Sweta Ranjan | November 24, 2015
National commission for scheduled castes chairman P L Punia is a dalit leader from the Congress. He represented Barabanki constituency in Lok Sabha from 2009 to 2014 and is currently a Rajya Sabha member. An IAS officer, Punia was secretary of Mayawati when she was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. In an interview with Sweta Ranjan, he tells why reviewing reservation is not justified.
Despite six decades after independence, we haven’t achieved the target set under reservation benefits. Who do you blame for this?
Schedule Caste people were begging for their rights. People responsible for delivery of these rights had no sympathy. There were prejudices against people belonging to SC/ST and those prejudices still exist. Dr B R Ambedkar, in 1949, had said that we will be giving equal political rights but the country will enter an era of contradiction because on the other hand there will be inequality economic and social rights. This contradiction [as predicted by Ambedkar] still exists. Look at the way people, who are responsible for the implementation of the schemes, are behaving. Also look at the judiciary. It passes all kinds of judgement on environment, animal rights, forests, Taj Mahal etc., but I haven’t seen a single judgement, judicial pronouncement on the schedule caste [rights]. All judgments have been going against the schedule caste. There are prejudices among people. They [SC/ST] are still slaves.
Do you vote for reservation in private sector?
Yes. There is no investment in public sector and is being privatised. There is disinvestment on a large scale. All the work that was being done by the public sector is now being undertaken by the private sector. From where will we get the employment? The term private sector is a misnomer as the equity, shareholding is being contributed by the government agencies like the public sector financial institutions and the loan is provided by all public sector banks and public sector institutions.
Some people are talking about reservation based on economic condition and not on the basis of caste. What do you think about it?
See, it [reservation] is not employment exchange programme for removing poverty. They [SCs/STs] are treated as sub-human and second category citizens. That’s why there is a necessity for special dispensation. They can’t be treated at par. If they are really at par then they should have been holding land, agriculture land like any other forward class. Even now, they cannot take out a marriage procession. They are treated as untouchable and not allowed into the temple. In Gujarat there are separate anganwadis for schedule caste children and women. In Karnataka, if the cook of mid-day meal scheme belongs to SC then students would not eat food or their parents shift the children to other schools. This situation prevails because they are socially backward. That is why there is a provision for reservation.
But if the reservation is based on economic conditions, they can avail dispensation and build their livelihood.
The one who has not seen the plight of this section of the society can say this. It might appear very great that who so ever is backward or poor should get the reservation but what about them [SC/ST]. They are never treated at par. That is why this special dispensation is must. The other forward classes are around 7-8 percent of the total population and 50 per cent seats are reserved for them. Supreme Court says that not more than 50 per cent shall be reserved for SC/ST. In a way 50 per cent posts are being reserved for the 15 per cent people. Why don’t people challenge this fact. About 25 per cent population is SC/ST and according to the Mandal commission about 54 percent people are OBC. So, for 80 percent of the population [SC/ST and OBC] they say don’t cross 50 percent limit. But for the remaining 20 percent [general category] 50 percent seats are reserved. Is it justified?
In that case, why not call off the entire reservation system and grant it on the basis of one’s economic conditions?
But then how will their participation be ensured? They were deprived of education and jobs.
Is it the high time to exclude the creamy layer from the SCs, so that the reservation benefits reach the needy ones?
Creamy layer is for the OBC.
Shouldn’t it be applied on SC/ST?
Why? Supreme court has deliberated this several times. SCs/STs are undoubtedly backward and they deserve separate treatment from the rest.
Mohan Bhagwat expressed a need to review the current reservation policy…
It is their philosophy. They don’t want to give special treatment to SC/ST. The prime minister so far has never mentioned about SC/ST and their rights, except during Bihar election campaign. Everyone is favouring SC/ST except for BJP and RSS. I am not saying to give your life, but at least pass reservation and promotion bill in the parliament.
Congress leader Jitin Prasada expressed that there is a need for quota for the poor among the upper caste.
He is making his statement at a time when we [UPA] is not in power. They are not in the government for last 26 years in Uttar Pradesh so to whom is he addressing to? He should have raised this issue when he was in power. Congress party stands for no compromise on reservation for SC/ST and OBC. In fact we will promote reservation for economically backward people.
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