TODAY -

Who is Responsible?
- Part 1 -

Mohen Naorem *

With high hopes and determined to achieve their unfeasible demands, tribal students of Manipur have united themselves while they were being carried to nearby Police station, for ransacking the campus and destroying the vehicles of professors on October 6, 2008, with gospel song on their lips: "We shall overcome."

Their protests were part of demands to increase the reservation of job quota in the Manipur University. They observed 36 hours general strikes on October 6, 2008 to raise the present 7.5 per cent quota for Schedule Tribes upto 34.2 per cent, which is around five times increase. As per the University Grant Commission (UGC) guidelines and the Supreme Court ruling, Central Universities like the Manipur University should reserve 15 per cent for Schedule Castes, 7.5 per cent for Schedule Tribes and 27 per cent for Other Backward Classes.

Further in continuation of the movement, these students left the MU hostels, assuring themselves that they would not come back until their demand for a higher job quota was fulfilled. The president of Manipur University Tribal Students' Union (MUTSU), Sonthang Haokip was reported to have said, "We will intensify the agitation. If our demand is not fulfilled, we may resume our agitations for a separate university in the hills for tribal students."

It is the Central Government decision to review the reservation quota. No one can take decision on such issues lightly and under pressure. How will this agitation end? Who is responsible? Is it the fault of policy makers of the Indian Constitution who started the very idea of reservation? Or those educated and economically sound people from lower castes who are getting the benefits? It will be an inadvisable step to promote such reservation issues.

Arun Shourie, noted author and former disinvestment minister has pointed out that the grave implications of the implementation of the recommendation is not only that henceforth "half of the government job would be handed out on the basis of the castes" which the Constitution does not approve but also that the jobs would be handed out to those " who by definition are not qualified to man them."

In 1963, there was an incident where the Supreme Court has ruled out reservations system. In M R Balaji versus State of Mysore case where 68 per cent of the seats were reserved for admission to technical institutions, the Supreme Court held this order to be a fraud on the Constitutional power conferred on the state. Another case was with the Aligarh Muslim University for reserving 50 per cent quota for Muslims, which the Supreme Court ruled out.

Various tribal students' body were gathered at the Tribal Research Institute in Imphal resolving that no further interviews, be in contract or part-time should be conducted until an amicable solution was brought about.

Idea for a separate tribal university sounds good. However, the question is how much reservation quotas the new university will follow and how much time will it take to establish in the state. May be 5 years or 10 years! Are these protestors willing to stop their studies in the Manipur University till that time? And will they not allow other tribal students in the next coming years to get admission too. Suppose if the verdict fails to satisfy the agitators, what will be the fate of 500 odd tribal students of MU? Who will be responsible then?

Tribal University does not mean cent per cent opportunities will be for the tribal community. The Indian Constitution did not allow such institute to exist in the country. Even the Muslim Aligarh University, thought to be the minority class universities have to follow the UGC norms and abide by the Constitution.

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the founder of Aligarh Muslim University proudly said, "I shall feel sorry if anybody thinks that Aligarh Muslim University has been established so as to show discrimination between Hindus and Muslims... All rights of the college appertaining to those who call themselves Muslims are equally related to those who call themselves Hindus without any reservations...." Will such ideology be with the tribal leaders for a united India?

Article 30 (1) of the Constitution allows minorities to establish and administer their own educational institutions. But the tribals of Manipur are not a minority group. They are one of the majority communities in the state. Article 29 (2) of the Constitution forbids discrimination on the basis of race, caste, religion or gender.

The Supreme Court has interpreted this thus: "Denying admission, even though seats are available on the ground of the applicant's religion, race, caste or language, is prohibited; but preferring students of minority groups does not violate Article 29(2)."

If we go in for reservations on communal and caste basis, we are swamping the bright and able people. It is our duty to help the backward groups by all means, but never at the cost of efficiency. Select the best, we don't need second class people that comes from quota system.

Even though Article 16(4) allows reservation in posts, it is inappropriate to consider reservations of jobs for ST as natural and logical extension of it. We cannot go beyond the allotted 7.5 per cent quota in any Central Universities in India. The reservation of jobs for the ST and SC was initially valid only for 10 years, which is up to 1959. But it was extended for another 10 years. Since then extension have become a matter of routine.

Reservation weakens the notion of democratic citizenship by evaluating a person not on the basis of their merits or achievements or personal characteristics, but rather on the basis of accident by birth.

Reservation on the basis of caste is a wrong step; it should take account of the economic status as criterion. There are lots of officers from the Schedule Tribes category in Manipur, who do not require any such reservations due to their socio-economic status. However, they keep on enjoying the special provisions given to their groups.

It is not surprising to know that these officers are far better than the poor yet, unreserved people. There are some civil servant officers, whose sons, daughters and even daughter-in-laws are in civil services jobs. Is it right for our Constitution to give special care to such lower castes still?

And what about the so-called upper castes like the Hindus in the state who are economically backward? A status-cum-means eligibility to ensure that the benefits accrued only to those sections that really deserves them. The quantum of reservation should be progressively sealed down with improvement in the economic status of a particular community- be it the Tribals, the Hindus or the Muslims of Manipur.

to be continued.....

Related Article on Reservation:




* Mohen Naorem, Editor - The Manipur Times, writes to e-pao.net regularly. This article was also published at Imphal Free Press. The writer can be contacted at themanipurtimes(at)gmail(dot)com . This article was webcasted on November 02, 2008.

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