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The Daily Fix: Karnataka's decision to increase caste quotas has nation-wide repercussions

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The Big Story: Politics of quota

Over the last two years, more communities have been taking to the streets to demand quotas in educational institutions and government jobs. Some of them, like the Jats in Haryana and Patels in Gujarat, have managed to convince their state governments to include them in the reservation structure. But such moves have subsequently been struck down by the judiciary because they violated the 50% reservation limit laid down by the Supreme Court in the Indira Sawhney case.

The latest to enter the quota controversy is Karnataka. In a clear act of political one-upmanship, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah announced on Wednesday that his government was aiming to increase reservations in jobs and colleges for the weaker sections to 70% from the current 50%.

The announcement was fueled by the massive rally by members of the other backward classes that the Bharatiya Janata Party organised in Bengaluru in November. The BJP, led by state president YS Yeddyurappa, has promised to bring in laws to nullify the 50% cap on reservations if voted to power in 2018.

This development has brought back to the fore a debate that has raged ever since the Supreme Court delivered the Indira Sawhney judgment in 1993, now famously referred to as the Mandal case. The court put a limit on reservations, even as it accepted the principle that quotas were an essential element to further the cause of social justice in a society riddled by caste discrimination. However, many political parties, especially in the south, have questioned the rationale behind the cap and have even claimed that the Supreme Court decision was arbitrary.

Tamil Nadu responded to the Mandal judgment by increasing reservations to 69% and placing the law in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution. The constitutional provision gave the state law immunity from judicial scrutiny. But in 2009, the Supreme Court decided to hear a petition challenging Tamil Nadu’s quota law, this time wanting to test if the law violated the basic structure of the Constitution rather than a violation of fundamental rights.

Karnataka seems to be on a much stronger wicket than Tamil Nadu since it has completed a socio-economic and caste survey, the results of which are expected to be released in January. It was based on these findings that the state was hoping to accomplish the task of increasing the quota limit. Time and again, the Supreme Court has questioned the empirical basis of any alteration to the quota laws, which this survey hopes to provide.

However, given the larger trend across India of even historically affluent communities demanding quotas, absolute caution is necessary in allowing any changes to the reservation laws. Providing affirmative action to such groups could end up jeopardising the very idea of social justice that the quotas aim to establish. In Karnataka, too, mere numbers should not be allowed to dominate the discourse of reservations and let competitive backwardness, as the Supreme Court put it recently, to hijack a defining feature of the Constitution.

The Big Scroll

  • In Mumbai, the Marathas flaunted their might as they took out massive rallies demanding reservations. 

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Punditry

  1. In The Hindu, Suhrith Parthasarathy argues that the judiciary cannot be accused of overreach if it chose to review the demonetisation decision. 
  2. Suhas Palshikar in the Indian Express says the Supreme Court’s verdict on the national anthem comes as a setback to the liberal ethos of the apex court. 
  3. In the Mint, Indira Rajaraman says policies like demonetisation negated structural reforms and disrupted investments. 

Don’t miss

Standing in queues for hours to withdraw cash has severely hurt the productivity of factory workers, reports Abhishek Dey.

  “To waste a morning in a bank queue is to sacrifice a day’s wage,” said 46-year-old Pashupati Singh, one of the workers at the meeting. “Employers are keeping a strict tab on working hours. Also, because of the cash crisis, factories are not operating at full capacity. So even if a worker shows up by lunch time, the employers do not entertain him for half-day’s work.”  

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.