CHENNAI: Just as the NDA government has amended the Constitution to provide 10 per cent reservation for the economically backward among forward communities, there are arguments still going on in support and opposition.
But 40 years ago, the late DMK president, M Karunanidhi, suggested an inclusive reservation formula to benefit not only the poor among the forward communities but also the poor among all communities. The DMK’s general council in July 1979 passed a resolution in the regard. But the suggestion did not see the light.
After issuing the controversial G.O. No.1159 dated July 2, 1979, fixing an annual income ceiling of Rs 9,000 for the Backward Classes (BCs) for availing reservation, the then Chief Minister M G Ramachandran (MGR) announced that from 1980-81, a certain percentage of reservation would be apportioned for the poor among forward communities.
Terming this as a dangerous move, Karunanidhi suggested a way out for resolving the issue. He said 15 to 20 per cent reservation could be provided to the poor among all castes through the open quota of 51 per cent where people from all communities including Brahmins, Mudaliyar, Chettiyar and Pillaimar can avail the benefit.
Karunanidhi said, “If the government accepts our demands, there will be no need for agitation against the AIADMK government.” But after MGR withdrew the economic criterion G.O. following his party’s rout in the 1980 Lok Sabha elections, the demand died down.
Asked whether such an ‘inclusive reservation formula’ suggested by Karunanidhi is possible now, Dravidar Kazhagam president K Veeramani explains, “Since the SC had clarified that any reservation on the basis of economic criterion is unconstitutional, Kalaignar (M Karunanidhi) did not press for that after MGR withdrew the controversial G.O. fixing income ceiling for BCs to get reservation. Such a proposition would not suit the present situation because defining the economically weaker sections will be impossible. In cases relating to the Mandal Commission recommendations, the SC had categorically said economic criterion should not be applied for providing reservation and apportioning a percentage from the open quota for the poor belonging to all communities became impossible.”
Historian K Thirunavukkarasu says: “The SC has clearly set out that the reservation can be provided only on the basis of the socially and educationally backward classes alone. Kalaignar had proposed such an idea with a view to stalling the controversial G.O. issued by MGR. Now, the situation has changed much. Besides, the open quota is opened to all communities and culling out a percentage from it will affect all those who compete under the open quota.”
Political analyst Tharasu Shyam says, “The reservation for BCs, MBCs, and SC/STs, has gone up to 69 per cent now, which is much more than what was there during MGR regime. So, apportioning a further 15 to 20 per cent for the poor among general category is not possible in Tamil Nadu and such a proposal is irrelevant now.”