Calcutta Notebook


The Supreme Court has asked the Government to establish criterion for admissions to higher educational institutions and end reservations in these admissions. The Court has said that these reservations are harming national interest. Less competent students are getting admissions and the entire higher education system is becoming mediocre. The apex-court however, ignores the bigger harm to national interest because of the loot of the nation by government servants that is leading to demands for reservations by even forward communities and splitting the nation into parts.

The demand for reservations is rooted in the huge salaries, perks and grease money collected by the government servants. Indeed, reservations are also applied in educational institutions and elections but these are not the key demand of the ongoing agitations. The focus on government jobs is not new. Mahatma Jyotirao Phule had demanded proportional representation in government jobs while making representation to the Hunter Commission as early as 1882. A Notification in 1902 created 50% reservation in services for backward classes in the State of Kolhapur. The story continues till today. The Mandal Commission was mainly focused on reservations in government jobs. Youth immolated themselves as they felt deprived of the booty of government jobs. The Gujjar and Jat agitations were centered on the demand for reservations in government jobs. They wanted five percent reservation in government jobs for their communities.

The demand for reservation in government jobs has little to do with enabling individuals of the backward communities to get into key positions to help their brothers. There is a wealth of anecdotal evidence that most individuals from the backward classes develop a negative attitude towards their own communities. This correspondent was visiting the Dangs District in Gujarat recently in connection with a study relating to the Ramayana. Friends from the tribal community initially mentioned that two professors from their community were knowledgeable about the subject. But then they backtracked. They said it was no use contacting them because they held a negative view of the tribal community. This process was described as "sanskritization" by the famed sociologist M N Srinivas. He said that individuals from the backward communities wanted to join the ranks of the upper communities.

The game is clear cut. Backward communities demand reservation in government jobs not because that will help in the uplift of their community as a whole. Instead, they seek reservations so that they may abandon their own community and join the ranks of the government servants that constitute a "super" caste—above all castes. They want a bigger share of the loot that the government servants are making. Government servants not only get hefty salaries. They also get lifelong security, no need to work at all, and to top it all, huge benefits from corruption.

Theoretically, the task of the government, if India is considered a welfare state, is to "serve" the people. This has been turned on its head. The poor people today paying taxes to pay huge benefits to government servants. A government teacher is appointed to teach children of the poor people. He draws salaries that are about five to eight times the salary of a teacher in a private school. Yet, they send their own children to study under these low paid teachers. They know that the government teachers do not teach. In the result, people are serving the government teachers by paying them huge salaries; instead of the government servants serving the people by providing good teaching.

The gap between "people" and the government servants is huge. A study done by the Institute for Studies in Industrial Development, New Delhi narrates that the average salary of an employee in the private organized sector was Rs 46,802 per year in 2007-08. The Economic Survey published by the Ministry of Finance on the other hand says that the average salary of an employee in the Public Sector was Rs 410,898 in the same year. Add to this the benefits from corruption. The average earnings of the government servants is about 20 times that the private sector and the work load is about one half, if not less. This gap in the salaries is behind the clamour for reservations. Individuals from every backward community want to get their share of the loot.

The situation is entirely different in other countries. Salaries of the government servants in the United States, for example, are less than the private sector. A study by the Reason Foundation, Los Angeles, says that government workers earn an average of 11.4 percent less than private-sector workers of similar education and work experience. India has the highest disparity between the average earnings of the people and government servants—as per a World Bank report released 10 years ago.

The demand for reservations today is not about social justice for the backward communities. The demand is for proportional sharing of the loot that the government servants are making today. It follows that the solution will not be found by realigning the reservations no matter how hard the authorities try. The solution is to reduce the disparity in the incomes of the people and government servants; and take steps for the control of corruption.

The Fifth and the Sixth Pay Commissions proceeded on the basis that the government servants have to be paid salaries that enable them to live reasonably comfortable lives. It does not matter if the "people" do not have enough incomes to live comfortably. The government servants must live comfortably. A reduction in salaries of government servants will eliminate the attraction of government jobs and the demand for reservations in government jobs will die out on its own. The Supreme Court must address the root of the problem of reservations that lies in the loot by Government servants.

Vol. 48, No. 21, Nov 29 - Dec 5, 2015