

It is unfortunate that students who wanted to meet Arjun Singh and seek his explanations were stopped and manhandled. Arjun Singh, the politician that he is, shed glycerine tears saying "I was pained...that the students were not allowed to see me". Not allowed by whom?? Realising the mood the students, when he did meet them, he deftly took refuge under the Election Commission query to the Government on his earlier announcement and also sought to deflect his own responsibility by saying that he would speak to the Prime Minister!! At the same time, it is reasonably certain that wheels would have been already set in motion to identify the leaders of the struggle and divide or isolate them in ways that the politicians know best. If nothing else, Arjun Singh is a past master in handling opposition and dissent. He knows very well how to take the wind out of opposition and the same fate may await the well intentioned but politically naive students.

On the other hand, Kapil Sibal, who understands the Constitution as well as anyone else, who is the Science & Technology Minister and understands his own reponsibilities, publicly gave words to his thoughts that he does not favour any actions "that would dilute the levels of excellence". The country needs more such politicians who do not simply go by the caste and religion based vote bank games that the old school politicians have been practicing and continue to practice. The people also need to show the door to those politicians whose time has gone, and keep them from doing more harm to the social fabric of the country.

More power to those who speak their mind against divisive policies and more power to the young generation to maintain clarity of their objectives and bring their present struggle to a conclusion that will strengthen the country in the future, not weaken it.