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Reservations:

The
Tamilnadu
Experience by S. Guhan
based on an interview by PPST group Madras

By way of background, can you, to Let us see the caste configuration as percent are Forward community
begin with, give us an idea of the caste it is today. Fortunately we have a 100 Hindus.
configuration in Tamilnadu? percent caste census which was Among the Forward communities
Historically, the caste configuration undertaken in Tamilnadu in 1984 by the within Hindus, the Brahmins are the
in Tamilnadu has not had a close Second Backward Classes Commission most populous, accounting for about 10
correspondence to the traditional Hindu under the Chairmanship of Mr. J. A. lakhs, or two to three percent of the
varna system. There is a theory that Ambashankar. According to this census, population. Other Forward communities
originally there was no caste at all in about 19.5 percent of the population belong to the traditional upper peasantry
Dravidian society and that it was an consists of Scheduled Castes and of Vellalars, Pillaimars and Mudaliars. We
imposition by the Aryans. There was a Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST). We have also have similar Telugu speaking castes,
about 24 percent included in what has
ritualistic Brahmin caste, as elsewhere the Naidus and Reddiars. The important
come to be known as the Most
in India, but beyond that there were no Tamil speaking trading caste in the
Backward Classes. Then you have
clear distinctions such as Kshalriyas and about 43.5 percent of the population Forward group are Chettiars, while Balija
Vaisyas and the entire population other consisting of Backward Classes. The Naidus and Komutti and Beri Chettis
than Brahmins was classified as Forward communities, consisting of are similar Kannada and Telugu speaking
Shudras, considered an abusive both non-Hindus and Hindus, constitutes castes. We also have Malayalam
description that came to be rightly only about 12.5 percent; of them, about speaking Forward Castes in Nairs and
resented by those so characterised. 4 percent are non-Hindus and about 8.5 Menons. Among the Backward and

46 MANUSHI
most Backward Classes, the middle and estimated that about a third of Brahmin people in Tamilnadu like Sir Tyagaraja
the small peasantry constitute the bulk. families received some income from Chetti, from some of the leading people
The most populous amongst them are land. However, and perhaps because in Andhra like Sir K.V. Reddi Naidu, and
the Vanniars who have been Classified they were not attached to land, they took the Raja of Panagal, and Dr. T.M. Nair,
among the Most Backward Classes. to education very early, especially a renowned Malayali doctor. The
They are about 65 lakhs in number. English education, when the British important point to note here is that
Among the peasantry, other populous began establishing colleges and Tamilnadu already had such persons in
communities are Kongu Vellalars, universities around the middle of the the non-Brahmin elite. It was a thin elite
Agamudaiyars, Yadavars, Kallars and nineteenth century. The orientation of but powerful enough to be able to
Maravars. The traditional artisanal castes the Brahmins to scriptural learning must successfully challenge Brahmin
are Viswakarmas (carpenters, have certainly given them an advantage supremacy.
goldsmiths and blacksmiths) and the in this respect. In 1901, the literacy rate There was also certainly an element
important services castes are Kullalars among Brahmins who were only of historical conjuncture which
(potters), Vannars (Washermen) and three percent of the population was contributed to the early success of the
Maruthuvars (Barbers). In addition the 73.6 percent, and English literacy was Justice Party, it will not be possible for
Backward (including Most Backward) 17.9 percent compared to only 6.9 me to do full justice in this interview to
Classes include weavers, fishermen, and percent and 0.2 percent for Vellalars the fascinating chapter of Tamil social
trading castes such as Nadars. Urdu and (upper-caste non-Brahmins). From and political history of the first two
Tamil speaking Muslims (Labbais) and 1870-1918, 67 percent of the graduates decades of this century. Interested
Christian converts from the SC, the of Madras University were Brahmins; readers will find a very good account in
fishing community, and Nadars have of Bachelor of Law degree holders, they Eugene Irschicks book Politics and
also been included among Backward were 73.6 percent of the teaching Social Conflicts in South India. Because
Classes. degrees. Since medicine was considered of the non-cooperation movement, the
The sum up, the Forward non- to be polluting, their number in this field Congress did not contest the 1920
Hindus and Hindus constitute only about was less than that of non-Brahmins. But elections, enabling the Justice Party to
12.5 percent of the population. Apart they caught up. In 1951, but for a have walk over. The British undeniably
from the Brahmins, they include castes reservations, 65 percent of medical played a role in encouraging the non-
which in the past were known as high admissions would have gone to Brahmin movement. They identified the
Class Vellalars. They also include non- Brahmins. Brahmin community with nationalism,
Hindu communities. 43.5 percent of the The near-monopoly of Brahmins in especially the Home Rule Movement
total population has been classified as education led to their cornering of promoted by Mrs Annie Besant, and even
Backward Classes and 24.5 percent as government jobs. In 1912-17, the with terrorism at the time of the Rowlatt
Most Backward Classes. The SC/ST Brahmins accounted for 55 percent of Act. In turn, the non-Brahmin
population is a little less than 20 percent. deputy collectorships, 83 percent of movement looked to the British for
At the time of the old Madras subjudges, 73 percent of district securing fair representation for their
Presidency, there were also other munsifs, and 65 percent of higher community in the context of Montagu-
important non-Brahmin castes such as ministerial posts in the revenue and Chelmsford reforms of 1919. While all
the Kapus and Kammas of Andhra and judicial departments. In fact, the first this is true, there was a substantive
Malayalam speaking people from executive order to limit Brahmins aspiration for social justice in the non-
Malabar. representation in the revenue department Brahmin community wanting to have a
Tamilnadu has had a long history was issued as far back as 1854, when it share commensurate with its population
going back to the 1920s, of reservations. was found that the entire revenue in the legislature and in educational and
Can you give us an idea of the historical establishment in Nellore district was employment opportunities.
development of reservations? controlled by 49 Brahmins, all from the The history of educational
Let me begin by drawing attention same family. concessions and reservations in posts
to the striking dominance of the This was the background in which and of other measures for preferential
Brahmins in the early part of this century. the Justice Party was founded in 1916. treatment in Tamilnadu extends as far
It is not as if Brahmins were among Its leadership came not only from Tamil back as 1884. This was when the grant-
major landholders, although it has been Vellalars, but also from Telugu-speaking in-aid code included special educational

NUMBER 63-64 47
concessions for the Backward Castes. Ra-jah) and Muslim groups, all began decisions resulted in agitations in
The lists of such castes were prepared accusing the Forward non-Brahmin Madras, notably the one led by Periyar
from time to time on the basis of communities of cornering a large share E. V. Ramaswami Naicker. K. Kamaraj
petitions and recommendations thereon in public employment As a result of this was the leader of the Congress Party in
from Collectors and the Director of pressure, the quotas were revised in the Madras state, although he was not
Public Instruction. In 1957, a list of Most 1947. The new reservation for non- yet the Chief Minister, and he played a
Backward Classes was prepared in order Brahmins Hindus was 42.86 percent. A major role in conveying the deep
to extend educational concessions to separate category of Backward Hindus concern of the people of Tamilnadu to
them on a par with those extended to was introduced with a quota of 14.29 Nehru. This was the background to the
SC and ST. percent. The quota for Harijans, as they introduction of Article 15(4) in the
Coming to job reservations, I have were then termed, was substantially Constitution which permitted special
already mentioned the executive increased to 14.29 per-cent The quota measures for the benefit of Socially and
instructions to limit Brahmin for Anglo-Indians/ Christians and Educationally Backward Classes in
representation that were issued by the admission to educational institutions.
Revenue Department in 1854. In actual Nehru admitted in Parliament: the
practice there was not, however, much House knows very well and there is no
progress in reducing Brahmin need to hush it up, the this particular
dominance. Accordingly, these matter in this particular shape arose
instructions had to be reiterated from because of certain happenings in
time to time. In what came to be known Madras.
as the First and Second Communal GOs In keeping with the requirements of
(Government Orders), the Justice Party the Constitution it was not possible to
government extended these executive allot specific quotas to different groups.
instructions to other departments in Therefore, in 1951, the reservations for
1921 and to promotion by selection in the purpose of both Articles 15(4) and
1922. However, all this was only in the 16(4) were broad-banded. The
form of executive instructions to percentage was fixed at 15 for SC and
provide larger opportunities to the non- ST, 25 for Backward Classes and 60
Brahmin communities. They were not for open competition. Following the
regulatory. formation of the Andhra state in 1953,
The first formal reservation orders the percentage for SC and ST was
was passed in 1927. This provided increased by one percent to 16 and that
specific quotas to five groups. Non- for open competition was reduced by 1
Brahmins, who were estimated to be 72 Mohammedans was reduced to 7.14 percent to 59. Following the report of
percent in the population, were given a percent. The important point to note is the First Back-ward Classes
quota of 41.67 percent. Brahmin, three that the quota for Brahmins has been Commission under the Chairmanship of
percent in the population, were given a four to five times their population share Mr A.N. Sattanathan, the percentages
quota of 16.67 percent. Anglo-Indians and that for Forward non-Brahmins was were again revised as 18 for SC/ST and
and Christians, four percent in the more than twice their population share. 31 for Backward Classes and 51 for
population, were given a quota of 16.67 In 1951, after the Constitution was open competition. In 1980, the MGR
percent. Mohammedans, seven percent passed, the Communal GOs of 1947 administration significantly increased the
in the population, were also given a quota were struck down by the Madras High percentage for Backward Classes from
of 16.67 percent. Depressed Classes, Court and, thereafter, by the Supreme 31 to 50 and correspondingly reduced
who were 14 percent in population, were Court in two important decisions, the percentage for open competition
given a quota of only 8.33 percent. namely Champakam Durairajan versus from 51 to 32. In 1989, the present
In 1934, the Madras Provincial the State of Madras in the case of DMK government introduced a new
Backward Classes League was founded. educational institutions, and in category of Most Backward Classes and
The members of the League, leaders Venkataramana versus the State of denotified communities for whom they
among the SCs (such as Mr M.C. Madras in public services. These provided a separate reservation of 20

48 MANUSHI
percent carving out this figure from the We should not be staggered by this bogeys. In addition to reservations, the
earlier 50 percent reservation for figure because only 25 communities are Tamilnadu government has pursued
Backward Classes as a whole. Recently significant in terms of population. various other preferential programmes
an extra one percent point has been Together these 25 communities ac-count for Backward Classes. A separate
given to SC/ST in accordance with the for some 261 lakhs or about 77 percent department was set up for this purpose
court decision that the Scheduled Tribes of the total population of 340 lakhs for in 1969 under the earlier government of
should have a separate percentage. the Backward and Most Backward Mr Karunanidhi, and a similar similar
The net position today is that we have Classes. The other 225 communities are department for Most Backward Classes
an overall reservation in Tamilnadu of individually quite small, each accounting was set up in 1989 when the category
69 percent broken up as 19 percent for for some 30,000 in number or about 6000 was introduced. Substantial budgetary
SC/ST, 30 percent for Backward families. This illustrates that it is not allotments are made for preferential
Classes and 20 percent for Most correct to say that caste based programmes such as hostels,
Backward Classes with the balance of reservation leads to fragmentation. scholar-ships, stipends, notebooks,
31 percent being available for open I would also point out that the uniforms and so on. There is also a
competition in which, of course, all additions made in the 1970s and 1980s Backward Classes Corporation engaged
communities can participate. have reflected, by and large genuine in giving loans for income earning
How were the lists for Backward backwardness. This is borne out by the opportunities.
Classes and Most Backward Classes Second Backward Classes Now that these measures have been
arrived at? Commission which went into the social, implemented for more than 60 years,
Basically the lists that were prepared educational and economic condition of what has been the impact on the quality
vari-ous castes in great detail. They of educational admissions and on
for purposes of fee concessions, from
recom-mended the exclusion of only efficiency in government?
time to time, have been adopted for the
purposes of reservations under Articles seven communities with a total Let me take up the question of
15(14) and 16(4). The First Backward population of only about 56,000 from admission to educational institutions
Classes Commission streamlined and among those included after 1972. They first. Recently, there was an interesting
consolidated these lists, which were also recommended 15 other article in The Hindu by Mr Era
hitherto maintained by three communities (with a total population of Chezhiyan, which gives the cut-off level
departments, namely, the Department of about 34 lakhs) for exclusion but the in marks scored by the lowest
Backward Classes, the Education government did not accept this performers in various courses. This
recommendation. What is important to article provides separate figures for open
Department and the Tamilnadu Public
note is that the communities which were competition, as well as for reserved
Service Commission. The consolidated
recommended for exclusion on the quotas for Backward Classes, Most
list was published in 1972. Since then,
ground of relative progress were not, in Backward Classes, and SC/ST. Taking
21 entries have been added up to 1980.
the main, the new communities that were the MBBS courses, for instance, we find
About half of these were only
added after Independence. Rather, they that the cut-off level in 1990 under open
clarifications while the balance were
were largely communities which, virtue competition was 95.22 percent. This
new entries. In 1985, the Second
of reservations over a long span, had was only 2.04 percent higher than the
Backward Classes Commission cut-off level under the Backward
reg-istered fair progress in educational
recommended the inclusion of 29 Classes quota which was 93.18 percent
and employment opportunities. It must
communities. These were individually and it was only 5.6 per-cent higher than
also be pointed out that the size of such
small and added upto a population of communities. It must also be pointed out the cut-off level under the Most
only about 4 lakhs. The list notified in that the size of such communities, Backward Classes quota which came to
1957 in the report of educational recommended for graduation 89.62 percent. In other words, the
concessions to Most Backward Classes constituted only about seven percent of lowest performer in open competi-tion
was adopted without change when the the total population. Thus the allegation was more meritorious by only 2.04
separate reservations was provided to that more and more ineligible percent compared to the lowest
this category in 1989. commu-nities get included in the list and performer in the Backward Classes
Altogether, we have today a list with the allegation that a large proportion of quota, and by no more than 5.6 percent
250 entries for Backward Classes, them are undeserving of special compared to the lowest performer in the
including the Most Backward Classes. treatment are both largely baseless Most Backward Classes quota. If we

NUMBER 63-64 49
did not have reservations, the marks which has its own complexities. argue that reservations have improved
scored by the lowest performer in open Theoretically, it is quite impossible the morale of the services in terms of
competition would be closer still to those to measure the diverse and chang-ing caste cohesion and social
registered by the beneficiaries of factors that contribute to efficiency. responsiveness. Thereby, both the
reservations. This only shows that, given Those who argue that reservations have internal and external functioning of the
time and patience, merit ceases to be adversely affected efficiency either allege administration are upgraded. This to my
the monopoly of the Forward a decline in efficiency either allege a mind is efficiency in the broadest sense.
commu-nities and the so-called decline in efficiency over time in the Dont the Forward Castes have
Backward Classes tend to catch up fast. same state, or alternatively they compare reason to feel aggrieved about the loss
Another way to look at this is to the efficiency of states with reservations of opportunities? How have they
consider the share which the Back-ward with those without them. The latter adjusted themselves to reservations?
Classes are able to obtain in open comparison will show that states like
I would like to view the question
competition, strictly on the basis of Tamilnadu, Maharashtra, and Karnataka
somewhat differently. The issue is not
merit. In 1990, in engineering courses,
whether psychologically the Forward
we find that in open competition seats,
communities feel aggrieved, but whether
45.6 percent was won by Backward
in actual fact and in equity they have
Classes, 4.9 percentby the Most
legitimate cause for feeling discriminated
Backward Classes and 0.4 percent by
against. My answer is in the negative.
SCs and STs.
For instance, taking engineering college
Some people have argued that if the admissions in 1990, we find that
Backward Classes are able to do so well Backward Classes, including Most
on merit, why do they require Backward Classes, obtained a share of
reservations? This question arises from 65.6 percent which is somewhat less
a superficial understanding of the than their population share of 67.9
problem. This will be evident by percent. On the other hand, Forward
con-sidering what will happen if communities with a population share of
reserva-tions are confined to SC/ST and 12.5 percent, have obtained a 15.3
the balance of 81 percent is made percent share in admissions. No inequity
avail-able for open competition. In that is therefore involved on this score.
event, the Backward and Most Secondly, let us look at the ratio of
Backward Classes, with a population selections to applications. We find that
share of 68 percent, are likely to get only the Forward communities scored a ratio
a 41 percent share in seats and posts which have a long history of of 7.7 percent which is not very much
while the Forward communities, with a compensatory discrimination are lower than the 9.5 percent scored by
population share of 12.5 percent will be certainly not the worst administered in the Backward Classes. On this score
able to corner a 40 percent share. India. In fact, they are better also, Forward Classes cannot complain
Moreover, the Most Backward Classes administered than many states which of being discriminated against. The Most
will get marginalised; going by their have had a shorter history and/or a lower Backward Classes have registered a ratio
current performance, they are likely to quantum of reservations such as UP and of 17.6 percent and this is as it should
get only an eight percent share as against Bihar. Also, the argument about declining be. Third, and most important, Forward
their population of 24 percent. The standards over time cannot be prima communities in Tamilnadu, as elsewhere
better performance of Backward facie accepted because the tasks that in India, have done extremely well in
Classes, over time does not, therefore, face the government today are private sector employment and in high
constitute a case for reducing the qualitatively and quantitatively different paid self employment opportunities in
quan-tum of reservations. At best, it from the tasks 30 or 40 years ago. As professions such as law, medicine,
indi-cates that the time might have come regards Tamilnadu, I can say, based on private engineering, construction,
to graduate the most Forward among my fairly close exposure to its accountancy and so on. Incidentally, the
the Backward Classes from out of the administration for nearly 35 years, that major local industrial groups in
reserved quota. I shall separately it continues to be pretty efficient at all Tamilnadu are in the hands of the
dis-cuss this question of graduation levels. In fact, I would go further and Brahmin, Chettiar and Naidu

50 MANUSHI
communities. Substantial numbers from among them, you will respect them. for them. As a result, in the last two
Forward communities have been able to Having said this, we can all agree that years, Vanniyars, who are the largest
get good opportunities through migration the scheme of reservation should be so group among the Most Backward
to metropolitan centres in other states Classes, have scored nearly three times
structured that it reaches out not only
in India and to countries abroad. They as many posts and admissions
to the upper groups among the
have also done well in selections such compared to what they used to secure
Backward Classes but extends as far as
as those for all-India services, the IITs, in the past. Here again, we have a
possible to the most disadvantaged parallel in international economic
management institutes and so on. among them. We can seek to achieve
Altogether, therefore, the sense of relations. Originally, official aid targets
this in three ways: were fixed for developing countries as
grievance, if it is evaluated over a large
1) We should be careful about a whole but only during the last decade
canvas, does not have much legitimacy.
including new groups in the list of or so, have separate targets been adopted
In particular cases, of course, there
Backward Classes because typically the for the least developed countries.
could be an element of unfairness. That
pressure for such inclusion comes from To sum up, I would argue that the
is an inevitable consequence when group
the upper end of the spectrum. As I have criticism that the benefits of reservations
injustice, which has persisted for a long
explained earlier, this has not happened are cornered or creamed off by an elite
time in the age long unequal and
to any major extent in Tamilnadu. group is vastly exaggerated. It is also
exploitative caste system, is redressed misplaced because in these matters
through group justice in the form of 2) If reservations have lasted for a
sufficiently long time, it is legitimate to some amount of percolation is natural
reservations. and inevitable. And finally, there are
ask whether certain communities
What is your reaction to the criticism practical ways of dealing with this
originally classified among the
that reservations have mostly benefited problem, through strictness in inclusion,
Backward Classes should not be
only the elite of the Backward Classes progressive graduation, and separate
reclassified as Forward. This is what is
and have not helped the most Backward reservations for Most Backward groups.
meant by graduation. The fact is that
among them? while the Second Backward Classes Have reservations perpetuated caste
We must recognise that any scheme Commission in Tamilnadu felt that about based divisiveness in Tamilnadu?
of reservation is likely to benefit the elite, seven percent of the population could In Tamilnadu, as elsewhere in India,
at least to start with, disproportionately be so graduated, the government did not caste is tenacious and there is a lot of
vis-a-vis benefits to more deprived agree to do so. This does indicate that caste consciousness whether you take
sections of the target group. This is graduation is politically difficult. matrimonial advertisements or elections
neither unnatural nor is it disastrous, However, we should not exaggerate the to college unions or panchayats or to
since elites fulfil a useful function in issue nor should we indulge in the assembly or to parliament. Caste
groups that have remained Backward for arguments for premature graduation. consciousness has certainly its bad sides
generations. This point was tellingly Here I might draw a parallel between but it is also not without some beneficial
clarified by Dr. Ambedkar while what happens in GATT in respect of aspects. Because of caste fraternity, the
answering certain questions put to him international trade. The developing advanced sections in many castes have
countries are given certain special undertaken efforts to uplift their caste
by the Kalelkar Commission. He said:
preferences and very often there is as a whole. In Tamilnadu, notable
Our problem is not different status
pressure from advanced countries that examples of this kind relate to the Nadar
should disappear. If there are 10
his or that developing country should community and to the Tondaimandala
barristers, 20 doctors, 30 engineers in a
be graduated out. The developing Tholuva Vellalars.
community, I regard that community as
rich even though every one of them may countries, who can be compared in a What is bad is not so much caste
not be educated. Take, for instance, manner of speaking with the Backward consciousness but caste rivalry. In this
Chamars - you look upon this community Classes, have always argued against respect, I tend to feel that settled
with hatred but if there are some lawyers, premature graduation. entitlements defuse rather than keep
doctors, and educated persons among 3) Third and most important method alive caste rivalries, because each caste
them, you cannot put your hands on of improving the reach of reservationsls knows its position and does not have to
them. You will not do that, although to give a separate quota to the Most engage in a continual, running agitation
everyone of them is not so highly Backward Classes. This has now been to secure its desserts.
educated. You will say he is a Bhangi done in Tamilnadu with the introduction Coming to interpersonal relations
but suppose there are educated persons of a special reservation of 20 percent between the Forward communities and

NUMBER 63-64 51
others in Tamilnadu, my personal M. Nair, K. V. Reddi Naidu, P. Tyagaraja of 69 percent, and until 1980 such
experience is that civil society in Chetti and A. Ramaswami Mudaliar were reservation was only 31 percent. The
Tamilnadu is pretty civilized. It is in a position to successfully challenge quantum of reservation is thus not
absolutely absurd to be told that the Brahmin elite in administration and unduly high. Nor, as I have explained
Brahmins in Tamilnadu are ostracised or politics, namely, men like C.P. earlier, is the list of Backward Classes
treated as Jews. Having lived in the Ramaswamy Aiyar, S. Srinivasa lyengar, excessively inclusive.
USA for some length of time, I am aware C. Rajagopalachari and S. Satyamurthi. The long haul and the fairly good
of the kind of prejudice which the Fourth, the ball was kept rolling in the quantum of reservations have resulted
Jewish community, even in that country, sense that progressively the Justice Party in the social, educational, economic and
has to contend with. In Tamilnadu, the elite was itself challenged by the representational advancement of
Forward communities, especially the Backward Classes League (1934), and Backward Classes. There is no reason
Brahmins, to which community I myself subsequently by Vanniar leaders (since to worry about the impact of
belong, should realise how fortunate the 1950s) to secure better reservations on efficiency of
they are. In fact, the whole problem in representation to the more genuinely professional standards or on caste
recent years is the rise of what might Backward and Most Backward Classes. perpetuation or caste divisiveness.
be called Brahmin militancy. It is due to In this way, the reservation policy has Compared to other parts of India,
several factors, principally the certainly, the people of Tamilnadu are
emergence of the BJP as a significant rather a happy family.
factor in national politics and the recent
One can see that the struggle for
anti-Mandal mania in the North. These
social justice in the North is bound to
developments have given an injection of
be a prolonged and painful one, not so
adrenalin to the Tamilnadu Brahmin
much because the proportion of
Association. In the name ofllindutva,
Forward communities is very much
some sections of the Forward larger, but because they have wielded
communities are seeking to recapture political, administrative, and academic
their lost glory and their anti-DMK power for too long. They are by now
stance is being encouraged by parties well entrenched, and in mood to give
such as the Congress and the AIADMK. up their privileges. They can be made
If therefore, there is casteism, it is being to do so only if the Backward Classes
promoted by these sources rather than effect a united front and secure the
by the Backward Classes. support of other disadvantaged groups
Your detailed exposition of the like the Scheduled Castes and Tribes and
history and impact of reservations in the disadvantaged sections of the
Tamilnadu has been very informative. Muslims and Sikhs. The decision to
Could you sum up its highlights and got crystallised over a period of some implement the Mandal Report has
comment on what pointers it has for the 60 years. Fifth, successive Chief opened up this possibility. One can only
North Indian situation? Ministers of Tamilnadu, whether P. hope that it will mobilise a certain
I would sum up the distinguishing Subbaroyan and K. Kamaraj from the measure of historically necessary caste
features of the Tamilnadu experience as Congress or C.N. Annadurai, M. conflict. There is a Tamil saying that
follows. First, it has had an early Karunanidhi and M.G. Ramachandran of Justice will come only if conflict arises.
beginning, as early as the 1920s, and, the DMK and AIADMK, have been Since Tamilnadu has such a long
therefore, a long span by now. Second, firmly committed to the principle of lead, how do you think preferential
the reservation policy could not have been reservations. On this issue, the objective treatment should be restructured in the
implemented but for the coming to situation in Tamilnadu has reflected itself future gaining from past experience?
power of the non-Brahmin movement in a bipartisan approach. This is an interesting question. On
led by the Justice Party. Third, the Primafacie, the quantum of account of its long history of preferential
Justice Party itself could not have had reservations for Other Backward treatment, Tamilnadu may well be
its early success but for the existence Classes in Tamilnadu, which is at 50 entering a second phase in its social
of an elite among the non-Brahmin percent, may seem large, but it is evolution. In the long run, there can be
communities. Their leaders like Dr. T. sizeably less than their population share no doubt that only an expanding

52 MANUSHI
environment that provides more The Changing Power Balance
employment and faster growth can
Between 1892 and 1904, out of 16 as 70 percent of government jobs
accomodate the aspirations of all successful Candidates for the I.C.S., 15 (presumably this refers only to gazetted
sections of the people. Meanwhile, I feel were Brahmins; in 1914, 93 out of 128 posts). In the senior echelons of the civil
we must pay much more attention to permanent district munsifs were Brahmins; service from the rank of deputy secretaries,
what might be called progress into the in 1944, 452 out of 650 registered, upwards, out of 500 there are 310 Brahmins,
first echelon, especially of Most university graduates were Brahmins (Rajni that is 63 percent; of the 26 state chief
Backward Classes, SCs and STs. Having Kothari: Caste in Indian Politics.) secretaries, 19 are Brahmins; of the 27
provided them with reservations in higher We give below another set of figures Governors and Lt. Governors, 13 are
education and in public employment the compiled to assess the proportion of jobs Brahmins; of the 16 Supreme Court judges,
effort must be to see that in terms of held by different castes in government nine are Brahmins; of the 330 judges of the
literacy and schooling their performance employment during the British rule in 1935 High Courts, 166 are Brahmins; of the 140
improves considerably, much more than and as they were 35 years after ambassadors, 58 are Brahmins; of the 98
it has in the past, so that they can fully Independence in 1982. During British rule, vice-chancellors 50 are Brahmins; of 438
avail themselves of opportunities the largest proportion of government jobs district magistrates, 250 are Brahmins; of
provided by such reservations. (40 percent) were held by Kayasthas. By the total 3,300 IAS officers 2,376 are
Proceeding further, we should not be 1982, their figure had dropped to seven Brahmins.
percent. Muslims who were given special Interestingly, among the groups that
content with reservations alone,
concessions by the British, had 35 percent gained in post Independence India are
because they apply only to the public
of government jobs in 1935; in 1982their SCs/STs are Backwards Classes. They had
sector. Greater opportunities for representation has dropped to 3.5 percent. hardly any government jobs under the
technical training and vocational Christians, likewise favoured by the British, but have now achieved a
education will help the Backward and British, had 15 percent; by 1982 their figure representation of nine percent, thanks to
Most Backward Classes to benefit from had dropped to one percent. In 1935 the reservations.
opportunities in the private sector. We Brihmins (who constitute 3.5 percent of the (Extracted from Khuswant Singhs
should not also look upon excellence and population), had three percent of jobs, column in Sunday of 23-29 December
equity as necessarily antithetical. This (fractionally less then the proportion of 1990. He uses the statistict compiled by
means that when it comes to institutions their population. Today they hold as much Brother Stanny of St. Annes Church,
of higher learning or institutions which
are at the apex in the technical field, academics, whatever the caste or of merit and thereby to a situation where
whether it is medicine or engineering, community they belong, disputing reservations, even if they are not formally
agriculture or veterinary sciences, the suggestions of this kind. I am, therefore, phased out will become functionally
faculty should be constituted on the optimistic enough to believe that, in the otiose. We cannot, however, be
basis of proven excellence. We should natural course of things, the policy of impatient in this matter. We must bear
not worry too much about the caste reservations will lead to an upgradation in mind that the Forward communities
composition of people at this level, have enjoyed their privileges for several
because the education or medical relief generations. It is no great matter
that they impart will largely be to the therefore if reservations continue to be
benefit the Backward and Most relevant for another 75 or 100 years
Backward Classes. In my experience, I which is, after all, only three or four
have not found anyone in Tamilnadu, generations.
politicians or administrators or

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