Heated quota fights will cleave, not heal

Arguing over quota politics underlines that there is indeed deprivation among all communities in the country, even though we are the third largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power.
Representational image.
Representational image.Express Illustrations

It isn’t surprising that the wrangle over reservations in employment and education has been renewed in election season. While the Congress has vowed to set aside the 50 percent cap, the BJP has accused it of seeking to take away a chunk of the quota from scheduled castes, tribes and backward classes to give it to Muslims.

It is a tragedy that 77 years after independence we are still arguing over quota politics. It underlines that there is indeed deprivation among all communities in the country, even though we are the third largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power.

The focus ought to be on how best to take the economy forward so that its dividends reach right down. This is a humanistic and nationalistic perspective that we need to look from when talking of affirmative action. Here is a poser: why should affirmative mean quota alone? The need of the hour is to provide quality education and jobs to all sections. If one section prospers and the other lags, the country as a whole cannot develop to its full potential. If we examine the current debate keeping this in mind, we see that the warring sides are both jostling for votes by either wooing a section or by fear-mongering against another.

The issue of quotas for minorities has been debated for long and the 4 percent reservation given to Muslims in the combined Andhra Pradesh is currently under the Supreme Court’s scanner. Efforts have also been made over the decades by the states and the Centre to help certain sections of marginalised communities. Given this, why try to drive a wedge between the people?

Let there be a consensus among all political parties to ensure that no section suffers either socially or economically. The hair-splitting arguments and inflammatory speeches at the peak of the poll campaign may be aimed at garnering votes, but in the long run they will lead to confrontation, not consensus. It would be stating the obvious if we point out that not all sections are prosperous socially or economically. It holds true for almost all communities. To bracket them one way or another is not fair and a one-size-fits-all approach will never solve the problem.

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