Adv C Ahamed Fayiz
The LDF government of Kerala took a highly significant decision in the socio-political history of India a few days ago; that it is going to implement economic reservation in the state.
As made clear in the cabinet decision by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, a 10 per cent reservation would be given to economically backward sections in forward communities for recruitment in the Devaswam Boards (which controls and administers the majority of temples in Kerala) as part of the first phase of providing reservation to the economically weaker sections in forward communities in government service. In the latest announcement regarding economic reservation, it is also declared that the reservation quota for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes will be increased by 2 per cent, while that of the Ezhava community and other backward sections will be raised by 3 per cent. The said economic reservation to the forward communities was an election offer of the LDF in their election manifesto of 2016 Legislative assembly elections.
The Chief Minister has also called for a Constitutional amendment to implement economic reservation which he described as a new reservation for social justice.He also cleared that CPIM will pressurize the central government to implement economic criteria in reservation system. CPI (M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, going a tad overboard, has even challenged whether it would be possible for the BJP ruling at the Centre to implement economic reservation. He has also put forth a bizarre claim that misleading propaganda was being made ignoring the withdrawal of the benefit for 90 per cent of the forward communities and that the government had capped it at 10 per cent.*
While the Devaswam Minister Kadakampalli Surendran specified the decision as “historic”, the ministers of CPI, who are also the part of the government did not take part in the meeting in which the decision was taken. State Assistant secretary of CPI Prakash Babu said, “Though our ministers did not attend the Cabinet that decided to introduce 10 percent economic reservation, we stand by the decision because it is in tune with our national policy. It is also part of the LDF manifesto”.
He also asked the Central government to amend the Constitution to guarantee 10 percent economic reservation to the forward communities’ poor by raising the reservation cap from 50 percent to 60 percent, leaving 40 percent in open merit. CPI State Secretary Kanam Rajendran also endorsed the same view last day . He said that his party had been professing a clear stance on reservation for the backward classes and a quota for the economically backward among the forward communities from 1930 to 2017 and it has been demanding a constitutional amendment too. “The 22nd party congress held in Puducherry in 2015 had also ratified this stance.” he added.
The Chief Minister who clarified that there needs to be a constitutional amendment to introduce economic reservation also seems to believe that the Dewaswam board is an institution beyond the constitution of India.
Looking back to history it was EMS Namboothiripad, the first Communist CM of Kerala, who introduced the very idea of economic criteria for reservation when he was the head of Administrative Reforms Committee. Com. S Ramachandran Pillai, who is currently the Politburo member of CPIM, proudly claims it as one of the great achievements of the first communist government though they couldn’t implement the same due to severe opposition. He writes, “It was the Administrative Reforms Committee headed by EMS Namboodiripad which proposed for the first time in India, the exclusion of a well-to-do section from the backward communities from enjoying the benefits of reservation. The present practice of exclusion of “creamy layer” actually originated from this recommendation. Both the “forward” and the “backward” communities came against the recommendations of the committee and particularly against EMS Namboodiripad. The “forward” communities attacked the report as it recommended the continuation of the reservation system. The “backward” communities attacked the report for introducing an economic criteria for exclusion.”1.
It is to be noted that it was not even a reasonable time to check about the achievements gained by communities that could avail affirmative action, as the practice of reservation was in its initial stages. “Why are there no members from Ezhava, Muslim and Dalit community (who consist of 37 lakhs, 25 lakhs and 20 lakhs respectively in the population) in a committee which was going to study the system of reservation?” – this speech by Prominent leader K. Sukumaran against EMS Namboothiripad was done when he was sharing stage with him at Kulathoor2. He also severely criticized the meritocracy argument raised against reservation in the report. This compelled EMS to freeze the recommendations over economic reservation in the Administrative Reforms Committee report.
What Studies Say about the Current Status of Reservation
There is no reservation for Muslims and Christians in the Devaswam Board. (the usual quota is, Muslim-12%, Converted Christians-1%, Latin Christians-4 %, SIUC-1 %). So the quota allotted for them will remain vacant. This is the point raised by Left government to declare reservation for economically weaker sections among forward communities. The vacant quota should have been equally divided to the backward communities which do not have adequate representation in the appointments of the Dewaswam board. But instead, here the government has decided to give 10% reservation to forward communities who already possess 90% posts in Dewaswam board.
V R Joshi writes that:
“Though there are not any authentic studies about the population of backward communities in Kerala, the studies and calculations based on birth-death rate and other scientific analysis show that the population of backward community is about 68 percentage (65 %-75 %) . While Scheduled Castes is about 11.5%, the communities like Nairs and Nambiars is about 10.5 %. The other forward communities including Brahmins are only just half percentage of the total population. The forward Christian community is about 9.5 %. So it is clear that the forward communities among Hindus are only just 11 %. The government has decided to give 10% reservation to this 11% of the total population in Kerala.
The instant decision to implement economic reservation is applied in the administrative wing of the Devaswam board. There are almost 1700 employees under Travancore Devaswam Board including LD Clerks, Chief Engineer, Commissioner and Secretary etc. The number of employees from backward communities is below 200 and there is no one from Scheduled Caste community. Almost 90 % of administrative posts are occupied by forward community. The percentage of backward community in total employees of Dewaswam board could be around 25% only by including daily wagers and temple employees too. It is to be noted that reservation for backward communities is still not implemented in the educational institutions which come under Dewaswam board.”3
A study (see the figures below) reveals that in a sum total of 182 teachers under the Tranvancore Dewaswam Board, 135 are from Nair community (forward community) and only 33 are from Ezhava community (OBC community). See the disparity in the numbers between forward and backward communities! At this point of time, it is also important to note that even though the Supreme court in N. Adithayan vs The Travancore Devaswom Board (2002) had declared that the appointment of Shanthis in Shabarimala and Malaikappuram by calling applications only from Malayali Brahmins as unconstitutional, the practice still continues, in what is a clear-cut violation of the above said Supreme Court judgment. This is also another issue which is to be dealt in detail elsewhere.
Meanwhile CPI (M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan claims that there are no legal hurdles to implement the abovesaid reservation policy as this doesn’t override the 50 % reservation limit. He also added that Dewasawam boards are not government institutions or institutions funded by the government and further clarified that the board gives salaries to its employees using its own funds .
Now Pinarayi Vijayan is attempting to execute in 2017 the same economic reservation policy that a former Chief Minister Late K Karunakaran tried to implement in Kerala and the Prime Minister Late P V Narasimha Rao tried to introduce in 1991 but failed at the Supreme Court. A nine-member bench of the Supreme Court had ruled in the sensational Indira Sawhney Vs the Union of India case 25 years ago, that economic reservation was unconstitutional.
A few questions that have to be answered by the left government at this critical juncture
1) What is the political and social compulsion for the CPI (M) to bring up the concept again?
2) Which forward community has been socially marginalized in Kerala so much so as to amend the subsection about social reservation in Article 16 of the Constitution?
3) Has Kerala witnessed any protests due to the social boycott of any section of the forward caste/community?
4) Has the government appointed any commission to study the participation in power of the reservation-enjoying communities against that of the forward castes, and has any report been made showing that their respective share in government and social balance has been turned upside down?
5) Have the forward castes and communities demanded a reservation by way of inclusion in reserved communities by citing their poor state before the National Commission for Backward Classes?
If the government and the CPI (M) try to answer the questions above, it will reveal the grave lack of vigilance that should accompany a review of the reservation quota in accordance with the Constitution. The government should be ready to disclose the statistics based on caste in the social and political spheres before implementing economic reservation. A revamp of the reservation quota should be carried out only after determining which sections of the population have incurred loss of power in proportion to the population.
The CPM has not, even after seven decades of independence, realized that reservation is not a poverty-eradication drive or a job-creation scheme, or that the reasons of backwardness of, and denial of seats of power to, caste-based communities are not their economic status. This is an idea which even the BJP is reluctant to raise at the national level. But the Left government led by Pinarayi Vijayan, who happens to be from one of the ‘reservation communities’, has almost decided to implement economic criteria in the reservation system.
The new attempt to indiscriminately mix up social inequality with economic disparity and to try to solve them through the mechanism of reservation will only be a continuation of the malicious efforts to torpedo the resurgence of those historically denied a share of power. Thus, the forward communities will become the sole beneficiaries of both: social and economic security. The CPM has at such a time entered the scene with a retrograde position that has no theoretical or empirical validity, and distorts the constitutional provision of reservation as a means of ensuring the participation of socially backward sections in the political and governmental processes. By this move, the party may be aiming at some short-lived political goals for which the price the party will have to pay will be costly both socially and politically.
It was in 2000 that Justice Narendra Commission, which was appointed to study the representation of backward communities in government posts, found out that backward communities didn’t get even the government posts which they deserved based on reservation. He recommended implementing reservation in educational institutions to educate and make them capable to achieve such administrative posts in government. But the forward communities blocked the implementation of these recommendations by their political pressure.
In 2006, It was only after availing reservation to “economically backward communities” that the then Congress led UDF government implemented reservation to backward communities as per the recommendation of Narendra Commission report. The backward community leaders neither prevented nor started any agitation against the implementation of reservation for economic reservation to forward communities at that timefor which they are paying now. The instant move to implement economic reservation in the administrative posts of Dewaswam board should be seen as a move to broaden the economic reservation criteria to other government jobs and anattempt by savarna lobbies to subvert the very idea of reservation. The current LDF government is just lickspittling Brahmanism by re-introducing the idea of economic reservation which they had tried to implement but failed 60 years before. At that time, the voice of backward communities was resonated through Editor K Sukumaran who had the courage to warn EMS against such a move. While the current SNDP leader Vellapalli Nadeshan, though had issued statement against the government’s move, his allegiance with BJP doesn’t give much hope. Now there is a need of united action by all those who stand for social justice and backward community organization leaders against this unconstitutional move by LDF government. And it is again and again, left is proving that they are green snakes in green grass.
* NB :- Have used inputs from Madhyamam English Editorial (http://www.madhyamam.com/en/editorial/2017/nov/20/state-govt-should-correct-its-new-reservation-policy).
1. S. Ramachandran Pillai , EMS Namboodiripad and the Communist Government of Kerala, The Marxist XXV, 3-4 July-September 2009
2. K. Sukumaran (8 January 1903 – 18 September 1981), was the Editor of Kerala Kaumudi daily, which celebrated its centenary in 2011. He served as the President of Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam during 1953-54. He is known and fondly called as “Pathradipar” which means Chief Editor in Malayalam. It was under his stewardship that Kerala Kaumudi attained its present stature.
3. V R Joshi, Ex Director, Backward Community Development Department, Reservation for forward communities in Dewaswam Board Unconstitutional, Kerala Kaumudi newspaper, November 18,2017
C Ahamed Fayiz has completed BA.LLB from Government Law College, Ernakulam, and has a PG Diploma in Radio and TV Journalism from Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi. Now he is doing LLM in Criminal and Commercial Laws at Department of Law, University of Calicut.