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Mainstream, Vol XLVI, No 17

Black and White


Monday 14 April 2008, by SC


As we go to press news has come that the Supreme Court, in its verdict on the 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in central educational institutions, including the IIMs and IITs, has upheld the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation on Admission) Act, 2006 which ensured such reservation. This has come as a blow to the petitioners challenging the law; their counsels had argued that the law was unconstitutional as the government went ahead with reservation for OBCs without identifying the intended beneficia-ries, but the SC did not buy the argument.

At the same time the Apex Court has contended that the creamy layer, that is, comprising those sections of the OBCs who have already overcome the disadvantages due to past discrimination and can now compete at par with other segments of society without needing the quota crutch, should not get the benefit of reservation and must be excluded from the purview of the law.

The entire political spectrum has hailed the verdict even if some Dalit leaders, notably Ramvilas Paswan (LJP) and D. Raja (CPI), defended the inclusion of the creamy layer in the law struck down by the SC Bench. Despite differences on this score there is no gainsaying that the SC judgment on the issue is of historic significance especially against the backdrop of the anti-quota stir in different parts of the country including the Capital that had threatened to strike at the root of affirmative action so essential for uniform development of the nation subjected to ruinous caste divisions since time immemorial. The positive and far-reaching value of this verdict cannot be overemphasised especially when the Apex Court has made it abundantly clear that it is the genuine backwards who need the quota opportunity to overcome age-old infirmities and hurdles on the path of their development.

Meanwhile DMK supremo and Tamil Nadu CM M. Karunanidhi’s announcement to put the Hogenakkal Integrated Drinking Water Project on hold has, at least for the present, helped to reduce tensions between the neighbouring States of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka on the highly emotive water issue. This was necessary for the Congress in particular before the Karnataka Assembly elections as the BJP leader, former CM B.S. Yediyurppa, was clearly intent on exploiting this volatile water dispute to his electoral advantage. The DMK chief has acted in the true spirit of coalition politics and one hopes this specific question will not figure that prominently in the ensuing electoral campaign in the State.

In the wake of these developments and the mini-reshuffle at the Centre, which, besides witnessing the induction of youth (Jyotiraditya Scindia and Jitin Prasada), saw former Chief Election Commissioner M.S. Gill being entrusted with the Sports portfolio as an MoS with independent charge, the controversy over the Government of India’s weak-kneed policy on Tibet refuses to subside especially when the Chinese are showing no signs of retracting from the path of employing brute force to suppress the Tibetan struggle for restoring human rights and defending their self-identity threatened by the massive influx of the Han population in the region. It is in such a situation that South Block’s decision to provide unpreceden-ted security to the Olympic flame on its arrival in New Delhi on April 17 alongside its actions against the Tibetan demonstrations in the country give the impression that the UPA dispensation is bending over backwards to appease and placate the Hu Jintao leadership in Beijing. Preserving normal diplomatic relations with China is doubtless essential but New Delhi’s inability to muster sufficient courage to express concern over and decry the Chinese acts in Tibet reveal a pusillanimous attitude unbecoming of a country aspiring for great power status, and that too when China does not reciprocate in the least by displaying regard to Indian sensitivity on Arunachal. Of course, this is also linked to Manmohan-Pranab’s eagerness to keep Karat-Yechury in good humour but this will turn out to be a highly costly exercise even in the medium term.

Thankfully, civil society in India is taking a different stance on the issue, and that is of utmost importance in the present scenario.

April 10 S.C.

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