By Prarthana Mitra
Just days after upper caste organisations called a Bharat Bandh against the SC/ST Amendment Act, the Union Minister For Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale recommended a 25% reservation for the upper caste poor, according to a report in Manorama.
He added that this could be achieved by enhancing the reservation limit to 75%, fairly confident that such a bill would benefit all sections of society. According to him, the upper castes today consider the Dalits privileged “as they have easy access to resources.” Their grievance, he says, stems from the fact that they are still backward, despite and perhaps because of being classified in the general category.
Expressing concern over the protests by upper castes and OBCs against the amendment in the #SCSTAct, Ramdas Athawale said he would soon meet representatives of upper castes and clear their misconceptions.https://t.co/hf9a7OAkQ0
— The New Indian Express (@NewIndianXpress) September 8, 2018
Athawale further said that for all sections of society to coexist peacefully, political parties across the spectrum will have to work for the overall welfare and satisfaction of all communities equally, suggesting appeasement politics at play in the light of recent protests from both Dalits and upper-caste outfits.
On asked whether further amendments will be made to the SC/ST Act, he said nothing would be done at this point. Despite intimating him with the various ways the Act could be misused, he seemed quite sure that the government would not allow misuse of the newly introduced provisions.
Union Minister Ramdas Athawale on Wednesday said that his party would move the Supreme Court to challenge the Ministry of Information and Broadcast directive advising the media to refrain from using the word 'Dalit'
— ANI Digital (@ani_digital) September 6, 2018
What are the reservations really for?
His comments stem from a complete lack of understanding of why caste-based reservations were implemented in the first place. Coming from the Minister of Social Justice, this is alarming all the more, because it gives credibility to anti-minority sentiments, which is on the rise across the country.
The development of upper caste poor must not come at the cost of the backward classes and the marginalised, for whom reservations affirm not only their identity but protect their access to basic resources. These resources are available to the upper-caste poor which is part of a larger economic class. A number of government schemes and policies exist to address their grievances, chiefly poverty, unemployment and illiteracy, which is why reservation is not the only way to tackle these issues.
More importantly, it is necessary for reservation to not be normalised as the go-to policy for reform since it will enable different communities to stake a claim for representation in the system and establish a majoritarian rule in their regions. Instead, the government must take comprehensive steps to make sure the country’s poor have resources to attain the privileges they seek and to make the demarcation between historical persecution and systemic oppression.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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