EDITORIAL| After 10% quota, the deluge

It is not surprising that the Gujjar community in Rajasthan has revived its agitation for reservations in jobs and education. The Gujjars have for long demanded and agitated for reservations and the present stir demanding 5% quota is a continuation of past agitations. They have never taken the limitation on reservations or other reasons for an answer to the question why their demand has not been met. Now they have less reason to keep quiet, with the Modi government itself opening the reservation door wider by amending the Constitution and removing the 50% limit on quotas to reserve 10% of jobs and seats in educational institutions for economically weaker sections. Reservation agitations anywhere have hardly been peaceful, and the Gujjar agitations have not been exceptions. This time also, they have lived up to their record, and public and private property and essential services are casualties. 

The immediate triggers for the eruption of Gujjar protests are the approaching Lok Sabha elections and the government’s grant of reservations for economically weaker sections. When elections come, agitations for reservations, and such other demands, cannot be far behind. But the 10% reservation for economically weaker sections has given the demands a stronger rationale and force than ever before. The main argument against granting the various reservation demands was the 50% ceiling imposed by the Supreme Court. The government has now breached the limit with a constitutional amendment. The government knew, and it was warned, that this would open the floodgates of demands. The Gujjar agitation is among the first to hit the streets and tracks, other communities and castes in various parts of the country will make fresh demands or relaunch their agitations. The Andhra Pradesh assembly has already passed a resolution granting 5% reservation for the Kapu community. 

The more powerful and numerous communities will put greater pressure on governments. They will be able to hold the governments at the Centre and in the states to ransom with their demands. They also know that governments will be most vulnerable before the elections, and so will choose to strike at those times, increasing the level of violence and causing greater disruption of life. The more powerful communities will have an advantage, and in a no-holds-barred struggle for survival, they will hope to gain from what may be termed an unnatural selection by reservation. The situation will lead to ever increasing demands, greater social and political strife and an upsetting of the constitutional scheme of reservations. The Supreme Court should urgently take up the issue of reservations and strike down the constitutional amendment. Otherwise, it will have a long-term adverse impact on the administration, economy and society.  

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