Retired High Court Judge, Justice HN Nagamohan Das headed a commission whose July 2020 report led the government to decide to increase SC/ST reservation in the state. Judge Das sits with DH‘s NB Hombal to discuss the reservation and all matters surrounding it. Excerpts:
What are the main conclusions of your committee on the status of SC/ST?
One of the main findings is the pathetic condition of the nomadic tribes, which needs to improve as they still live in abject poverty. Their level of education is too low compared to other SC/ST communities. The irony is that despite the reserve existing for more than 70 years in the country, only a tiny part of the SC/ST has experienced upward mobility.
What measures has the commission recommended to remedy these shortcomings?
A separate development corporation should be created to empower nomadic, semi-nomadic and primitive tribes. The funds are not lacking. For example: The government has a livestock loan scheme for SC/ST. Sounds great on paper, but it might not work for nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes that are constantly on the move. How can they raise cattle? Where can they sell milk and in which company?
Will the creation of a company be enough?
It is time for governments to think about internal reserves. The government cannot rush into making decisions on this because it needs a detailed study. The government should also set aside at least 10% of the total allocation made under the Scheduled Caste and Tribal Sub-Plan (SCSP-TSP) for the development of educational facilities for SC/ST children. .
What do you think of dominating communities requiring reservations?
Agriculture is in distress. Unemployment increases. Farmers have been caught in a vicious circle of accumulated debt. Many farmers who have not been able to repay their loans have resorted to suicide. Farmers have become economically and socially poor. They are not able to provide good education to their wards. Even if their children are in school, they remain unemployed. This causes frustration among mainstream communities, leading to unrest across the country demanding reservations.
Is there no solution to this problem?
Governments need to revamp the reservation policy itself. Internal booking, creamy layer and promotion booking issues need to be addressed, not piecemeal. So far, governments have taken only ad hoc measures. There is no structured policy in place to categorize caste in the country. Until the government creates job opportunities and guarantees equal pay for equal work, the demands will be there.
Your commission recommended an increase of two percentage points for SC and four for ST. Where will the extra six percentage points come from?
The government will have to draw it from the general quota. The 10% reservation of the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) exclusively for general castes came into effect. The general quota is not reserved only for the dominant castes. This also means that other castes compete in the general category. Therefore, tapping into the general quota will not harm the interests of other castes.
Does the 9 Program guarantee legal protection?
The SC/ST reservation set in 1951 continues even after 70 years. The SC/ST population has increased due to the inclusion of many castes. The educational and employment conditions of these communities are lower than those of the general category. In these circumstances, the increase in quotas will meet constitutional objectives such as social justice, which does not violate fundamental rights. In this context, Annex 9 can protect the increase in reservation.
On reservation, what should be the guiding force: adequate representation or proportional representation?
In this case, it will be an adequate representation. Successive state governments have developed policies based on adequate representation. The government has already issued political reservations based on criteria of “adequate representation”. The allocation of funds in the budgets is done on the basis of the proportion of the population. In addition, the commission has been appointed to provide adequate booking for SC/ST.
Did your commission make any recommendations on the creamy coat?
We believe that the government needs to find out whether SC/ST communities have been freed from the clutches of untouchability and freed from the stigma attached to it. The government must confirm whether these communities have moved from their primitive stage to a higher level of civilization. Moreover, in the name of the creamy layer, the reserve granted to the SC/ST must not become an advantage for the higher castes.