Editorial: Reservation Loses Its Appeal

Editorial: Reservation Loses Its Appeal

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Wednesday, February 28, 2024, 12:09 PM IST
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Manoj Jarange-Patil | PTI

In the intricate realm of politics, often referred to as the art of the possible, Jarange-Patil's recent fast unto death unfolds as a cautionary tale. His venture into this extreme protest without a clear understanding of political pragmatism led to its abrupt withdrawal on the 16th day. To mitigate this setback, Patil has now embarked on a statewide tour to rally support for Maratha reservation in Maharashtra. His agitation, despite its withdrawal, has not been entirely fruitless. From an obscure figure in a district, he has ascended to the stature of a state-level leader capable of mobilising tens of thousands against the government. The pressure exerted forced the government to enact a new law, granting Marathas a 10% reservation. However, Patil, perhaps more than anyone else, recognises that this legal victory is only a temporary reprieve. The tough measures the police took against those who took the law into their own hands could also have exerted pressure on Patil.

The looming challenge is the anticipated legal battle before the Supreme Court, a body that has previously viewed such laws with skepticism. Understanding the court's reluctance to allow reservation to exceed 50% in any state, Patil foresees a return to square one, fuelling despondency within his camp. After all, it was the apex court that had put the cap on reservation following the implementation of the Mandal Commission report. Aware of the government's tactics, Patil is not immune to internal divisions within the leadership of the agitation. A disconcerting statement from one of his purported right-hand men, questioning Patil's sincerity, underscores the government's strategy to undermine the movement from within.

Patil's credibility suffered when he accused the government of attempting to assassinate him, a claim that, rather than garnering sympathy, made him the subject of ridicule. Now, the pivotal question is, what's next? The broader context reveals a shifting landscape regarding the significance of reservation. With the state withdrawing from multiple sectors, allowing the private sector to dominate, the essence of reservation is diminishing beyond admissions. Private educational institutions are also increasingly attracting students, while those who can afford it opt for opportunities abroad. This evolving scenario has deprived reservation of its former appeal, signalling the need for a nuanced approach in addressing social inequality. As the current dispensation at the Centre subtly subverts reservation, it is imperative to reevaluate its relevance in the evolving socio-political landscape.

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