Sunday, June 10, 2007

Curing the reservation system

In today’s ET I found a very good article written by Mythili Bhusnurmath on the subject.

While suggesting that unless all political parties come together and work out a solution that addresses genuine deprivation regardless of caste, creed or religion, it is only a matter of time before we see a repeat of the anger of castes clamouring for downward mobility in the social pecking order to garner reservation status.

In today’s world where mobility is easy, poverty, rather than caste, is the single biggest handicap. A beginning has been made with the suggestion that reservation be extended to poorer sections among the forward communities by the newly elected Chief Minister of UP, Ms. Mayawati. Can the political parties take a cue from this and act on it before it is too late?

I doubt it. Mayawati may be articulating an idea whose time has come. But can Mayawati herself be trusted to act upon what she has said on this? What all would be needed for her to go back on her words would be a single defeat in yet another election. I agree fully with Mythili Bhusnurmath in holding the view that as long as we have the first-past-the-post system of winning elections there will always be a tendency for political parties to play the caste card. In this system, we should note the fact that people with less than 51% of the votes polled get elected. Assuming that a candidate has garnered 49% vote, even though he may be the winner in the election, does it not signify that 51% of the people have in fact rejected him? So, what is the solution for this?

First of all make affirmative action more focused as a delivery vehicle of social justice by calculating the ‘disadvantage index’. This index can identify potential quota beneficiaries not on caste alone, but on various other criteria including gender, education, geographical location and family income.

Then switch over to a proportional system of elections. This idea is explained in detail in today’s Times of India. Though a complex process to administer in a country like India, with the entry of electronic voting machines and its success seen in the recently concluded MLC elections in Andhra Pradesh, it is not all that difficult to implement. A modified proportional system of representation could run something like this. Voters could be asked to cast their ballots for not just one candidate but to give their preferences, in order of priority, for two or more contestants. Assume that they would have preferred their own caste candidate as the first preference. The winning candidate can still be somebody different, who totals up the maximum number of aggregate points. The second and third preferences would surely take non-caste considerations (gender, reputation for honesty etc) into account, and so loosen the stranglehold of caste on the electoral process.

Do I see anybody saying ‘aye’? I hear only ‘nays’!!! From the political class that is. But nothing wrong in dreaming. At least nobody has taken away my right to dream. Not yet.

1 Comment:

vinod said...

The idea of "aggregate points" and the "runner up" seems to be okay in a theoretical sense.............................but it cannot work out in a society where caste based voting is in genes of the voters