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Reservations: The economic factor

By Rajeev Srinivasan
May 10, 2006 17:05 IST
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Rajeev Srinivasan argued how reservations fracture Hindu society in the first of his two-part column. Here he blames poor economic growth for the demand for reservations:.

Now to the other question: let's take a look at the track record of the Congress and the Marxists in alleviating poverty. Poverty, and the exploitation thereof, is their entire raison d'etre. Here are some interesting observations about them -- paraphrased by me -- made by the Economic and Political Weekly.

  • Wherever Marxists are in power, the situation for women and lower castes has demonstrably deteriorated
  • When the Congress has been in power, the growth in per capita GDP has been abysmal
  • Startling, isn't, if you believe the usual rosy propaganda?

    Consider the following article in the Economic Times dated November 22, 2005, 'Shackled by reform', thanks to reader Sekhar. I quote:

    'In West BengalÂ… and Kerala the Left-led land reform movements have not only reinforced female seclusion and dowry among upper castes, but extended them to scheduled castes as well. That has led to land alienation and eroded land reform. Dalits are known to muster resources for payment of dowry by selling off land they won through reform.'

    The article quotes research by Praveena Kodoth in Economic and Political Weekly. (June 18-24, 2005) which, it says, 'reveals that land reform movements in Bengal and Kerala have failed to address the gendered modes of power and social relations. It shows how participation of women in rural (farm) work across social groups in Bengal and Kerala has, in the long term, declined due to land reform.'

    Mandal Redux

    The data is damning: females, especially of lower castes and tribes are very poorly represented in the workforce in Kerala and Bengal compared to the all-India totals. What does this mean? That these women, not having a cash income of their own, are therefore dependent on men, and are thus far worse off in these states than in the rest of India! Other data in the same article shows the trend worsening over time. This is woman-friendly reform?

    Decades of Marxist rule in West Bengal has left the most vulnerable groups, rural SC/ST and OBC women, worse off than before! This is truly disturbing. Can we say 'Marxist casteism and anti-feminism'?

    Incidentally, the Marxists have taken great care not to have OBC or SC/ST or women become chief ministers. In Kerala, this is a very sore point for Ezhavas, who form the bulk of Marxist support. Ezhava women leaders who were positioned before elections as CM-designate, K R Gowri and Sushila Gopalan, were denied it on flimsy grounds after elections, and the post given to 'forward-caste' men.

    This year, V S Achuthanandan, another Ezhava CM aspirant, was told not to contest, although after an uproar he is indeed contesting. But VS has been defeated -- some say with malice aforethought -- before in a 'safe' Marxist seat.

    Caste in Stone: Rural Work Participation (UPSS) by Social Category in West Bengal and Kerala, vs. All India, in 1999-2000. Source: Economic Times NovEMBER 22, 2005



























    W Beng









    All India









    And we are supposed to believe the Marxists are the messiahs of OBC/SC/ST/women?

    Another article in Economic and Political Weekly. 'Economic Growth in Independent India,' by Deepak Nayyar, April 15, 2006, (thanks to reader Arun) has a fresh set of damning numbers that support my contention about the Nehruvian Penalty, see my column of that name

    I do not necessarily agree with Nayyar's conclusions, which seem to be the new orthodoxy: that growth began in the 1980s. (Borrow and spend like there's no tomorrow, and you can induce growth, but it also led to the balance of payments crisis in 1990). But I find Nayyar's data interesting, and it supports my contention that in GDP/national income the Nehruvian Rate of Growth of 2-3 per cent is the 'natural rate of growth' under Congress rule. Here's the data:

    Aggregate Economic Growth in per cent per annum. Source: EPW, 15 Apr 2006





    National Income

    1*, 0.8**




    Per Capita Income

    0.8*, 0.04**




    * Sivasubramonian estimates, ** Angus Maddison estimates

    Per capita growth crawled both under the colonialists and in the glory years of the Congress. At 1.4 per cent growth, it will take 50 years for per capita income to double. Whereas at 4.1 per cent, it will double in 18 years. The difference between these (compare India and South Korea, for instance) is the reason for under-development. Real development only began when the Congress' power diminished, much like Europe exiting the Dark Ages only when the Vatican lost its stranglehold.

    While the data cannot show cause and effect but only correlation, it is reasonable to postulate that there was no growth under the Congress because they wittingly or unwittingly wanted it that way, to justify their slogans about social justice. Their expectation became a self-fulfilling prophesy.

    Not a pretty picture. The aggregate growth numbers for per capita income are for all groups. It is likely that the disadvantaged groups at best kept pace with the aggregate numbers. Thus there is a need for reservation only because the economic pie did not grow. And caste groupings are used as collective bargaining mechanisms so that different groups can grab a bigger share of the pie than they actually deserve.

    The causation chain is clear. There was no growth under the Congress, therefore underprivileged groups continue to exist. Therefore there is the need for affirmative action: a self-perpetuating vicious circle.

    And under the Marxists, the most underprivileged groups slid further behind.

    Cruel irony, isn't it? For all their posturing about the underprivileged, Congress and Marxist policies merely serve to perpetuate poverty. Therefore, they have created a need for reservations, which they serendipitously found to be a useful tool to create divisions in Hindu society. Two birds with one stone, indeed: by perverting a good idea, they have successfully created ongoing divisiveness and communalism.

    Comments at my blog at

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    Rajeev Srinivasan