Editorial Analysis : 19th October 2021


1 . Shadow foreign policy


Summary of the issue discussed

  • Article discusses about an alternate foreign policy for India based on a a document emerged from the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) in the nature of an alternative to the present foreign and defence policies named ‘India’s Path to Power: Strategy in a world adrift’, authored by eight well-known strategists and thinkers.

Background

  • In 2012, many of the same authors had produced another document, ‘Non-alignment 2.0’, in the light of the global changes at that time, as a contribution to policymaking, without criticising the policies of the government. But the new government in 2014 had its own ideas and not much attention was given to the study.
  • The present document, however, is in the nature of an alternative to the foreign and defence policies of the Modi government, as some of its tenets are not considered conducive to finding a path to power for India in the post-pandemic world. 

Key points from the CPR document

  • According to the report the foundational source of India’s influence rests on four pillars, domestic economic growth, social inclusion, political democracy and a broadly liberal constitutional order. If these integral pillars remain strong, there is no stopping India.
  • Report mentions that domestic issues have impacted foreign policy and, therefore, India should set its house in order to stem the tide of international reaction.
  • Political polarisation and majoritarianism will lead to a diminished India — one that may struggle to meet the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
  • The report rightly points out that “it would be incorrect and counterproductive for India to turn its back on globalization”
  • It also suggests that SAARC should be revived and that India should rejoin the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and continue its long-standing quest for membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
  • The report also stresses the importance of strategic autonomy in today’s world where change is the only certainty.
  • As for the India-U.S.- China triangle, the report makes the unusual suggestion that India should have better relations individually with both the U.S. and China than they have with each other.
  •  The report concludes that since China will influence India’s external environment politically, economically and infrastructurally, there is no feasible alternative to a combination of engagement and competition with China.

2 . Need for Caste Census


Summary of the issue discussed

Editorial discusses about the need for a caste count in order to make a new intervention strategy  to emancipate groups that are still at the bottom of the ladder.

Background

  • The Preamble of the Indian Constitution states that there would be justice (social, economic and political) and equality of status and opportunity.
  • In order to fulfil the egalitarian construct of the Constitution, the makers of modern India incorporated into the chapter on Fundamental Rights three path-breaking postulates:
    • Article 17 (abolishing untouchability)
    • Article 23 (prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour)
    • Article 24 (prohibition of child labour). 
  • The Constitution outlaws discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex and place of birth and mandates equality of opportunity in matters of public employment albeit with caveats to promote the interests of the underprivileged.

Constitutional provisions regarding reservation

  • Part XVI delineates Special Provisions relating to certain classes, including reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Anglo-Indians in the Legislatures. Reservation system was supposed to end 10 years after the commencement of the Constitution. However, it has been extended every 10 years since. The objective is to provide a political voice to the disempowered.
  • Article 335 provides for reservations for SCs and STs in public employment both under the Union and the States.
  • The Constitution thus provides both an economic and social fillip to the weaker sections who had been discriminated against historically.
  • The aim is to bring about social integration that could pave the way for the creation of a classless ethos.

Reservation for Other Backward Classes

  • In 1990, another step was taken in this direction when the then Prime Minister V.P. Singh decided to act on the recommendations of the Mandal Commission report and provide 27% reservation in public employment to Other Backward Classes (OBCs). This was subsequently extended to educational institutions.
  • With the existing 22.5% reservation quota for SCs and STs thereby increasing reservations in educational institutions to 49.5%.
  • This decision led to a nationwide tumult in university campuses and a legal challenge in the Supreme Court.

Indra Sawhney v. Union of India

  • In this the Supreme Court upheld 27% reservation for OBCs but struck down the 10% quota based on economic criteria.
  • It further fixed the ceiling of reservations at 50%.
  • It also held that a “caste can be and quite often is a social class. If it is backward socially, it would be a backward class for the purposes of Article 16(4).”
  • It also evolved the concept of a creamy layer.
  • It held that individuals from backward classes who had attained a certain social, educational and vocational status in life would not be classified as OBCs for the purposes of reservation. This was done to ensure that those who really require reservation get it.

Caste Census 2011

  • In 2016, the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Rural Development observed that “the data has been examined and 98.87% data on individuals’ caste and religion is error free”.
  • NDA government told the Supreme Court and Parliament that the caste census data are flawed and cannot be released.
  • Since it has been judicially determined that caste is synonymous with class, a fresh socio-economic caste census is imperative if the previous one is flawed and cannot be released.

Need for a new Caste Census

  • If it can be empirically established that the OBCs are numerically higher, perhaps it could be argued that the 50% cap on reservation is redundant.
  • Once it is known what the economic and social status of every caste group is, a new intervention strategy can then be fashioned to emancipate caste groups that are still at the bottom of the ladder and require that socio-economic impetus.

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