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Udit Raj's Fast For Reservation In Private Sector

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

16 December, 2009

Udit Raj on fast unto death against non implementation of reservation in private sector

Jantar Mantar in Delhi is witnessing numerous hunger strikes and fast unto deaths these days. The Telengana verdict has suddenly focused on the power of self sacrifice for people’s cause. Though essentially a Gandhian tool, fast unto death is becoming a new instrument to highlight the issue and compel the ‘insensitive’ authorities to activate it.

In the post globalised India, when the government job sector is shrinking, it is important the challenges are tackled in the new way. The reservation debate can not remain the same as it used to be. Now, private sector constitutes a big chunk and the government has itself disinvested many of its public sector companies. Though Dr Udit Raj and the organization that he is president off, namely All India Confederation of SC/ST Employees Associations have always opposed privatization and globalization, yet they feel that despite their political opposition, it is time that government accepts their demand for reservation in private sector.

Associations of SC-ST employees under the banner of Confederation as well as Indian Justice Party, are sitting on Dharana since November 19th in Delhi for speedy implementation of the quota, particularly completing the backlogs which are not being promoted. So, far no government official has visited them. Not a single member of parliament thought of this issue and political parties have not felt it an issue to be responded. ‘ it is rather unfortunate and painful, feel Dr Udit Raj, who decided to sit on fast unto death for this cause, which he feel is much bigger than being a prime minister or chief minister of a state. It empowers the entire community, it is not for some time and it does not just empower an individual, he emphasized.

Udit Raj has been in the forefront of campaign to save reservation. The Confederation has been organizing rallies and protest marches, meeting ministers, planning commission members, Member of Parliaments and Group of Ministers. The UPA government formulated a bill in the fag end of its previous term which was produced in Parliament in February 2009. It was passed by Rajya Sabha but the Lok Sabha did not pass it. There were many objectionable points in the bill which again re-emphasized the issue of ‘merit’, for the ‘creamy’ positions. So, according to the bill, many of the ‘expert’ positions would not have reservation in the name of ‘compromising’ with merit. The Confederation opposed it but now the government in the new term is not interested at all to bring the bill. Udit Raj feel that the bill for ensuring reservation must come in parliament but not in its original form. They have given their suggestions to the government.

In 2004, when the UPA government came to power, it had a lot of intention to listen to us. It started a dialogue on this with industries which were not supportive of quota but promised the following :

Creating 100 entrepreneurs
Supporting 500 professionals from SC-ST in better institutions nationally-internationally,
supporting 10,000 students for coaching.

The prime minister’s office had been monitoring this for long but now, feels Udit Raj, one does not know what the status of these promises made by the industries. What have industries done so far voluntarily which they emphasised so much? That is why, he says, we oppose to these voluntary efforts which end up voluntarily without any accountability.

‘Now, Congress party does not want to speak on the issue. The Dalit parties are unable to go beyond their castes and Muslim reservations. No question is raised in parliament. The issue is completely suppressed. CII and ASOCHAM, FICCI became proactive against quota and emphasized on voluntarism again.’

Udit Raj feel that government should bring reservation act in this session only after correcting anomalies in it particularly no reservation in class I post in the name of compromise with merit. Reservation is not a compromise with merit, he says. The government must implement reservation as per law and there should be no dilution in it. Now, we have information that it has dropped filling backlog posts which is in lakhs. Its various departments and bureaucrats are playing dirty games to stop implementation of reservation.

Udit Raj plunged into politics after much struggle for SC-ST employees and their rights. But the political games are different. At the grassroots, lot of issues, contradictions comes up and he too had to face these dark realities of caste and sub caste. Today he feel disgusted with all this though he continues to fight. He says ‘ Fighting for reservation in private sector is most important than fighting for becoming PM and CM, as it gives strength to entire community and not one individual. Secondly, it is permanent solution to our issues and all other positions are time bound and you may not be there the next time. He gives example of Sahara company which employ nearly 10 lakh persons. How many of them are Dalits ? If there is no fixed quota and no constitutional guarantee, there will not be many SC-STs. They may recruit one or two voluntarily but then who will stop the discrimination? Most of the HR people in private sector are dominated by high caste Hindus who have their own prejudices against us.

‘Why has he not been able to get political success’, I ask. ‘Sub- castism and blackmoney are the factors that are influencing activists and leaders today. He complaint against Mayawati government in Uttar-Pradesh is that it is promoting predominantly belong to one community and now helping the upper castes. Secondly, due to consumerism, radicalism is lacking among people. He challenges those who claim to be Ambedkarites and still promoting their own caste interests and talks of caste identities. He says that Ambedkar stood for total ‘annihilation’ of castes and caste identities do not help the Dalits at all. It may help them at first one to consolidate but at the end it helps the upper castes only. Dalits should come together under one identity of Dalits and not consolidate their own castes, as it would defeat Ambedkar’s broader perspective of a common struggle against brahmanical system.

He says that those who talk of identity politics among Dalits must understand the social struggles and movements and should not speak from ivory towers. ‘Do not divide dalits on caste and sub-caste identities as it will kill the movement? He feels those who are talking of sub caste identities are actually making irresponsible statements. They do not face ground reality. They should see it and then talk. Caste identity helps individual leaders but at the end of the day it harms. Dalit community is emotional and any appeal on caste identity is based on that emotion and the political leader is not responsible for any other work.

One of the major point of our discussion in the Jantar Mantar was about globalization. What do you think of globalization as many of our friends perceive it helping the Dalits, I ask. Udit Raj is very clear on these issues, actually much more then those who claim to have understood Ambedkarism. He says, not only as an individual but the Confederation and Indian Justice party is oppose to globalization and economic liberalization. Initially, some of us felt that globalization would help change in mindset of the people. People are adopting new technologies but not really changing their mindset. Secondly, the fact is that it is the Dalits and tribal who are losing their livelihood, their lands, their work, their forest, water and their jobs. So, how can we be insensitive to not think of this massive onslaught on our right by them? International corporate works in close cooperation with their Indian counterparts, so where is Dalits in this entire agenda. He admits that it is the similar mistake that we made in understanding communism. We thought caste and class was same but it did not happen. We felt that the same would happen with globalization that it would lead to change in mindset and liberate them but mind never got globlised and upper caste hatred and prejudices remained same against the Dalits.

Udit Raj also feels that the talks of smaller states are fraught with danger. How can any body who claim to understand the issue of Dalits think of dividing Uttar-Pradesh in to so many regions and disempowered them. Today, Dalits in Uttar-Pradesh are organized and can stand despite all our differences but if a Harit Pradesh come into being, will the Dalits remain the same. A Harit Pradesh is nothing but a dominant idea of a kingdom of high caste farmers who have always exploited Dalits and been ruthless in their violence against Dalits. Similarly it will happen in Bundelkhand where the Dalits remain predominantly landless. Both, western UP and Bundelkhand has high oppression of Dalits by the powerful farming communities. If these regions are made states, Udit Raj, says, the Dalits will go back to their early stages. Situation in Telengana is different then these areas. In Telengana, there is substantive Dalit presence and they have been part of the movement for long, fought different battles hence a demand for a separate state in Telenagna can not be equated to that of Western Uttar-Pradesh, Eastern Uttar-Pradesh and Bundelkhand. Dalits will have nothing in their hand politically, if these states come into being.

Today Udit Raj decided enough is enough. The government does not listen to the genuine demands of Dalits and their empowerment. One must not ignore the cause of Dalit representation. Like land, reservation is a potential weapon to empower the Dalits. It gives them leverage to power structure. So, far only upper caste used to sit on fast unto death for their cause, what is wrong with Dalits doing the same for their cause. It is important Dr Udit Raj as cause of reservation in these times, when the government is diluting and political leaders remain conspicuously silent to get upper caste votes, some body has to do the needful. Time has come for the government of India to make the private sector accountable for the cause of Dalits. We must have reservation in private sector. Udit Raj needs your support for the cause.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat
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