Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Playing the 'Devil's' advocate...

I put myself in the shoes of the government and thought about how I would have gone about implementing this policy of reservations. And the more I think about it, the more I feel that the government could not have done it any other way.

For the government, any policy decision should not become a political suicide, ie, the decision should gain them more votes than they would lose. That is the primary concern of any political party in a democracy.

The likely outcomes of this policy decisions are -
1. It would garner them OBC votes.
2. It would lose them forward caste votes.

To implement this policy, the government could have done the following things -
1. Do a comprehensive survey to recognise the OBCs according to the Mandal guidelines.
2. Do a study on the benefits of reservations. Who has benefited? Has the policy been successful? Would extending the policy to OBCs really help? etc
3. Install a Backwards Commission to examine these and based on its recommendations, act.

It is important to note that all these three methods would have been disastrous for the government. If they had tried to do a survey and review of the OBCs, the government would have met with stiff opposition from a lot of political parties, both within the ruling coalition and outside it! Similarly, with the second one and third ones. These measures, if they had decided to do that, would have been political suicide! The government would have lost votes amongst the OBCs and the Dalits, and would not have gained much from the educated forward castes as they really do not vote. The government could not have done this without a jihadi fervour!!!

If they implement these policies, these things were bound to happen -
1. Large scale protests against the reservations.
2. Media bias in favour of the anti-reservation activists as evidenced by the media behaviour during Mandal I.

So, they would have to content with the fact that there would be much opposition to any hike in reservations and the government would have been forced to make a compromise with the protestors to ensure that they too are happy. That is what happened in 1990, when they had to rollback reservation for the OBC in higher education but implemented the reservation in government jobs.

Whenever you feel that you would have to make a compromise, you overstate/overdo things. For example, shopkeepers know that their customers are going to haggle, because customers always feel that the shopkeeper is overstating the price and are more happy when they are able to get something for lesser than the stated price (or feel that they got it for lesser price). So, they overstate the price and reduce it while haggling with the customer. Eventually, it is a given that they both arrive at a price that is somewhere in between what the customer says s/he would pay and what the salesperson says the price is. Compromises rule in the world of shopping.
The same thing was bound to happen. The government would have had to make some compromises in order to implement this policy. Thus, the best approach for the government to go about this was to take the extreme step. And then come to the middle that you really (may have) wanted to come to.

This way you are nobody's villain. The protesting anti-reservationists would leave the negotiating table feeling that they have achieved something, that they were able to make sure that no 'meritorious' student would not be left out and that they have forced the government to rethink on the policy decision. The OBCs and Dalits would go with the opinion that the government made sure that their rights are preserved, and even though they made some concessions, they were forced to do it. And the government leaves the table unscathed and perhaps (most likely), with a few extra votes.

As you see, there really was no other recourse for the government but to do what it did. I think the government has been very smart. They did not directly jump to the negotiating table as soon the anti-reservation protests started. They made statements that basically said that their policy decision is not going to change. Then, after a long time, they started the talks and came out with the compromise package, which I think would be finally accepted, with some minor changes.

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Atlantean said...

Vow. That's a nice, objective analysis. Impressive.

Many have been saying that reservations have been a great failure. I dont subscribe to it. There are many people who have benefited from reservation.

And btw, a National Commision for Backward Classes is already there. Link

MadHat said...

thank you, atlantean.

There are many people who have benefited from reservation.

More than they think. If there is a 'creamy layer' of SC/STs now, it is because of reservations.

And yes, I do know about the NCBC. I really meant a commission on the lines of the Mandal commission.

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