Nobel laureate and world renowned economist Amartya Sen has opposed the recently implemented quota for the economically weaker section in the general category and said economic inequality is best dealt with by economic policies and not through reservation.
“It certainly is muddled thinking because the caste system has a long history and when the reservation was brought in, it wasn’t because some people are disadvantaged today. It was because there is a long history whereby even if they overcome some of these problems, the disadvantage from which the untouchables and the low caste suffer will not go away,” he explained in an interview to News18.
Sen argued that the quota cannot replace good economic policies, through which the poor can be given employment, good education and healthcare.
“What applies very well to hardened caste, social barriers, including untouchability and scheduled tribes, doesn’t apply that easily to economic inequality. It can end up being a substitute for good economic policies where the poor can be made to have good employment, good education and good healthcare, which make them competitive forces in the market. And if that happens, that would do a lot more than giving reservation to the relatively poor among the upper caste,” he added.
Recently, the Parliament passed the 124th Constitutional Amendment, which received the President’s nod on January 12. The law provides 10 per cent reservation for economically backward sections in the general category. It provides reservation for people who have an annual income of less than Rs 8 lakhs, or people who own less than five acres of farm land, or people who have a house lesser than 1,000 sq feet in a town (or 100 sq yard in a notified municipal area).
Further elaborating his stand, Sen said, “That’s why the caste system was the appropriate basis for reservation. It does not quite apply to relatively poor people who happen to be Brahmin or Banya and so on. And there you have to see to what extent reservation is a good way to dealing with economic inequality. I think economic inequality is best dealt with by economic policies, rather than by reservation policies.”
The 10 per cent reservation will be in addition to the existing 50 per cent reservation given to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes, taking the total reservation to 60 per cent. Among the sections it targets are the poor among the upper castes.
The quota covers nearly 190 million people from the general category and is seen as an effort by the BJP to reach out to upper caste groups as the Patidars, Jats and Marathas, who have been lobbying for reservation. A petition against the quota has already been filed in the Supreme Court.