Rajiv Gandhi's Speech on Reservation Issue in Parliament
Rajiv Gandhi Lok Sabha on September 6, 1990
Sir, before I start on what I really wanted to say, I must say that I have been terribly pained with what I have heard just now from one of the members of the government, one of the ministers. It is extremely sad that the thinking in this government revolves around caste ...
We, the Congress, are in favour of a comprehensive action plan, an affirmative action plan for the backward communities. We need that. The problem cannot be solved by playing politics or by limited politically motivated manipulations... Is the government looking at one particular vested interest or is the government really looking at the socially and educationally backward classes? This is the question I want to put to the Prime Minister...
What objection can there be to what I am saying? In fact, every objection that I am hearing is only confirming my fear that this government is aiming these benefits at a particularly privileged group and not looking at the really poor...I think the honourable Prime Minister has totally missed the point. The point is within a particular class, who do you want to help? Do you want to help those persons within a particular class who are already well-off?...I will answer how many. If the number is negligible, if the number is only one or two, then you should have no objection at all because you are only eliminating two out of the 42 or 43 crores. What is your objection then? The fact is that within a class when you want to give some assistance, it should go to the poorest. I would recommend it...Sir, it should go not only to such under-privileged groups and many other like them, but to people from all religions who are under-privileged and this is where I have a grave difference with what the government is bringing in. They are looking almost entirely at caste...Not only that. They have not included very large sections of the minority who should be included. If you look at the Muslims, the vast majority of the Muslim community in India is backward -educationally, socially, economically everywhere. The same thing is true for Christians. The same thing is true even for Sikhs who are by and large okay, but there are still groups who are not all right. It is true for almost every religion as groups who are socially and educationally backward. Why should they not be included? The government must explain this; the country wants to know.
The second point which must be a part of the national goal is a casteless society. The Constitution very clearly differentiated between Scheduled Castes and backward classes. Why did our Constitution makers make this distinction? They had something in their minds. Why have we lost that distinction today?
Three important sociologists were involved with the Mandal Commission- Prof B.K. Roy Burman, Prof Srinivas and Prof Jogendra Singh. They have been thanked in the preface of the Mandal Commission Report for the work they have done. But reading the newspapers recently, I found that they have declined the honour and they have clearly said that they were denied any real opportunity to participate in he findings...The three important sociologists that were involved with this Commission have today said that they have not contributed to this Commission. Then, how did this Commission get its information? There was a Research and Planning team which met for only three days. I read out para 11.3 where it says: ''To begin with, a Research Planning Team of sociologists met in Delhi from June 12th to 14th, 1979, to draw up a plan of studies and researches which should be undertaken by Backward Classes Commission for determining, in a scientific and objective manner, the criteria for defining socially and educationally backward classes.''
Then he says it is appended on the back...The task of this team was solely to draw up a plan of studies - not to do the studies only but to draw up a plan of studies. They did not do the studies. This group was never consulted again. Then, the Srinivas Panel did meet only for five days. So, the research team met for three days, the Srinivas Panel met for five days:
Para 11.4. ''Subsequently, a panel of experts led by Prof. M.N. Srinivas, met in Delhi from July 16 to 20th, 1979, i.e. for five days, and, after detailed deliberations, prepared a complete design of the survey along with a set of scheduled, dummy tables, instructions, etc.''
So, these two groups in a sense laid down, what the Commission could do. Now, what did the Commission actually, do with it, because neither of these teams was consulted after this? This means no specialist, no sociologist was involved with this report, apart from those eight days...
The only expert advice that this committee has got was from the Technical Advisory Committee headed by a bureaucrat, the Director General of the Central Statistical Organisation, a professional statistician...not a sociologist...This was the level, the intellectual level at which the data that has been received, has been processed. These are the intellectual inputs that have gone into it. But what of the data; what is the quality of the data that was collected?... I am going to give you quotations from Mr Mandal himself on what he thinks about the data that he has collected and presented. Paragraph 3.15 says:
''On the basis of 1891 and 1931 Census, data was collected and analysed with a view to getting a frame for the linkage of traditional occupations by caste.'' Now, what are we talking about? We are talking about data which is 100 years old, or 60 years old. Is that valid today? Can we really interpolate from 1891 and 1931, to 1990, or, does something better needs to be done.