Rama Krishna Sangem
Ruling BJP is eyeing to get the votes of Madigas, a sub-community of Scheduled Castes (SCs) in the coming Lok Sabha elections, especially in states like Telangana, Punjab and Tamil Nadu. This is the backdrop of the Centre constituting a high level panel led by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, IAS (Retd) on S C categorization. The panel includes secretaries of home, legal affairs and SC and ST welfare departments.
The government hasn’t set any deadline for submission of report for the panel, but only asked to finish the job at the earliest. Going by an ongoing case before the Constitution Bench of Supreme Court led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, this issue will not be solved in the immediate future – or at least before the coming LS elections. In fact, the issue of SC categorization is hanging fire since 1994.
What lent gravitas to the SC categorization recently is PM Nanrendra Modi attending a meeting held in Hyderabad by Madiga Reservation Porata Samithi (MRPS) leader Manda Krishna Madiga before November 30 assembly elections. In this meeting the PM promised to solve the long pending demand of Madigas for categorization of SC, so that they can get their due share in the overall reservations for the community.
In Telangana, Madigas account for major portion of SCs – maybe around 65-70 per cent. The SCs account for about 16 per cent of the total population. Madigas have been demanding categorization into four groups – A, B,C and D – so that the most neglected sections of the community get justice in jobs and educational opportunities. Madigas say that Malas, better positioned SCs are benefiting most from the reservations.
Not an easy task
However, going by the history for over quarter century of this SC categorization, it appears the task of dividing them into four or more categories is not an easy thing. Obviously Malas have been strongly opposing any move to categorize SCs and allocate separate quotas to the sub-castes. They argue that any move to divide SCs into sub-groups would defeat the purpose of SC reservations as enshrined in the Constitution.
The first attempt to categorize SCs was made by the then Chandrababu Naidu led TDP government in 1996. The move came in response to a two year long agitation by Manda Krishna Madiga since 1994. However, the courts struck down the order saying that there were so many procedural violations and legal errors. Since then, the issue has been hanging fire and it reached the Centre and Supreme Court.
The Centre too is unable to take a decision on this issue. Meanwhile, some states like Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Bihar have tried to categorize SCs into sub-groups but faced legal hurdles. Now, the Supreme Court is hearing the case but the Centre has come up with this secretarial panel to address the issue. Whether it is a ploy to secure Madigas votes in states like Telangana or an earnest attempt to find a solution to the vexed issue is to be seen.