Sir — The chintan baithak of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Mumbai’s suburbs may have decided “Leader and line, Atal all the way” (May 21). L.K. Advani, deemed the lauh purush by M. Venkaiah Naidu, may have also come to the conclusion that Atal Bihari Vajpayee is as strong as the diamond and as tender as the flower, but all that is for now. The assembly polls and the general elections next year demanded that the BJP settle its leadership question once again, although not for all time to come. And Advani, being the astute statesman that he is, decided that Vajpayee yet again had to be promoted as the mukhota of the party while he got busy behind the scene stoking the Ayodhya fire to bring the votes in. It goes without saying that the perceptions of Vajpayee’s firmness and tenderness will be completely different if the party failed to retain the government. The party would probably then settle for the firmness of the iron or lauh instead of the diamond.
M. Sikdar, Calcutta
Added to the list
Sir — The present generation of upper castes should not be made to pay the price for the misdeeds of their ancestors (“Economic quota goes national on BJP’s back”, May 26). There are millions among the upper castes who fail to make two ends meet. The state has so far remained unsympathetic to their needs because of their caste status. In contrast, many families belonging to the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes categories, despite being well-off, receive immense benefits from the government. Social justice and equality cannot be achieved through such policies.
Though there has been no proposal to scrap the constitutional guarantee of reservation for SCs, STs and OBCs, it would be ideal to do away with it immediately. Irrespective of caste affiliation, only the financially weak, specially those below poverty line, should be brought within the purview of the reservation policy.
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur
Sir — The archaic system of reservation, which was once mooted as a social security measure to provide social equity to the downtrodden and backward classes in order to give them state support in the initial years after India’s independence, is now becoming an increasingly potent political weapon. This is compromising the quality and merit of governance in India. In this connection a letter from the former prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, to the chief ministers of the states in 1961 would be relevant. In it he says that he wants India to be a “first-class” country. The moment we encourage the second-rate, we are lost. “The only real way to help a backward is to give opportunities of good education”. Everything else is a provision of some kind of crutch, which does not add to the strength or the health of the body. Nehru thought that if India went for reservation on a communal and caste basis, we would swamp the bright and able. Let us help the backward people by all means, he said, “but never at the cost of efficiency”. On the basis of Nehru’s profound observation, I feel that there should not be reservations for anyone anywhere.
B.L. Tekriwal, Mumbai
Sir — The Bharatiya Janata Party’s proposal to the government for setting up a national commission to extend reservations to the economically backward classes is perfectly justified (“Economic quota pressure”, May 27). We cannot dismiss the fact that there is a sizeable section among the upper castes who need the same privileges as the scheduled castes and tribes. Poverty is one of the most influential factors in Indian socio-economic life, and a major reason behind India’s backwardness. If some sections of India’s population are granted benefits so that they get a level-playing field, the poor among the upper castes also deserve to have them. Otherwise, India cannot progress. The need for extending reservations to the EBCs, voiced first by the Congress-led Rajasthan government, has to be addressed. The BJP by taking up the issue has shown its pragmatism.
Bidyut Baran Sarmah, Darrang, Assam
Sir — The Union government’s decision to consider the inclusion of more categories in the reservation list is based on vote-bank politics aimed at the forthcoming assembly elections. The basic policy of reservation was incorporated in the Constitution for a limited period of 15 years. The need to extend it further was itself a proof of the failure of the policy.
Subhash Chandra Agrawal,
Sir — One of the main reasons for India’s lacklustre condition is our politicians’ obsession with the quota-system. The policy of reservation, both in education and employment, makes sure that the able are ignored and the mediocre prosper. Our politicians are still suffering from Mandal effect, which once served as a vote-clincher. Let all kinds of reservation be banned so that the country has the best people manning it, irrespective of caste, creed and religion.
Rohit Jain, Hooghly
Sir — Now that the EBCs look likely to be granted the benefit of reservations, what is the guarantee that Muslims will not demand reservations for being an endangered community in India under the saffron raj' More self-immolations would perhaps remind the government about the dangers of such a pernicious policy.
J. Samanta, Calcutta