Agreed, justice was done, but was Justice really done?

Agreed, Justice has been done unto all involved in the 66 crores disproportionate assets case of Sasikala and company. She sits in jail along with a couple of others. But has justice really been done in liew to what was accumulated beyond the 66 crores after 1997?

The disproportionate assets case was filed in 1997, after a clearance was given by the then Governor, Shri Marri Channa Reddy garu. The trial of the case ran in Tamil Nadu until 2003, when an application was made to Supreme Court that the trial in Tamil Nadu was being influenced and so case be transferred to Karnataka. On Supreme Courts orders, Trial in Karnataka began in 2003 until 2014, when the judgement convicting her was pronounced, later struck down by Karnataka High Court, when the learned judge used all his mathematical wizardry and declared that the percentage disproportion did not exceed 10%, so Jayalalitha and her associated accused were ‘Not guilty’! A review petition filed by the Karnataka government in the Supreme Court was heard finally and decided against her, last week, by a bench of the highest Court. Essentially 20 years. Proved to be a lifetime for Jayalalitha.

It is not my intention to question the integrity of the trial court or Supreme Courts judges who have shown integrity. They have shown this in plenty and in an exemplary manner. This one particular case shows there are still honest individuals in the country. But it still leaves scope to questions; why did it have to take twenty years in a trial court specially instituted for this purpose? During these 20 years, of 76 important witnesses, 64 witnesses changed statements and confessions. But fortunately, they could not change the final outcome.

But, in these 20 years, Ms Jayalalitha came back as chief minister quite a few times. And did the fact that trials were going on against her, deter her from doing anything negative? In 2001, even as the Disproportionate assets case was being heard, Jayalalitha was involved in some criminal cases and disqualified to contest. Her party won an absolute majority, and elected her leader but could not become a chief Minister because Supreme Court disqualified her and hand to over reins to OPS.

What I am trying to point out is that some people, especially politicians accustomed to such activities, neither feel embarrassed not hesitate to again indulge in corruption, jail or no jail. We are talking of a case of 66 crores in trial against her, but just imagine how many times of 66 crores Jayalalitha must have made in the last twenty years, when the trial was going on, but she still became a CM during that time? Must have been another hundreds of crores during this period. Not guilty until proved and to prove guilty it took 20 years.

By the time proved, she completed her lifetime innings and departed. No accountability would be done for the last 20 years. Even Chinamma does not need to account for the huge money she earned during these 20 years trial went on. Now both Jayalalitha’s as well as her share are Chinamma’s. Whether she enjoys it or not is another matter. If not her, her family will enjoy the ill-gotten. But if the trial was completed and judgement given in a couple of years, hundreds of crores of tax payer’s money would have been saved. Though I will not vouchsafe that it would not have gone to the other political party, because they have proved no less corrupt!

It’s been a while since I first donned the white coat as a doctor in 1983. In the medical world, this is basically to make oneself identifiable to patients and also to convey the importance of hygiene in our profession. When I stepped into politics in 2008 as a Praja Rajyam Party member, the love affair with white continued, albeit in a different sense. The white khadi kurta which is synonymous with Indian politics has had its fair share of jokes. And politicians have only themselves to blame. Indian voters believe, and often rightly so, that a khadi kurta is a pass for ‘saath khoon maaf’.

A childhood memory that lingers is one of sitting in my father’s office chair behind which hung a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi. A wall lizard, which had taken up residence there, would periodically stray outside its domain to grab an insect. Having gulped down its snack, the lizard would scurry back behind the great man’s frame. This is perhaps what politicians do regularly, they feed on votes and then go back to breaking the trust of voters. Just like the lizard at home, they too find shelter behind a Mahatma or B R Ambedkar.

I have done my fair share of garlanding of Ambedkar statues and it still rattles me that Amdebkar’s philosophy is mostly see as a ruse for vote-bank politics. Bheemrao Ambedkar is revered as much for his contribution to a universally valued Constitution as for his dreams for the betterment of the underprivileged. But mostly, these dreams have been cast aside by political parties in their scramble to appropriate Ambedkarism.

Indian history has proven that Development and vote-bank politics seldom go hand-in-hand. In fact, they seem opposite to each other. (Dr Vinay, can you cite some examples of States such as UP where it has not worked… Even in Telangana, which has a large number of BCs and minorities, an upper caste Chief Minister ropes in Dalits with a promise of 3-acre land scheme but it remains a pipedream).

Literate people might make an effort to acquaint themselves with party policies, ideologies and read the list of contestants before casting their vote. An illiterate or undereducated voter mostly goes by the party symbol and things he or she has heard about the party. This might be one reason why in India, we attribute so much importance to a party symbol.

Ambedkar had opined that the reservations he was proposing should have a time-frame. He had envisaged that during this period, with the help of reservations, there would be a significant social as well as economic development in the lives of the under-privileged who would not need them later on. But rather than implementing such dreams of Ambedkar in their true spirit, reservations have been used towards building up vote-banks.

For instance, there were around 70-odd Backward Class communities in the 1970s, all classified as socially backward. Ambedkar would have wanted successive governments to make clinical assessments of the development made by these communities over the decades. In 2006, under the YS Rajasekhara Reddy government, the number of Backward Communities in united Andhra Pradesh were doubled to around 140. What sort of progress did the previous 70 communities make over six decades, either with governmental or political help? None, seems to be the sad answer.

So in what way are you guaranteeing that the freshly added 70 communities would make any progress other than having a BC label. The politician’s mind is evidently on a different track. It is to say, “Listen, I am bringing you under the Backward Category. From now on, understand that all of you 70 communities should become my vote-bank for the favour I have bestowed upon you!”

In my alma mater – The Hyderabad Public School, there are seats earmarked for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, with rooms being provided to them in the school hostel. A common complaint heard is that the school’s standard gets affected by these allotments, since these students fare poorly at studies. Instead of smirking at such students, a deeper analysis is perhaps required. I was born to highly educated parents.

My father, a highly regarded lawyer, was always buried neck deep in his law books. Similarly, my mother would have a book in her hand in her spare time. Thereby, it was inculcated subconsciously in me that my future lay in doing well academically. On the other hand, if the boy allotted under reservation is the child of parents who are labourers, then he believes that that studies are transient and that he will soon be toiling manually like his parents. When such a boy is trans-located into a highly academic zone, it is only natural that he feels lost. While he might go through the motions of studies and classroom activities, homework would certainly not be a priority.

On the other hand, my son was woken up at an early hour by one of us, made to sit and read. If he had doubts, one of his parents was there to help. After school and an allotted time of play, a tuition teacher would take him through the next couple of hours. How could a child allotted a seat under a quota get similar benefits and compete with the likes of my son? Therefore, a responsible, socially-oriented school or government should oversee that the true benefits of admitting him in the HPS accrue to him. The seed of academic interest should be implanted in his mind through counselling.

Teachers should be given the responsibility by turn to ensure that children are able to study by themselves. Special classes should be organised for all of them in the evening during after recreation hours. Many such children are keen at sports. If so, then every attempt ought to be made to propel them in the right direction.

But then, the purpose of the powers that be is not how the students are faring in their studies. Their purpose is again creating vote-banks for themselves by such allotments. Another similar motive is through three acres of land to the Schedule Castes in Telangana, that is being promised by the present TRS government.

If at all such an allotment is implemented, then it is purely again to make these sections as vote-banks. And over a period of time, if a person benefited by the scheme sells that land, there will be a loud murmur heard; “Why should lands be allotted for these people if they are going to be sold?”

Ambedkar envisaged reservations, allocation of seats to the poor in good schools, allotment of lands for the development of the allottees. Not to make them vote-banks. There is a huge difference between Ambedkar’s thought process and the present day politician’s thought process.

Similarly, has anyone studied if Dalits who have been allotted land have the wherewithal to do anything with it? Do they have financial resources or the knowledge? In the absence of either, they would in all likelihood keep the land for a couple of years and eventually sell it. The TRS government must make arrangements for allottees to benefit from its land largesse. If it is an agricultural land, then the soil must be tested scientifically to gather what could be grown there.

All further necessary support to help the person to develop it by way of seeds, fertilizers, water, electricity ought to be extended so that the real purpose of the allotment is achieved. Without these support systems, land allotments would be a huge drain on the public exchequer.

If governments were to lend their whole-hearted support to at least one generation this way, then there would be no future generations of backward communities. Just as Ambedkar had envisioned.

Ever since the issue of KBR has made centre stage, an opinion is trying to be created that those opposing the SRDP are against development, which is absolutely not right. Of course every Hyderabadi wants the city to develop, be amongst the top cities of not just India but of the world but while preserving the inherit and not at the cost of it.

While understanding that short term as well as long term plans need to be put into place to ease the day to day congestion problems being faced, till date it has been only short term solutions which have been worked upon. This has led to a constant tinkering and superficial changes while the problems increased by the day, month and year.

It is to be understood here that the city getting chocked is not merely restricted to traffic. The drainage system, though added upon, is still largely what was planned and laid down during the Nizam’s rule. The foundation to major drinking water requirement for Hyderabad is still what was planned during the same regime. while this tells us how slow our thought process and work has been, if after 60 years, the water and drainage system is still catering to an extremely fast growing over burdened city, it also shows the futuristic planning as well as fore-thought of our historic rulers!

It requires understanding as to how burdened the city is getting by the day and month, to properly plan a solution.

While the population of every metros increases all over the world, Hyderabad happens to be the only developed place in the entire state of Telengana. In fact, if the Hyderabad was not what it is, it is probable that the Andhra state may not have held to Telengana and may have been ready for bifurcation long ago. While Hyderabad has a baseline population which is increasing by the year, because of being the only developed city, there is a huge percentage of migrant population from every district of Telengana and Andhra, making the city their home with the hope of finding work in the ever expanding city. It may be a daily wages labour who find it hard to find sustenance hard in their hometown due to lack of development there to businessmen not finding satisfactory profits and moving towards perceived greener pastures in Hyderabad. The other major section is the ones who have moved here from other parts of the country by way of job posting or investment, when the city became an internationally renowned software hub and IT centre. This has increased the population of the city times more than any futuristic planning that should have been made in anticipation such a development invariably brings along with it.

The only long term solution to such a situation is to desert this capital city concentrated development planning and developing other parts of the state. There are so many states in the United States of America, whose capital city’s name we are oblivious of. That is because developmental priority is not given to any one such city, but multiple cities are developed simultaneously. In fact the cities of a state are developed as centres of excellence in individual areas.

If Hyderabad can be left as only the administrative capital of the state and for example, Warangal developed as the IT hub, Nizamabad as an Educational centre and so forth, migrational issues are set right by themselves. Leaving a place one is born in, leaving familiar surroundings and the society, relatives, friends in search of livelihood is a very difficult heart breaking decision to make. A decision made out of lack of options and choices.

The India of my dreams is the dream of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar — Equality, inclusive growth, development of the country through the development of all sections of society, especially the ‘depressed classes’ now called Backward Classes and women. I will reflect on these two constituencies in this essay.

Backward Classes

Undoubtedly inclusive growth, that includes the vulnerable sections of society, who comprise more than 80 percent of the country’s population and who are below poverty line, is the necessary precondition to the attainment of our national dream. The wide gap between the privileged classes that constitute 20 percent and the utterly deprived sections that comprise 80 percent must be eliminated for the balance to shift in favour of the latter both socially and economically.

It is also importantly to critically examine the distribution of benefits of reservations and affirmative actions with the Sudras or the backward classes. To what extent have upwardly mobile members of Dalit, Bahujan and Minority classes been willing to let go of their hold over benefits in favour of other sections of their respective communities who have not benefited as much from affirmative action? To what extent have they monopolized benefits within their immediate families?

Let us take the creamy layer argument:

The Indian Constitution describes Other Backward Classes (OBC) as “socially and educationally backward classes”, and the Government of India is enjoined to ensure their social and educational development. The constitution, amongst other privileges, entitles OBCs to 27 percent reservations in Higher Education and public sector employment. The term “creamy layer” was coined in 1971 by the Sattanathan Commission to refer to the relatively forward and better educated members of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) who should not be eligible for government-sponsored affirmative action, especially in education and public employment. The Commission recommended that the “creamy layer” should be excluded from reservations in civil posts. The creamy layer (income) criterion was defined as annual family income from all sources. In 1993, the limit was at Rupees 1 lakh. It was raised thrice — to Rupees 2.5 lakhs per annum in 2004, Rupees 4.5 lakhs per annum in 2008 and Rupees 6 lakhs per annum in 2013, and finally to Rupees 8 Lakhs in 2017.

In October 2015, the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) proposed that an annual family income of up to Rs 15 lakh should be considered as the minimum ceiling for OBC. The NCBC also recommended the sub-division of OBCs into ‘backward’, ‘more backward’, and ‘extremely backward’ blocs and recommended division of the 27 percent quota amongst them in proportion to their population, to ensure that stronger OBCs do not corner the quota benefits.

The ‘creamy layer’ categorization applies only for the OBCs and are not to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, as in the latter case reservations are aimed at removal of social disabilities, not only economic marginalization.

What are the major objections to the Creamy Layer?

  • That the Backward Classes are so delineated primarily because of Social Backwardness, similar to Scheduled Castes, and therefore must enjoy the same privileges of affirmative action.
  • That the quantum of reservations designated for OBCs, 27 percent, is grossly insufficient, considering that Backward Classes form the single large population category – above 50 percent collectively across the country, as well as individually in each state, if caste wise census is conducted.
  • That the quantum of 27 percent reservations is never filled even without applying the creamy layer bar, because of the very low literacy rate amongst its people. If Creamy layer is implemented, the filled up quota will not even cross 9 – 10 percent, leaving the entire unfulfilled quota to be transferred to the general quota, thus defeating the foundational basis of reservations.
  • That all such measures are a means for Vote Bank Politics, while the real development for which certain measures were included in the Constitution have either never reached or have not been helpful, because of the very large population of OBCs.
  • That now as an extension of Vote Bank Politics Backward Classes are being divided into OBCs and MBCs.

My view?

I belong to a backward class. I am a surgical gastroenterologist, trained in the United Kingdom with a medical practice that ensured me a personal income way above the creamy layer bar. I have two sons. My wife is a professor of dance a renowned Kuchipudi exponent and presently first woman registrar of a public university. My father was a judge of AP High Court and a very important Union Minister. My mother, 88 years old, has in the last decade, accomplished a D.Litt, as well as two PhDs, with a gold medal as well as a University rank amongst them. My children were born grew in this academic atmosphere that instilled the aspiration of academic achievement in them. They went to the best educational institutions and had the privilege of their parents monitoring on a day-today basis their performance and extra- and co-curricular activities to ensure all round development.

In stark contrast, children born in poor families in rural areas see both their parents struggling, doing menial work as either labourers or as farm help and so on, depriving them of a basic exposure to a different future for themselves. School means little to most of these children, and often they are joined in school more for the midday meals provided there. The teaching standards at school as well as studying atmosphere at home are abysmal. In addition, the children are compelled to do a lot of household work, to help out their parents. Most of them are school dropouts, either because of no interest in academics largely due to these circumstances, due to lack of drive and encouragement, or to help their parents with whatever economic support child labour presents.

It is creditable that a child manages to survive through all this, burns midnight oil and comes to a standard in academics. But when he finally manages to reach the competitive arena, completely self-made, with his own grit and determination, no support from any quarters, whatsoever, on the other hand, only adversities at every turn, who does he have to compete with in the road to further academic growth? With my son, who had the best of facilities, atmosphere and immense support in every academic step, to reach the same stage! Isn’t such a discrepancy a gross injustice? And an insult to the founding fathers, who have envisaged erasure of inequalities through certain supports and privileges to the underprivileged?

To this affect, creamy layer may appear justified and an answer. But what about the argument that the socially backward angle is not being taken into consideration in creamy layer?

What is the solution for this? Simple. Remove Creamy layer. Implement filling of seats on economic criteria. From amongst the candidates who have crossed cut off point in marks, fill seats according to economic criteria. The student from a lower income category from Backward Classes gets precedence over his higher income counterpart from backward sections, irrespective of his marks, as long as he has crossed the general cut off point.

This way, the economically underprivileged students would get priority, all the 27 percent are bound to be filled and creamy layer would not be and cannot be used for vote bank purposes. Otherwise, successive governments increase the economic cut off limit to bring that many OBCs into their votes zone.

Discussion:

Although the Supreme Court of India in 1992 set out a requirement that 27 percent of civil service positions be reserved for members of OBCs. In August 2010 the Times of India reported that at most 7 percent of eligible positions in government jobs had been filled by OBCs, in spite of the 27 percent reservation. This difference between proportion of different communities in higher educational institutions is mainly because of difference in primary school enrollment.

The obvious reason for the low eligibility is that the educational as well as economic levels of OBCs is very low. Most of the generations join their community and parental artisan professions midway through school or after a basic education, mostly because of economic needs and low socio economic status of their family. In addition, low standards in rural schools fail to create an academic interest in them.

Another important reason why there has been very little economic and educational progress in these sections is because political parties in India have attempted to use these communities as vote-banks.

The architect of the Indian Constitution, Dr BR Ambedkar had envisaged a time bound early development and had hoped that the under-privileged sections would not need reservations after a decade or so after the constitution was put in place. But even the shrewd lawyer in him did not foresee the propensities of the shrewd Indian politician who saw in Ambedkar and means for extending his political life, by creating vote banks out of his weaker sections and effectively not allowing that very development. To this political class, Ambedkar became a vote bank and developing weaker sections, a destruction of the vote bank. So, rather than changing lives of the vulnerable and marginalized sections to such an extent that these sections did not need support systems, they let them remain in the same state and on the other hand brought in more and more sections under the under-privileged category, thereby ingratiating themselves. Essentially, if Ambedkar’s dream was fulfilled, then those sections which had developed, should have not needed support systems anymore, passing on the privilege to the lesser developed, finally gradually, tasting true development. But on the other hand, even cursory estimates will reveal that the numbers of OBCs sections would have nearly doubled since the time the category of OBC was created in 1950s. It is not that there has been development in the lives of the ones earmarked earlier – they are nearly at the same place as their previous generations earlier were – but the newer ones added have only been done to successfully swell the vote bank. Mission accomplished! In addition, within the OBCs itself, the politician periodically juggles the sub-castes in the categories available, from lesser level of privilege to the category having higher privilege to pretend concern. Courts invariably strike down these changes as unconstitutional, but the politician’s purpose is served by his well-advertised action.

Those opposing affirmative action should understand that there are very genuine reasons behind them. It is only when these sections develop that the country would make an all-round progress.

Indian history has proven that development and vote-bank politics seldom go hand-in-hand. In fact, they seem opposite to each other. Literate people might make an effort to acquaint themselves with party policies, ideologies and read the list of contestants before casting their vote. A non-literate or uneducated voter mostly goes by the party symbol and things he or she has heard about the party. This might be one reason why in India, we attribute so much importance to a party symbol.

Ambedkar had opined that the reservations he was proposing should have a time-frame. He had envisaged that during this period, with the help of reservations, there would be a significant social as well as economic development in the lives of the under-privileged who would not need them later on. But rather than implementing such dreams of Ambedkar in their true spirit, reservations have been used towards building up vote-banks. For instance, there were around 70-odd Backward Class communities in the 1970s, all classified as socially backward. Ambedkar would have wanted successive governments to make clinical assessments of the development made by these communities over the decades. In 2006, under the YS Rajasekhara Reddy government, the number of Backward Communities in united Andhra Pradesh were doubled to around 140. What sort of progress did the previous 70 communities make over six decades, either with governmental or political help? None, seems to be the sad answer. So in what way are you guaranteeing that the freshly added 70 communities would make any progress other than having a BC label. The politician’s mind is evidently on a different track. It is to say, “Listen, I am bringing you under the Backward Category. From now on, understand that all of you 70 communities should become my vote-bank for the favour I have bestowed upon you!”

In my alma mater – The Hyderabad Public School, there are seats earmarked for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, with rooms being provided to them in the school hostel. A common complaint heard is that the school’s standard gets affected by these allotments, since these students fare poorly at studies. A responsible, socially-oriented school or government should oversee that the true benefits of admitting him in the HPS accrue to him. The seed of academic interest should be implanted in his mind through counselling. Teachers should be given the responsibility by turn to ensure that children are able to study by themselves. Special classes should be organised for all of them in the evening during after recreation hours. Many such children are keen at sports. If so, then every attempt ought to be made to propel them in the right direction.

But then, the purpose of the powers that be is not how the students are faring in their studies. Their purpose is again creating vote-banks for themselves by such allotments. Another similar motive is through three acres of land to the Schedule Castes in Telangana, that is being promised by the present TRS government. If at all such an allotment is implemented, then it is purely again to make these sections as vote-banks. And over a period of time, if a person benefited by the scheme sells that land, there will be a loud murmur heard; “Why should lands be allotted for these people if they are going to be sold?”

Ambedkar envisaged reservations, allocation of seats to the poor in good schools, allotment of lands for the development of the allottees. Not to make them vote-banks. There is a huge difference between Ambedkar’s thought process and the present-day politician’s thought process. If governments were to lend their whole-hearted support to at least one generation this way, then there would be no future generations of backward communities. Just as Ambedkar had envisioned.

In fact it can be easily seen that all the sections which have until now enjoyed political power have progressed to such an extent that they not only enjoy a high status in the society, but economically too, they easily deliver various infra-structural, construction and every other sort of projects worth even thousands of crores of rupees without a second thought, while the socially lower echelons of the society, which have never come anywhere close to power, continue to depend upon doles given out by the ones in power, like free housing schemes, free land schemes and many more such, thereby submitting themselves as vote banks to the forward sections, who prefer to keep them such, so that the vote banks keep them forever in power and through it towards higher economic development. Until this is overcome, India cannot achieve the high altitudes of development it has been destined to, and cannot become the ‘India of our dreams.’

But to achieve such a dream, Sudras who have tasted development through the social, educational as well economic benefits earmarked for the OBCs, should allow redistribution, so that there is an inclusive all-round development amongst Sudras.

Women Empowerment

“There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women” – Kofi Annan

Most elections nowadays are showing a mixed bag for national parties. What was important to note and to be stressed upon was the glass ceiling completely shattered by women and proved that “When sleeping women wake, mountains move”. Not only have the two ladies heading respected states proved their mettle at governance, but have showed their better management of electoral politics as well. While Mamtha Bannerjee completely decimated the Communists and with them the Congress that went along, but the BJP was clearly shown its place under the Bengal sun as well. Down South, Ms J Jayalalitha struck back with vengeance, taking the coveted throne in succession a feat nearly impossible in Tamil Nadu politics in the days before her unfortunate demise.

But has the male dominated society accepted the fact that women are equal most of the times and even better at times? That their upspring is not seen in daily routine life more because of the male outlook, physical dominance than due to lack of mental power of the feminine gender? To cite an example in a particular Mandal which had a woman MPTC in name, but the husband was attending official meetings in her place calling the shots and determining action. Why is this? Is it because she is an MPTC, because it is a ‘reserved for women’ seat! Otherwise her place is in kitchen, what does she know about administration?

Is that correct? Is a woman’s place in the kitchen? Even in these days? But for times immemorial, isn’t it women who have completely managed homes? Whether the male member hands over a meagre (sum) thousand rupees or a comfortable earning to her, the lady budgets her expenditure and whether small or big sum, manages expenditure and still saves up a little bit for difficult days! The same in the hands of the male member would evaporate for fun and frolic or over a couple of drinks. The ignorant have not heard or read Margaret Thatcher famous comment “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.”

Even our mythology has recognised this, and if you have noted, all important portfolios are in the hands of women Goddesses. Finance with Laxmi, Education with Saraswathi and defence with Durga!

At home, she is administering everything of a man’s life. As a mother, as a wife and as a daughter. Remove these people from his life for one day, and everything is a disarray. Everything! And outside home, women are the most revered, most remembered most accomplished leaders. Think of world leaders and who comes to mind immediately? Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meyer, Indira Gandhi, Sheik Hasina, Khalida Zia, Benazir Bhutto, Srimavo Bhandaranaike, Chandrika Kumarathunga…. The list becomes endless. Closer home, Sonia Gandhi, Jayalalitha, Mamatha Bannerji, Mayawathi, Vasundara Raje, Mahbooba Mufti have carried their respective parties solely upon their own shoulders and most are known as much for their strategic as for their effective administration skills. Even a well developed country like the US of A has turned its face away when it came to a woman heading it!

Women have certain characteristics they are born with. Resilience, sincerity, commitment and a determination to do things. A go getter. All characteristics needed for administration and clearly lacking today to make the society better.

The resilience and other fiercely determined characteristics come to a woman from the way they go through difficulties during various phases of their life. Their birth itself is a done as a part of a big grant for them, especially in India, because she is either ‘ultrasounded’ and her life strangled before birth, or if that is not the case, then upon getting to know of her sex, is looked down upon by everyone other that her mother, right since she steps into the world. Apart from the various difficulties at each year of her life, discrimination from her brothers for education, put into household chores since childhood instead with books, married off at an early age, domestic violence, pain of childbirth, name it, and the women goes through it. Most importantly, Women Empowerment leads to education being imparted to women and thereby leads to a decrease in most of the above mentioned. Moreover, it could be the only solution to domestic violence, since uneducated women are at higher risk for domestic violence than educated women.

We have been hearing and reading so much about farmers committing suicides every day, somewhere or the other. The wives of the farmers go through equal hardships. They are equally responsible for their family. But have we heard of women committing suicide, for not being able to take the hardships any longer? In fact, even if the bread earner does resort to ending his life, the lady of the house takes over complete responsibility of the male and rebuilds her home. If we have fortunately not heard of the woman taking her life along or after her husband has ended his, it is because of the resilience, sense of responsibility in her. Essentially she does not run away from things, however difficult and tough they might be. She in fact fights back and while going through them, helps her family survive, shape up. These same characteristics are needed in today’s political as well as administrative life.

Characteristics only a woman can bring in to change and improve the problems being faced today. We have read and heard of women Sarpanches excelling in their domain. Time their influence is extended in all important aspects of life.

Women Empowerment has taken a whole new meaning to it, over the generations of brave women who have fought their way through the chauvinistic maze of opinions and attitudes. She has risen from the ashes of her sister’s sacrifice as a raging phoenix to embark on new adventures redefining her place in society as a pioneer, a leader, as someone who can unflinchingly wield the scalpel in surgery’s to the ladle in the kitchen, the gavel in court , a rifle in battlefield. Here’s to women all over the world who have evolved from being human, into another completely different species, who have bettered the emotional and intellectual capacities of mankind. We started the race together, and somewhere through the bloodied pages of our chauvinistic history, your voices were lost, your integrity compromised, your intelligence insulted and your beauty demonized, yet you continued to be the source of never ending patience, strength and power, as you carried generations of despots, megalomaniacs, egoists, leaders and pioneers all with the same gentle smile, and firm hand. Moulding generations after another, you have, today risen as a powerhouse of immeasurable qualities and proved once and for all, that a hand that rocks the cradle can indeed rule the world with an iron fist.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, I would like to say that empowerment is the only way to true development. The non-sudras found this effective self as well as their section’s development channel and worked towards getting power in their hands. Ambedhker himself had spelt out clearly; “Political power is the key to all social progress”.

Mr Devesh Kapur presently the Director of Asia Programs and Starr Foundation Professor of South Asian Studies at The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) had conducted a comparative study in 1990 and in 2009 in his previous position as Director with the Center for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania. His conclusion:

“First, there have been major changes in the grooming, eating, and ceremonial consumption patterns of dalits, signalling higher social status through adoption of higher status consumption patterns. Dalits shifted out of low status (but highly calorie intensive) foods like sugar cane juice and roti chatni into diets containing (unbroken) rice, fresh vegetables and spices. Use of high status foods in social occasions like weddings also increased. Second, respondents report changes in the accepted behaviours between castes, with rapid erosion in discriminatory processes that stigmatised dalits. By and large in these blocks, dalits are less likely to be seated separately at weddings, they are no longer expected to handle the dead animals of other castes, there is a noticeable increase in births in dalit households that are attended by non-dalit midwives, and non-dalits increasingly accept hospitality in dalit homes. None of these practices were common in 1990.” Though not spelt out, it can be safely concluded that the progress and development in the lives of the Dalits through the above study points to what, I repeat, Babasaheb Ambedhker had spelt out clearly; “Political power is the key to all social progress”.

The same is the case with the marginalisation of women, which would end the day they are empowered.

If I was born in the Ambedkar era, or were the great man alive today, I would have asked him what he would have liked better – A thousand statues of his, or change in the lives of the downtrodden… I think I know his answer.

“There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women” – Kofi Annan

The recently concluded elections had a mixed bag for national parties, which have been commented upon by various analysts. What was important to note and to be stressed upon was the glass ceiling completely shattered by women and proved that “When sleeping women wake, mountains move”. Not only have the two ladies heading respected states proved their mettle at governance, but have showed their better management of electoral politics as well. While Mamtha Bannerjee completely decimated the Communists and with them the Congress that went along, but the BJP was clearly shown its place under the Bengal sun as well. Down South, Ms J Jayalalitha struck back with vengeance, taking the coveted throne in succession a feat nearly impossible in Tamil Nadu politics.

But has the male dominated society accepted the fact that women are equal most of the times and even better at times? That their upspring is not seen in daily routine life more because of the male outlook, physical dominance than due to lack of mental power of the feminine gender? The other day, I had gone to a Mandal, wherein someone showed me a newspaper carrying a news item that the area had a woman MPTC, but the husband was attending official meetings in her place. When I questioned him, he said “why should they attend sir? She is an MPTC because it is a ‘reserved for women’ seat. Otherwise her place is in kitchen, what does she know about administration?

Is that correct? Is a woman’s place in the kitchen? Even in these days? But for times immemorial, isn’t it women who have completely managed homes? Whether the male member hands over a meagre (sum) thousand rupees or a comfortable earning to her, the lady budgets her expenditure and whether small or big sum, manages expenditure and still saves up a little bit for difficult days! The same in the hands of the male member would evaporate for fun and frolic or over a couple of drinks. The ignorant have not heard or read Margaret Thatcher famous comment “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.”

Even our mythology has recognised this, and if you have noted, all important portfolios are in the hands of women Goddesses. Finance with Laxmi, Education with Saraswathi and defence with Durga!

At home, she is administering everything of a man’s life. As a mother, as a wife and as a daughter. Remove these people from his life for one day, and everything is a disarray. Everything! And outside home, women are the most revered, most remembered most accomplished leaders. Think of world leaders and who comes to mind immediately? Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meyer, Indira Gandhi, Sheik Hasina, Khalida Zia, Benazir Bhutto, Srimavo Bhandaranaike, Chandrika Kumarathunga…. The list becomes endless. Closer home, Sonia Gandhi, Jayalalitha, Mamatha Bannerji, Mayawathi, Vasundara Raje, Mahbooba Mufti have carried their respective parties solely upon their own shoulders and most are known as much for their strategic as for their effective administration skills.

Even a well developed country like the US of A has turned its face away when it came to a woman heading it, but that may change soon.

Women have certain characteristics they are born with. Resilience, sincerity, commitment and a determination to do things. A go getter. All characteristics needed for administration and clearly lacking today to make the society better. The resilience and other fiercely determined characteristics come to a woman from the way they go through difficulties during various phases of their life. Their birth itself is a done as a part of a big grant for them, especially in India, because she is either ‘ultrasounded’ and her life strangled before birth, or if that is not the case, then upon getting to know of her sex, is looked down upon by everyone other that her mother, right since she steps into the world. Apart from the various difficulties at each year of her life, discrimination from her brothers for education, put into household chores since childhood instead with books, married off at an early age, domestic violence, pain of childbirth, name it, and the women goes through it. Most importantly, Women Empowerment leads to education being imparted to women and thereby leads to a decrease in most of the above mentioned. Moreover, it could be the only solution to domestic violence, since uneducated women are at higher risk for domestic violence than educated women.

We have been hearing and reading so much about farmers committing suicides every day, somewhere or the other. The wives of the farmers go through equal hardships. They are equally responsible for their family. But have we heard of women committing suicide, for not being able to take the hardships any longer? In fact, even if the bread earner does resort to ending his life, the lady of the house takes over complete responsibility of the male and rebuilds her home. If we have fortunately not heard of the woman taking her life along or after her husband has ended his, it is because of the resilience, sense of responsibility in her. Essentially she does not run away from things, however difficult and tough they might be. She in fact fights back and while going through them, helps her family survive, shape up. These same characteristics are needed in today’s political as well as administrative life. Characteristics only a woman can bring in to change and improve the problems being faced today. We have read and heard of women Sarpanches excelling in their domain. Time their influence is extended in all important aspects of life.

On the other hand, as of now, at least closer home in the newly formed Telangana state, we seem desperate to see that women do not grow into power areas. This is not due to their lack of capabilities, but, it appears, more to curb those capabilities. Though it is claimed that the reservation to women has been increased to 50% in the recently held GHMC elections, it is known to anyone and everyone that nearly all of them are wives, mothers, sisters and even daughters of the original aspirant males! We also know that these males are going to be the backseat drivers, though they may not venture into attending official meetings in their place. The present chief minister seems to be a strong proponent of the women in kitchen theory, because there is not only no single women in his cabinet, but he has not sent a single of them to the Legislative council either. As an extension, he has in fact very recently denied them a legitimate Rajya Sabha seat held by a woman belonging to the backward class and allotted to a male. If the question was that the allotment was to a person from the backward section, it would have added further to Social Justice agenda, if it was a woman and from the backward section.

Before we go deep….

Indian Constitution describes OBCs as “socially and educationally backward classes”, and the Government of India is enjoined to ensure their social and educational development. The constitution, amongst other privileges, entitles OBCs to 27% reservations in Higher Education and Public Sector Employment.

Other Backward Class (OBC) is a collective term used by the Government of India to classify castes which are socially or educationally or economically disadvantaged. It is an official classification from amongst the population of India Sattanathan Commission coined the term “Creamy layer” in 1971 to refer to the relatively forward and better educated members of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) who are not eligible for government-sponsored educational and professional benefit programs. The Commission recommended that the “Creamy layer” should be excluded from the reservations (quotas) of civil posts.

The creamy layer (income) criteria were defined as annual family income from all sources. In 1993, the limit was kept at Rupees 1 lakh. It was raised thrice — to Rupees 2.5 lakhs in 2004, Rupees 4.5 lakhs in 2008 and Rupees 6 lakhs in 2013.

In 2017, the present government raised the Creamy layer limit to 8 Lakhs.

In October 2015, the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) proposed that a person belonging to OBC with an annual family income of up to Rs 15 lakh should be considered as the minimum ceiling for OBC. The NCBC also recommended the sub-division of OBCs into ‘backward’, ‘more backward’, and ‘extremely backward’ blocs and divide 27% quota amongst them in proportion to their population, to ensure that stronger OBCs don’t corner the quota benefits.

The ‘creamy layer’ categorization is currently meant only for the OBCs and are not applied to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The reasons cited for this parity is that the provisions for reservations for SC/ST are not for their economical benefits but for their social upliftment. Thus, SC/ST reservations are applicable irrespective of the financial status of the beneficiaries.

What are the major objections to the Creamy Layer?

  • That the Backward Classes are so delineated primarily because of Social Backwardness, similar to Scheduled Castes. The objection is that, like Scheduled Castes, who are immune to such changes, similarly, the Backward Classes structure of supports extended should not be interfered with.
  • That the quantum of reservations designated to them is 27%. This quantum by itself is grossly insufficient, considering that Backward Classes form the single large component in the population of the country and would average above 50%, collectively all over the country, as well as individually in each state, if caste wise census is conducted.
  • That the quantum of 27% reservations is by itself never reached and filled even without Creamy layer being existent, because of the very low literacy rate amongst its people. If Creamy layer is implemented, then the lacuna is even worse, as the filling up does not even cross 9 – 10%, leaving the entire unfulfilled quota to be transferred on to the general quota, because of which the very foundation of why the Backward section has been created and a percentage of reservations is earmarked to it, being defeated.
  • That all such measures are a means for Vote Bank Politics, while the real development for which certain measures were included in the Constitution have either never reached or have been helpful, because of the very large population of OBCs.
  • That now as an extension of Vote Bank Politics and achieving the same, Backward Classes were being divided into OBCs and MBCs.

My view?

I belong to the backward class

I am basically a Surgical Gastroenterologist, who is now devoting a major amount of time to the cause of the weaker sections. Post specialization in the above in the United Kingdom, for a decade and a half, my 24 hours was only surgery. I was earning times and times annually, over the prescribed creamy layer. I have two sons. My wife is a PhD, a renowned Kuchipudi exponent and presently first woman Registrar of a University in Hyderabad. My father was a High Court Judge and a very important Union Minister. My mother, 88 now, has in the last decade, accomplished a D Litt, as well as two PhDs, with a gold medal as well as a University rank amongst them. What I am indicating here is that my children have been born and evolved in an academic atmosphere and it would certainly be imbibed in them that their future will have to revolve around academics. I have admitted them in the best school academically, sports activities and otherwise, in the state. In addition, either me or my wife would wake them up at 5 in the morning, to study. They go to their school at 7.30, complete academics, extra curricular activities and are back home at 5 PM. They play around until 6 PM, when a Tutor sits with them, to take care of their doubts as well as home work. Sleep is around 9 PM. Essentially the best of everything one can get, though the grind they are made to go through is best, is debatable!

Compare them with their compatriots in the villages. The children born there nearly always see both their parents doing menial works as either labourers or as farm helps and so on. Obviously it is imbibed in them that their future is probably the same. Academics does not mean anything to most of the children. Most of them are joined in school more for the mid day meal provided there. The teaching standards as well as studying atmosphere at home, with regards to electricity, books and the lot, are abysmal. In addition, the children are compelled to to a lot of house hold work, to help out their parents. Most of them are school dropouts, either because of no interest in academics largely due to circumstances, due to lack of drive and encouragement, or to help their parents with whatever economic support child labour presents.

It is credible that a child manages to survive through all this, burns midnight oil and comes to a standard in academics. But when he finally manages to reach the competitive arena, completely self made, with his own grit and determination, no support from any quarters, whatsoever, on the other hand, only adversities at every turn, who does he have to compete with in the road to further academic growth – With my son, who had the best of facilities, atmosphere and immense support in every academic step, to reach the same stage!

Isn’t such a discrepancy a gross injustice? And an insult to the founding fathers, who have envisaged erasure of inequalities through certain supports and privileges to the under-privileged?

To this affect, Creamy layer may appear justified and an answer.

But what about the argument that the socially backward angle not being taken into consideration in creamy layer?

What about the argument that the complete quota of 27% not being filled due to the creamy layer being implemented and thereby a large % of remnant being transferred to general quota, leading to the very earmarking reason of 27% to be defeated? The argument is that with creamy layer being implemented, only 9 – 10% out of the 27% of the Backward Classes reservations are being utilized and the rest are being transferred to open, general pool.

In addition, a person earning 8 lakhs one thousand per annum, gets equated with another backward earning 30 lakhs.

So, what is the solution for this? Simple. Remove Creamy layer. Implement filling of seats on economic criteria. From amongst the candidates who have crossed cut off point in marks, fill seats according to economic criteria. The lower economic student from Backward Classes gets precedence over his higher economic counterpart from backward sections, irrespective of his marks, as long as he has crossed the general cut off point.

This way, the economically lower students would get priority, all the 27% are bound to be filled and creamy layer would not be and cannot be used for vote bank purposes. Otherwise, successive governments increase the economic cut off limit to bring that many Backwards into their votes zone.

Discussion:

A 1992 decision of the Supreme Court of India resulted in a requirement that 27% of civil service positions be reserved for members of OBCs. In August 2010 the Times of India reported that at most 7% of eligible positions in government jobs had been filled by OBCs, in spite of the 27% reservation. This difference between proportion of different communities in higher educational institutions is mainly because of difference in primary school enrollment.

The obvious reason for the low (7%) eligibility is that the educational as well as economic levels of OBCs is very low. Most of the generations join their community and parental artisan professions from midway of school or after a basic education, mostly because of economic needs and low socio economic criteria of their family. In addition, low standard in rural schools fails to create an academic interest in them.

It can be easily understood that % of OBC children claiming the 27% is very low amongst the rural, low socio-economic sections because of reasons mentioned above. That is the reason why, introduction of the creamy layer has not aided in the % of lower economic sections from increasing their presence, occupying the criteria and taking advantage of the privileges.

Another important reason as to why there has been very little economic and educational progress in these sections is because political parties in India have attempted to use these communities as vote-banks.

The founding father of the Indian Constitution, Shri BR Ambhedker, whom weaker sections take to as God, had envisaged a time bound early development and had wished that the under-privileged sections would not need reservations after a decade or so after the constitution was put in place. But even the shrewd Lawyer in him did not foresee the intellectuality of the Indian Politician. This shrewd politician saw in Ambedhker and means for extending their political life, created vote banks out of his weaker sections development, by effectively not allowing that very development. To them, Ambedhker became a vote bank and developing weaker sections, a destruction of the vote bank. So, rather than changing lives of the weak to such an extent that these sections did not need support systems, they let them be in the same state and on the other hand brought in more and more sections under the under privileged category, thereby ingratiating themselves. Essentially, if Ambedhker’s dream was fulfilled, then those sections which had developed, should have not needed support systems anymore, passing on the privilege to the lesser developed, finally gradually, tasting true development. But on the other hand, if one does even a superficial research, one would see that today, the numbers of OBCs sections would have nearly doubled since the time the category of OBC was created in 1950s. It is not that there has been development in the lives of the ones earmarked earlier – they are nearly at the same place as their previous generations earlier were – but the newer ones added have only been done to successfully swell the vote bank. Mission accomplished! In addition, within the OBCs itself, the politician periodically juggles the sub-castes in the categories available, from lesser level of privilege to the category having higher privilege to pretend concern. Courts invariably strike down these changes as unconstitutional, but the politician’s purpose is served by his well advertised action!

Those opposing support systems should understand that there are very genuine reasons as to why they have been put into place. It is only when these sections develop that the country would make an all round progress, since these under-privileged sections comprise more that 80% of our population.

At the same time, those who have developed after utilizing the privileges should understand that there are many and many more who need the support systems. They should understand that by continued usage of the support systems themselves, they are denying the true needy, because they are, having come up after using the privileges, are far better placed while competing with the under-privileged of their own ilk.

(Tailpiece: Being in an extremely comfortable position in life, I promised myself that I would never use privileges and support systems for my children. If need arises, I would rather pay donations that I can afford to get them admitted into educational courses of their choice. Fortunately, I did not need to resort to either of them!)

Copyrights (C) 2019 Dr Vinay Kumar. All Rights Reserved