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Reservation Quagmire


The Uttarakhand Government is in a quandary over the demand for reservations in promotions for its employees. Considering that the movement for a separate state got the critical boost because of the feared repercussions of the Mandal Commission on the region, such issues are particularly sensitive. The general category employees have threatened a strike due to the delay by the government on taking a decision, particularly as the Judiciary has left the choice to state governments. The coming session of the State Assembly in Gairsain is facing disruption as these employees have asked that they not be deployed for duty during that period.

The temporary nature of reservations has been reiterated many times in judicial pronouncements but that does not seem to deter those who have a vested interest in their continuation. The demand for inclusion of caste category in the census is part of a strategy to further corral these sections into political votebanks, which has been particularly successful in states like Bihar and UP. Over the years, the principle of proportionate representation has only acquired strength regardless of what it does to the quality of governance. It has further deteriorated to the point where feudal political dynasties have taken deep roots and evoke no surprise or concern.

The problem could have been contained if the creamy layer concept had been honestly enforced. This would have reduced resentment among those who believe that merit is being overlooked. Unfortunately, because of political timidity, it has been watered down to the point where even third generations of the rich and powerful shamefully take advantage of reservations. This denies, in particular, the poor and disadvantaged from their own caste groups.

Do those who seek reservations in promotion imply that they cannot receive these on the basis of their ability? Do the years in service not provide them the training and positioning required for getting ahead? And, if it is a caste bias they are implying in those deciding the promotions, a simple remedy would be to include members of the OBCs and SC/STs in the selections boards.

In the long run, one of the biggest shortcomings in government services is the inability of the meritorious to rise up the ranks as would be the case in the private sector. People are attracted to work for government because of the greater security of tenure and the many perks, but the mediocrity that the undiscerning functioning encourages leads to poor morale and outcomes. As a result, the taxpayers get increasingly poor quality of services and governments become unpopular. It is important, therefore, that the necessary decisions be taken so that the primary objective of good governance is achieved.