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Reservation based on economic status will annihilate social justice: Dr. Thol. Thirumavalavan

Reservation based on economic status will annihilate social justice: Dr. Thol. Thirumavalavan

thiruma suresh


Suresh RV 

This discussion was held on 3.5.2019, before Respected Dr. Thol. Thirumavalavan was elected Member of the Parliament. We express our sincere thanks to him for giving us this opportunity and our best wishes for his victory in the elections. The discussion was based on the topic of 10% reservations given to the economically weaker sections among the upper castes. 

thiruma suresh

Sir, first and foremost, what is your opinion on the 103rd constitutional amendment act that provides reservations to the EWS among the upper castes?

Many are debating from the perspective that the 10% reservations are given to the upper castes. Though it might be basically true, the important premise of this reservation happens to be based on economic criteria. Rather than the point that it is given to the upper castes, the more important point that should be focused on is that it is primarily based on economic criteria. Social justice has been the only basis on which reservations have been implemented until now. Economic basis had not been considered a criterion before. Social status and discrimination based on birth have affected all spaces such as society, politics, economics, and culture. As a result of which many communities have been affected and thus have been identified. The basis for the principle of social justice is to ensure justice to them. That reservations should be ensured to these affected people in the fields of education, occupation, and politics so as to empower them in all fields, is the ideology behind social justice. 

That reservations should be given to economically backward people has been a constant demand for so many years. This demand has been debated since the times when Jawaharlal Nehru was the PM. It was in the very same period, Ambedkar, the revolutionary, held the position of a cabinet minister. An extensive debate was held back then regarding whether economic status should be considered the basis to give reservations or not. The then leaders, national leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru and Ambedkar, their contemporary leaders, the activists who had worked beyond the political spectrum, and the intellectuals had all held an extensive, deep debate regarding this. Yet, they all finally came to the conclusion that economic status should not be considered a criterion, and that the true democratic way was to consider social status as the only criterion. That is how reservations have been guaranteed in the constitution. 

suresh thiruma

But, the Modi government has now enacted a law that grants 10% reservations based on the economic criteria. They have misled us and created an angle that this reservation is given to the upper castes and that those who are opposing reservations based on economic status are opposing the upper castes and denying the rights of the upper castes. Those who are upper castes happen to enjoy a higher social status in society. Some of them might be economically backward, we cannot deny that. There are high chances that they might be backward in education and employment too. They happen to be in fact backward too. But their social status opens all the doors for them. Be it any space whatsoever. Therefore, in order to achieve what they want, there exist no impediments and crises. Hence, the then leaders divided Indian society into two: as socially advantaged and socially disadvantaged based on their social status. As it only social status that determined access to education, employment, and political power to many people, such as the scheduled castes and backward classes. The principle of social justice was created in order to compensate for that, and hence, social status was chosen as the sole criterion to restore all the denied rights to the disadvantaged people. Despite some of them being economically forward, owing to the fact that they happen to be backward classes, most backward classes, dalits, and tribals are being constantly humiliated on a rampant basis even today. Whereas, despite being economically backward, their higher social status grants the upper castes greater respect and esteem. 

Therefore, keeping in mind this difference and contradiction, we cannot consider economic status a criterion, only social status is relevant. This is social justice. And so, in order to bury social justice based reservation they have enacted a law that enables reservation based on economic status. Their intention is not mainly to give reservation to upper castes but also to oppose and prevent indirectly the reservations given to BC, MBC, SC, and ST. In order to slowly put an end to the practice, in the name of giving reservations to upper castes, they have brought in reservations based on economic status. So, their main intention is to bury social justice. If we consider economic status a criterion or a unit for giving reservations, in the days to come, discussions on social justice would slowly cease to be. Therefore, they have brought in this 10% reservations keeping in mind that they can slowly destroy the rights granted to all those who have been hitherto oppressed and made backward, in the name of caste and religion. More than to truly help the upper castes, their real intention has only been to completely destroy the social justice based reservation given to SC, ST, BC, and MBCs. So, we are opposing the idea that economic status should be considered a criterion to give reservations. We should not see it from the perspective that we do not want anything to be done for the upper castes. The state can help them by any other means. They can be given loans, or through any other means, they can provide them with opportunities. But enacting a law to bring in reservation based on economic status, so as to completely annihilate social justice based reservation, is highly condemnable. We are opposing it on the grounds that this is a regressive step taken towards annihilating social justice. 

In general, how do you view the ‘creamy layer’ in OBC reservations? Also, many Ambedkarites opine that this amendment is the first step towards the implementation of creamy layer in SC/ ST reservations. What is your opinion on their views? 

Creamy layer is the first strategy that they used to bring reservation based on economic status into implementation. Because of the fact that we had allowed the creamy layer earlier, it has become convenient for them to enact the 10% reservation amendment bill today. That it is applicable only in the OBC reservations, and so, the SC/STs need not bother about it, is a wrong view. There exists a state that the social security granted to the SC/STs can only be ensured by protecting the social security granted to the OBCs, and vice versa. Therefore, if the reservations given to the OBCs are affected by any means, then it will affect the SC/STs too. The creamy layer may seem right if looked at from the surface. But only if keenly observed we can understand their treacherous ploy. There naturally arises a question, whether those coming from successive generations too should avail reservations in education and employment. Within the slot given to the SC/STs, the students from the SC/ST communities alone happen to compete with each other. So, this does not affect students from other communities. Among them, truly speaking, many have started to get educated. From first generation graduates, there have emerged second generation and third generation graduates. Instead of giving room for questions to rise such as, whether someone whose father happens to be a judge and mother happens to be a professor should get reservations again or not, they should voluntarily decide to compete in open competition. If they do so, there would not be any need to discuss creamy layer. 

The students from the BC, MBC, SC and ST communities who are from the second generation and third generation graduated families, or are capable enough to study well owing to their better financial status, should voluntarily include themselves in open competitions. Them being adamant that they will not include themselves in open competition but will compete only in the slots allocated to SC/ST and MBC is the primary reason why questions regarding creamy layer are being raised. That is, the claim that only a few from a community are getting benefitted by the reservation policy. If the already well educated and financially well settled people are going to compete in education and employment then they should voluntarily include themselves in open competition. If they do so, there would not take place any debate as regards the creamy layer. There also would not be a possibility for the students from the third and fourth generation beneficiaries of reservation from SC, BC and MBC communities to affect the chances of poor students from their respective communities. Therefore, the problem lies in how we approach the creamy layer policy. But those from the ruling-governing classes use this as a garb to bring in reservation based on economic status, in order to slowly bring an end to reservations given to dalits and backward classes. This is a death knell for social justice. A grave danger. VCK does not accept the creamy layer because it may lead or has led to bringing in economic status based criteria. 

At the central level there was a 50% cap and now they have added 10% EWS reservations making it a total of 60% cap on reservations in central institutions. At the state level, in TN, 69% reservations are being given in state institutions. Do you think that the centre should follow TN in this regard? 

69% reservations given by TN is different from the reservations given by the centre. We should not confuse them both. The state government gives reservations based on the population within the state. The central government gives reservations based on the population of the entire nation. At the central level, 15% is allocated to the SCs and 7.5% is allocated to the STs, and so in total, 22.5% of reservations is allocated to the SC/STs. The OBCs are given 27% of reservations. Since there happens to be a 50% cap on reservations the OBCs are given only 27% as the SC/ST share happens to be 22.5%. But in reality, the population has swollen largely. The SC and STs are more in number than 22.5%. The population of SCs has increased by more than 15%. But even today, they are executing the old practice only. This is objectionable. This is a fraudulent act. 

This being the case, regarding TN, the situation was that 50% should not be increased yet at the same time 69% reservations should also come into force. Hence, lots of protests took place at a pan-Indian level, and the centre too finally conceded and took a few steps occasionally to implement the same without affecting the 22.5% reservations of SC/STs. Despite that the state governments should not go beyond 50%, they added 19% along with the 50% cap making a total of 69%. This could not be reduced to 50% again. Also, they could not lay their hands on the SC/ST reservations. To touch these 50% reservations too was also tough. Therefore, a provision was included in the eighth schedule and thus being protected, so far. That is, in order for the SC/ST/OBCs to access 69% reservations this provision was included in the eighth schedule and is thus being protected. Therefore, the limits of reservations for the centre and states are different. Despite protecting these two rights, we also have to come forward to break the ceiling and give reservations to BC, MBC, SC, and STs based on their actual population size existing today. This is the stand of VCK. So, even though the Supreme Court might have set the ceiling number, this has to be changed for the evolving times. VCK’s demand is that the government should ensure that the SC/STs are granted reservations based on their actual population size. 

As regards reservation policy, many Ambedkarite activists and thinkers have pointed out that the policy has not been implemented properly. In what way do you think the reservations are being implemented in the central and state institutions? Are the dalit-bahujans being properly represented?

The reservation policy has never been implemented properly. I believe this is a fraudulent act. Be it for SC/STs and also for BC/MBCs, reservation has never been 100% properly implemented. As regards SC students, they always seem to repeatedly claim that there are not enough deserving candidates. This cannot be accepted. Only around 5 to 6% reservations have come in to force. Even this, they use it mostly only to recruit for the powerless, lower level official positions. Therefore, in reality, the case being that only around 5-6% reservations have been implemented, it is our demand that in all the fields, 100% reservations should be implemented. That is, 22.5% given to SC/STs and 27% given to the OBCs should be implemented completely. Only then these people can be uplifted. Not many demand this these days. The governing classes, especially the Sangh Parivar groups, are keen on finishing even this reservation too and want to ensure there exists no reservation at all. The actual reality is that we have to fight consistently in order to protect social justice every day. 

Of late, owing to the brahmanical discourses, the open category has come to be understood as a category meant only for the upper castes, which it is not. Do you think that a larger scheme is at play to limit it to only the upper castes, the 50% open category? 

There is no hidden scheme or such. They are executing it openly. That the remaining 50% is applicable only to the upper castes is how it is being implemented even now. The communities which are given reservations are not being able to avail whatever slots that have been allocated to them completely. This being the case, they say that we do not have enough deserving candidates. There are no reservations in promotions too. Because of which, all the top posts are being occupied by only the so-called upper castes, general category higher caste people. Their population is meager in reality. But their limit to access power exceeds over 50%. The practical truth is that the so-called general category people or in other words, the upper castes happen to infringe upon the rights and opportunities of the reservation availing classes. The ones who want to protect social justice should understand this and indulge in transferring the deserving candidates from the BC, MBC, SC and ST communities to general category. This is important. The deserving candidates from the reservation availing classes who are capable enough to compete in the open competition should be considered general category candidates. Only then the state of 50% being amassed by only one community would ultimately change. True social justice can also be safeguarded. 

The central government has constantly brought in anti-bahujan and anti-states initiatives such as NEET, GST, and so on. Is this amendment a further step in the reduction of the voice of the states? Do you feel there is a centre vs. state angle to this issue? 

As much as there lies truth in the approach of upper castes vs. other castes regarding this issue, to the exact same degree there lies truth in the ruling parties of the centre approaching it from the angle of central government vs. regional government. They want the regional and the state parties to not grow stronger as the state parties forming the government in the states happen to weaken the central government. Therefore, to establish a strong central government is their main intention. The way they see a strong central government is one which establishes one nation, one culture, and one rule. So, their plans are to crush the rights of the states, trample on the aspirations of the regions, and to make sure there exists no state party in the political spectrum. Just as they sharpen the difference between the upper castes and other castes, their intentions here are to establish a strong central government and weak state governments, and slowly destroy the state governments or to establish the state governments of national/central parties. In order to do this, they bring in several anti-state laws. More than considering it an anti-state measure we should consider it a crushing of regional feelings. It is their wish to make sure there need not be or exist any state party, in due course of time.

It was the Congress party during the year 2006 that formed a commission to study the case for EWS reservations. And now they have voted for it in the Parliament too. ADMK opposed the bill but eventually walked out before voting. BSP, the party that represents the interests of the bahujans, supported the bill and voted in favor of it. CPIM too opposed but voted in favor of it. What is your view on all this? 

As it stands, this is a bitter truth. A common, unanimous thought process has not yet evolved among the democratic forces. It should happen. In order to make it happen people like us should work together. Therefore, despite all these bitter incidents, we have to ensure that we make democracy victorious. 

What is your view on the caste census? Do you feel it is relevant to the current issue? Why do you think there is no prominent discourse regarding it in TN? 

Caste census is highly needed to ensure social justice is implemented absolutely. In order to annihilate caste, social justice happens to be the first prerequisite. To ensure that social justice gets properly implemented caste census becomes highly important. Hence, VCK demands that caste census is very much important. A prominent discussion regarding the same has not yet taken place widely here in TN. It has to take place. And all democratic forces should come forward to do the same. 

What is your view on the monopoly of the brahmin-savarnas in the Supreme Courts? Do you think that there should be reservations in the collegium system? 

Absolutely. It is a definite must to implement reservations in judiciary, universities, higher educational institutions, security departments such as military and police department. This is why we strongly demand that there should be reservations in promotions. If that comes into force, reservations will automatically come into practice in all institutions such as military and judiciary. And, democracy too shall be preserved. 

VCK has filed a lawsuit against this amendment act. Do you think that we can get a suitable judgment from the courts which happen to be under the control of the upper castes? 

To move the courts is a symbol of resistance. We cannot say that they have always given judgements against our interests all the time. Most of the times, we might have got judgements against our interests. But some times, some democratic forces in the form of judges have given us judgements that have fulfilled our expectations. So, it would not be a surprise if a rare miracle happens in this case too. I believe that the honest and democratic forces will give a favorable judgment accepting our just demands. 

So, you consider only a miracle could possibly happen? 

If something happens rarely, we call it a miracle. Many times, it has happened too. We cannot say that all the judges have been against us or that all the officials have been against us every time. There are many democratic people too. Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer, despite being an Iyer, stood by the side of democracy and has given many judgements. Similarly, Justice Chandru stood by the side of democracy and has given us many judgements. Even today, at times when we have least expected it, the Supreme Court has surprised us by giving many good judgements. We have filed a case expecting the probability of such an outcome. 

How does VCK plan on taking forward the challenge? Is it going to be only on a legal basis or on socio-political basis too?

This issue should be discussed on all platforms. We should not create an image that we are opposing the reservations given to the upper castes. Though this reservation might be given to the upper castes, we have to understand that it was not entirely brought in to benefit them. It was mainly brought in to bring an end to the reservation policy that benefits the downtrodden classes. And so, if social justice has to be safeguarded the Act that guarantees this 10% EWS reservation has to be repealed. There is a need to approach this on a legal basis. There is also a need to take it to all platforms such as society, economy, culture, etc. That is how VCK approaches this issue and is intent on taking forward the issue. 

Did VCK raise its voice against EWS reservations in the Save Nation conference that it recently held? Since you said we have to save the nation, do you think that this EWS reservation bill represents the will of the nation

In the Save Nation conference, we have passed a resolution claiming that this 10% EWS reservation is an attempt to finish off social justice and so, the Amendment Act has to be repealed. Also, we have planned to take this issue to the masses. If this state of affairs continues, in due course of time, the principle of social justice would get destroyed completely. There would not be any discussion regarding it. Therefore, the main stands of the VCK party are that this Act should be repealed and that the awareness pertaining to this issue has to be spread.

But still, there exists a stoic silence in Tamilnadu, from the general public to most of the political parties, regarding the EWS reservations. Why do you think the people who came out to the streets in large numbers during NEET–Anita’s death, Jallikattu, Anti-Sterlite protests–have not come out so now? 

At least, in Tamil Nadu, there exists some voice of dissent. In other states there exists none. The reason is because they have become sanskritised and hinduised. Many states and even many state parties too happen to function under the control of the Sangh Parivar. Therefore, to understand the nuances pertaining to this 10% reservations, they happen to experience some difficulties. Only if we brush aside the angle that this reservation is given to the upper castes we can understand the nuances to this problem. We have to understand from the basis that this is against social justice. Only then the question arises whether this reservation is given to the upper castes or other castes. Some face difficulty in grasping that this is primarily against social justice. It is so because they have been and are closely associated with the Sangh Parivar organizations. But regarding Tamil Nadu, since the Ambedkarite and Periyarist movement oriented people and the leftists are able to understand it clearly, we happen to oppose it vehemently. 

In the past, Tamil Nadu had seen huge protests whenever it came to a challenge to representative rights. But now, other than moving the courts, none of the big parties such as the DMK have taken the issue to the streets. A meeting by the opposition parties was held at Periyar Thidal in which VCK too participated. Have our protest forms changed? 

We cannot measure this by reducing its scope. In the past, the growth and the strength of media was less. Nowadays, if someone goes on a hunger strike the news spreads widely throughout the world, to every nook and corner. Therefore, we should not come to a conclusion that only if lakhs have gathered on a larger scale it should be considered a protest, or that if it happens on a lesser scale it should be considered diluted. However, to oppose what should be opposed and to do so at the appropriate time, is the main characteristic of any protest. It could be either new parties joining together and holding a protest, or it could be just a protest held by a single party, or it could have around 10,000 people gathered in it, or it could even have just 10 people. But a protest, is a protest, nevertheless. It is an opportunity to display our resistance. Hence, I consider that we need not compare the struggles of the past and the present. 

Lastly, how do you think that our SC, ST, OBC people, our youngsters and our bahujan civil society should take forward this issue? 

Firstly, an extensive discussion on this should be started. Our youngsters should take part in it to a larger extent. We should not see that social justice is given as some benefits to some particular communities on the basis of sympathy. We should understand that it is a legal right given to communities that have been hitherto denied rights for many centuries. So, there needs to happen an extensive discussion and awareness propaganda on social justice. I would like to pinpoint the importance of this to the youngsters. Only if we start to grow our faith in social justice, would we be able to safeguard democracy. Social justice is the gateway or the entrance to democracy. If that gets destroyed, sanatanism will once again become victorious here. The youngsters and civil society are the non-political mass. I consider that it is important for them to spread awareness about social justice in the society, to create extensive discussions, and on that basis, to come forward to safeguard democracy. Instead of thinking that all political parties work against the interests of the people, the bahujan civil society has to ally with the political parties by understanding that they too have an important role to play in taking forward the cause to the masses. We have to understand that this should not be considered a struggle against the upper castes, but rather be considered a struggle in order to safeguard social justice, and also as a struggle to not allow reservation based on economic status but to continue it on the basis of social justice alone. This is what I expect of them. 

For the first time, on behalf of Round Table India we are meeting you. Thank you for giving us this opportunity. Do you have a message or advice for Round Table India?

I convey my regards to Round Table India. I am aware that Round Table India is a democratic website that rightly identifies the democratic forces and registers their opinions. Round Table India has created a space for discussions to take place on democratic leaders such as Ambedkar, the revolutionary and Thanthai (Father) Periyar, in particular, and their principles and ideologies. I am delighted to know that some of the already published articles from Round Table India have been edited and released as books in the English language. Though there might be many media houses and websites around, the way in which Round Table India is engaging in such productive measures and allowing more space for youngsters to shine is highly appreciable. I convey my regards to Round Table India for giving me this opportunity.


[Questions were framed by Suresh RV and Radhika Sudhakar



Suresh R. V is from Chennai and is an aspiring writer.

Photos: Boanerges Gangapatla