April 24, 2015

Competing to Become Backward

IDFC Institute's Komal Hiranandani writes about India's reservation policies in Swarajya:

"When reserved categories are not clearly defined, the mere existence of a reservations system creates incentives to demand inclusion... On examining the demands for ST status between January 2000 and March 2010- that were made saliently enough to merit coverage by major news sources of the country- I found that over 46% of the groups demanding ST status faced movements by other groups against their inclusion, showing how the policy specifically creates circumstances in which groups fight against each other.

About a quarter of the demands had news sources explicitly citing communities using previous inclusions as a justification. For example, in 2007, the Gujjars of Rajasthan pushed their demand for ST status after the Jats were added to the Gujjars’ existing compensated category, the OBCs. The Chief Minister’s office was then “flooded with demands” for reservations, and confirmed that at least ten communities “have categorically mentioned that if Gujjars get the ST status, they too will have to be given the same.” The Brahmins also called for reservations based on their socio-economic conditions...

Castes that were earlier clamouring for higher status during census enumerations in India to give them better social standing now compete with each other for a more backward status..."

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