Fooling oppressed classes


Bahujan Samajwadi Party chief Mayawati’s allegations that the BJP was trying to erode the institution of reservation are not quite off the mark, especially when the BJP government has shown an excessively disproportionate tilt towards promoting the interests of the capitalists and big business houses, which is eventually encroaching on the rights of the socially and economically oppressed. A slew of bills that are being brought up in the ongoing parliamentary session and the much touted economic reforms are aimed to boost up the private sector and obviously this will have deleterious effects on the budgetary provisions for the social welfare schemes aimed to ameliorate poverty and social oppression. As it is, the interim budget of the BJP government has spelt out nothing significant for these socially oppressed classes. It is also no hidden secret that BJP has for years been a staunch critic of the Mandal Commission recommendations onreservations because of the interests of the upper classes and the economic elite that it pursues.

During the ongoing Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections, the party’s rhetoric on complete integration with India, for a variety of stated reasons including the question of reservations, brings to sharp focus the double standards of the party on the issue ofreservations. In pursuit of its new social engineering project with inclusion of marginalised sections, it has been trying to pander to the interests of the socially oppressed classes within Jammu and Kashmir and raising the bogey of Article 370 as an obstruction to thereservations provided for by the Mandal Commission recommendations. The special status of the state makes it imperative for the state government to endorse the central acts or draft similar legislations in the state if similar benefits have to be extended to Jammu and Kashmir. The successive state governments have indeed not followed the Mandal recommendations on reservations but to state the Article 370 as a hindrance for giving the oppressed classes their due share would be erroneous without looking into the state’s own structure ofreservations. 

Jammu and Kashmir’s reservation structure infact remains a model for rest of the country in many ways. This is perhaps the only state where the reservation benefits are enjoyed not only in the domains of educations and jobs but also in political sphere with several assembly segments being reserved constituencies. The state already has a reservation structure which goes beyond the national average of 22 percent. The schedules castes enjoy 15 percent reservation, scheduled tribes, 7 and half percent and other backward classes and people from backward and border areas enjoy a total of more than 12 percent reservation. There may indeed be a huge gap between thereservation policy initiative and its implementation, marred by bureaucratic wrangling, favouritism and the phenomenon of benefitting the creamy layer. The government has created several Boards and Societies in the name of welfare of the socially and economically deprived but these are either defunct and rendered purposeless or have become platforms where some retired or politically redundant elements can be rehabilitated.

However, this is also a story elsewhere in the country and there is still a long march ahead towards bridging the divide between various sections of the society and making the dream of an egalitarian society true. The reservation structures have not been ideally implemented anywhere and the education system or the political structures has not been able to change regressive mindsets and demolish these divisions that exist in the minds. However, by any standards, Jammu and Kashmir’s marginalized sections fare much better than their counterparts in rest of the country and this is not despite the Article 370 but perhaps, because of it. Needless to point out that it was in the early 1950s when Article 370 was existing in its undiluted original form that the oppressed and marginalized sections of the society in this state enjoyed the maximum empowerment through the landmark land reforms and loan waiver reforms that the state government brought in because it had the autonomous powers to bring in such legislations.