The Big Story: Caste away
There are few systems of social apartheid as degrading as caste. In fact, 70 years after India got independence, one in four Indians admit that they practice untouchability.
India has taken steps to combat caste discrimination. It has given Dalits, Adivasis and Other Backwards Classes reservations in public sector jobs and government-run education institutions. Yet, in 2017, this is not enough.
The last major change to India’s structure of reservations was carried out in 1990, when the Union government under Prime Minister VP Singh decided to widen the reservation ambit from only Dalits and Adivasis and reserve 27% jobs/seats for a range of backward castes.
A year later, however, Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao’s government initiated economic reforms. India’s economy, till now centered around the public sector, saw the rapid growth of private enterprise. In 2006, for example, public sector jobs were twice that in the private sector. By 2012, that ratio has shrunk to 1.5 – and its still dropping.
India’s system of caste reservations in public sector jobs, therefore, is getting outdated fast. To deal with the changed scenario, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has demanded a 50% reservation quota in private sector jobs on the basis of caste.
This is not the first time private sector reservations are being discussed. In 2004, the United Progressive Alliance had the measure as part of its Common Minimum Programme. Yet, the issue went nowhere, with powerful industry interests putting a lid on the debate.
This is not ideal. India’s private sector forms a crucial part of society and often benefits from public largess in the form of land, soft loans and subsidies. Given the pervasive role of caste in society, it is their responsibility to also put their shoulder to the wheel as well. Seventy years after independence, India’s development standards are abysmal with lower castes lagging behind significantly. India must, therefore have an urgent debate around how the private sector can help combat caste.
- Mukul Roy is not a mass leader, and derived his power from Mamata Banerjee’s magic. Without that, it is doubtful whether he can display the organisational skills that the BJP expects of him, argues Avijit Ghosal in the Hindustan Times editorial.
- While the government talks peace, the Sangh Parivar’s attitude towards Articles 35 A and 370 has heightened scepticism in Kashmir, write Christophe Jaffrelot and Oishee Kunduin the Indian Express.
- Ahead of the Quadrilateral meeting, PM Modi must be cautious about bringing big powers into South Asia, argues Suhasini Haidar in the Hindu.
Dengue politics in Bengal: A tiny insect has turned into a pesky problem for Mamata Banerjee, reports Sohini Chattopadhyay.
The suggestion that the number of dengue cases is being underplayed does not surprise public health specialists. Suppressing disease data is an established public health tradition in India, they say. In 2016, for instance, an Al Jazeeera investigation showed that India under-reports malaria by describing deaths from the disease as resulting from cardio-respiratory failure, or collapse of the heart and lungs.
On Thursday, the Bengali language daily Anandabazaar Patrika published a similar story: Anjana Kundu of Bongaon town said her husband was diagnosed with dengue but the doctor at a Kolkata nursing home wrote “sudden cardio-respiratory arrest in a case of sepsis and multiple-organ failure” on his death certificate.