Part of this report appeared in DNA Mumbai edition on February 18, 2012
National Minorities Commission chairman Wajahat Habibullah favours review of impact of reservations
New Delhi: Soft-spoken and gentle National Minorities Commission chairman Wajahat Habibullah said that it is debatable whether reservations for oppressed groups have benefited the targeted groups, and there is a need to study it. The commission has undertaken a study to appraise the impact of reservations. He said that even in the United States, where affirmative action policies have been evolved and implemented for blacks, the targeted group did not always benefit from it.
This is the first time that a person of eminence like Habibullah, who belongs to a distinguished political family in Uttar Pradesh and who was a Jammu and Kashmir cadre IAS officer, has dared to open up debate on the question of reservations per se.
On the issue of the raging controversy over nine per cent reservation for Muslims in Uttar Pradesh as part of the 27 per cent quota for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) -- Congress ministers Salman Khurshid and Beni Prasad Verma who had promised this in their campaign speeches have faced flak from the Election Commission (EC) and opposition parties like the BJP – Habibullah said that there is nothing anomalous about it.
The backward class groups who happen to be Muslims are entitled to reservations under the Mandal scheme but they have not benefited from it, he said. It has not been a level-playing field. Some of the backward class groups benefited from it and others were excluded. There is nothing anomalous if these backward class Muslims groups like the weavers are specifically mentioned in the reservation category.
He said that it was the Ranganath Mishra commission which had recommended numerical quota for Muslims commensurate with their numbers. But the Sachar commitee, set up by the UPA in its first term, did not mention reservations for Muslims.
Habibullah said that the commission has impleaded itself in a case pending before the Supreme Court with regard to Dalit Christians. The Constitutional Order of 1950 which mandated reservations for Scheduled Castes had only mentioned Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. That is, people belonging to the SC category in these three religious groups were eligible for reservation. He said that those who converted to Christianity or Islam from this oppressed group too shared the same social disabilities, and the fact they changed their religion did not alter their social situation. He said that SC reservation should be extended to persons of other religious groups as well.