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Quota Raj - The Times of India

Editorial ()
23 November 1996

Title : Quota Raj
Author : Editorial
Publication : The Times of India
Date : November 23, 1996

Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda's promise at a Dalit
rally to consider extending job reservations to the
private sector is a pernicious pursuit that would pervert
the principles of social justice, vitiate industrial
productivity and maim the market. This is competitive
chauvinism at its worst for which Mr Gowda seems to have
an unhealthy propensity unmindful of its consequences for
the economy and growth of the market. The attempt to
create reservation ghettos of ever conceivable hue in
electoral politics, education, employment and the economy
is dangerously divisive and can only serve to retard
development if the market and business are subordinated
to the dubious logic of social justice as a fetish. As
important as the laws of demand and supply are the prero-
gatives of business to employ skilled personnel on the
grounds of their requirements of competence. The success
of business ventures is predicated on efficient working,
sound management and profitability made possible by human
resources that fit these. Any other criteria, particular-
ly if they are dictated by external and extraneous con-
siderations, ought to be rendered irrelevant. A govern-
ment committed to economic liberalisation and building
confidence among foreign investors ought to know that it
cannot ask business ventures to act as charity houses.
Union finance minister P. Chidambaram only recently
lamented that the quantum of foreign investment coming in
was as small as 0.6 percent of the GDP. When even this
trickle is valued as being crucial for giving a fillip to
the economy, reservation in the private sector can only
drive away investors instead of inviting them in.

Reservations on the basis of caste, language and region
have proved to be politically volatile and invariably it
is the worst features of one state that are replicated in
another or enlarged for implementation at the national
level. As chief minister of Karnataka, Mr Gowda had
initiated this regressive agenda. The Janata Dal govern-
ment had stipulated in mid-1995 that the private sector
must earmark 80 percent of jobs at higher and all jobs at
lower levels for Kannadigas. This makes a mockery of the
constitutional rights to freedom of employment, movement
and livelihood in any part of the country. Recently, Mr
Gowda announced that the list Other Backward Classes
would be revised to take in more communities, including
the Jats. And now comes the move to reserve jobs for
Dalits in the private sector. Whether these are off-the-
cuff announcement or ill-advised moves at the behest of
backseat drivers, they are unexceptionably irresponsible.
Entrepreneurs, both Indian and foreign, are bound to
think twice before making investments hedged in by so
many doctrinal variations of "social justice". The non-
performance of bulk of the public sector which has been
now forced to privatise ought to have taught the lesson
that industry and business need to be separated from such
assaults. The enable the disprivileged and depressed
sections to acquire education and entrepreneurial skills
and survive in a market economy is a more rational route
to advance the cause of the underclass and the economy
instead of pitting one against the other as is being done

by the United Front government.

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