Read Falling Over Backwards: An Essay On Reservations, And On Judicial Populism by Arun Shourie Online


How is it that what was explicitly forbidden by the Constitution - classification based on cast has become the rule? How is it that what were enabling provision have become mandatory minima? Where does the figure 50 per cent come from? How is that in practice it is exceeded blatantly? Are the benefits not being hogged by a few, the better–off among these castes? Has the “cHow is it that what was explicitly forbidden by the Constitution - classification based on cast has become the rule? How is it that what were enabling provision have become mandatory minima? Where does the figure 50 per cent come from? How is that in practice it is exceeded blatantly? Are the benefits not being hogged by a few, the better–off among these castes? Has the “creamy layer” been actually hived off? How is that what were begun as reservations in promotion also? How did this become a right to accelerated promotions? How did that become a right “accelerated promotions with consequential seniority”? How did that become a right to have the prescribed standards diluted to the point of being waived altogether? Even in educational institutions. Is this any way to become a knowledge super - power”? As there has been no caste - wise enumeration and tabulation since the 1931 Census, where does this mythical figure, “OBCs are 52 per cent of the population” come from? And what did the 1931 Census itself say about its cast - wise figures?...

Title : Falling Over Backwards: An Essay On Reservations, And On Judicial Populism
Author :
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ISBN : 9788129109521
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 393 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Falling Over Backwards: An Essay On Reservations, And On Judicial Populism Reviews

  • Priya
    2018-10-18 00:55

    The book gives a very good view into our legislative and judicial systems and how caste based reservations have evolved over time through/despite/along-with these systems. An extremely well-researched book, this can serve as a comprehensive compendium for anyone interested in a judicial/law career with specialization on the said topic. To the ordinary reader, this is a real eye opener in many ways. One gets a thorough insight into the stark reality that stares at us and the alarming repercussions this can have. Like every other review here says, there is certainly quite a lot of repetition of the same facts over and over again throughout the book. To be fair to the author, he warns us right in the beginning of the book that this will be the case. The idea behind the repetition is to merely underscore the points and imprint them on the reader's mind permanently. While to a certain extent, the book does succeed in this, but the sheer volume of facts and legal jargon makes it a tedious read after a while. The essence is captured in about 300 odd pages, the rest of the book can be skipped without missing anything.

  • RPrasad
    2018-10-27 16:37

    Details the transition from a nuanced stance on reservation by the framers of the Indian constitution to the several layers of dilution that has since occured, led by the Supreme Court and accelerated with great eagerness by the political establishment.How did "backward classes" come to be equated to "caste"? How has the initial scepticism of this in Indra Sawhney completely disappeared? Castes are heterogenous with constant relabeling. There is also the element of diversity - one caste in state a may be backward while in state b be dominant. There can be significant dispersion in incomes within the caste, as also educational attainments.How did caste alone, irrespective of economic criteria become accepted? In fact so much that a judgement considers it ridiculous or outrageous that a poor upper caste person needs help from the state in the form of reservation. His caste alone is enough to disqualify him.How caste as class has now become standard talk while the reality is more fluid. How judges have cited 1931 data as reality for post 1970s judgementsHow concerns of the creamy layer of backward classes hogging all the benefits at the expense of the genuinely poor have been progressively set asideHow the Mandal commission made up numbers, contradicted itself and did not even attempt to achieve the objective of setting criteria or evaluating which castes are backward. How it relied on the 1931 censusHow did judges - Judge Subba Rao, Judge Chinnappa Reddy and Judge Krishna Iyer among others dilute previous judgements under the mantle of progressivism?How the court (some judges) has come to decide over time that - a) there is no loss of merit or efficiency from reservation (via assertions and tall statements on the need for reservation without regard to the quantum) b) there is no problem in diluting exam and other standards for backward classes and SC/STs because exams are arbitrary and exam outcomes don't translate to actual performance in the job. c) that equality of opportunity actually means equality of outcomes (Judge K K Mathew) d) reservation not only at entry level but imperative also for each promotion level e) seniority for younger reservation candidates for further promotions is okay (accelerated promotions further imposed by a constitutional amendment) f) that reservation of specific posts for castes and sub castes on a roster basis is okay (ie position 1 and 3 will be reserved for sc st while 2 will be open for all, including for reservation candidates. Until 2 retires no non reservation person can get promoted) g) how even super specialty seats in medicine and highly technical courses need reservation despite merit at work being crucial for outcomes, on the basis that the reservation is being given for course and not for employment h) private educational institutions, only those which are non minority, need to set aside seats for reservation i) reservations forever have come to be accepted in the judiciary as against the limited time nature initially envisaged j) only the backward classes are appropriately placed to run the administrative machinery sympathetically for the benefit of the backward classes and as such any loss of career of a general member is okay and maybe even desirable k) any challenge to reservation cannot be on the basis that the constitution's basic structure has been violated as the court needs to be visionary and revolutionary and not merely adhere to legalism (Krishna Iyer). L) the 50 pct upper limit for reservation has been violated in practice and over time successive judgements have diluted even the limitHow even cautious court judgements, where they have occurred, have been disregarded by central and state legislatures which have gone on expanding reservations on "principle". Some even have been held in contempt by the court but the latter is unable or unwilling to take action possibly because of fear of a populist backlashHow this means there is increased discourse in the establishment of reservation the basis of religion, which is likely to divide the country further as political parties have more reason to be communal while not achieving the aims of helping backward classes. How private sector reservation is not far off, and has been mooted and accepted, as any discourse against reservation is deemed elitist.How caste based reservation is not achieving its objectives vis a vis the genuinely poorHow Judges in some cases have refused to recognise economic criteria or means testing instead of subjectively defined social and economic criteria. Notwithstanding similar criteria are in place for the public distribution system and even for taxesHow in aggregate these have come to mean a likely dilution of efficiency, which is a violation of article 335 and a violation of article 15 which guarantees equal treatment (because of reverse discrimination). This supported by data (entire chapter) pointing to a super majority of backward classes - who qualify on the basis of reservation alone -dominating administration. The fact that their promotion process is easier because of the roster system and accelerated promotions because of imputed seniority translating to a long stay at the top thereby preventing promotions for general candidates. State legislatures are constantly playing with the system - Karnataka allowing reservation for the dominant vokkaligas and lingayats despite 3 state commissions ruling them as obviously not backward class, jats in north india, tamil nadu lobbying central govt to place an act mandating 69 pct under reservation in the ninth schedule of the constitution where it is beyond judicial review are examples. The clamour to be classified as backward is only getting shriller. The national commission for reviewing the constitution too has recommended that reservation along communal lines can be achieved under similar ninth schedule additions so they can be permanently frozen and unchallenged in court. States and centre have not consistently considered any suggestions as to the creamy layer objection.How despite the court knowing the state of affairs, has brushed these concerns under the carpet with long paragraphs suggesting any such claims are elitist and considering those arguments as anti reservation in toto, as against, the concerns highlighted being merely against the quantum and specific nature of reservation in a limited context. That is, any challenge is likely to be thrown out on elitist grounds Finally reserved seats in legislature for backward classes, Shourie points out, mean that 70 or 80 pct of people in those constituencies are unable to chose their representatives freely while the other 20 pct get preferential access. The general attack on liberty of the majority as it currently stands is significant, but is unfashionable to acknowledge.What can be changed? Shourie suggests that reservations should be done away with entirely and disallowed on the basis of caste, race, or any other birth marker. For the economically deprived, he suggests the state should give every facility needed to get them to the same level as the general category - meals, residence, healthcare, etc.The book is a difficult read and is repetitive, but the points are very well made, immensely researched and passionately argued. The book does not flow well - one does not know whether the judgement he cites is the majority or the dissenting judgement, and whether it has been since overturned subsequently.I compare this against the left liberal Prof Ashwini Deshpande's view expressed in "Affirmative action in india" where she argues caste is a relevant parameter, that reservations have helped but that you need more and not less. These she makes with references to several studies. She calls for a quota plus approach whereby monitoring is needed to measure how well reservations are being implemented so that as entry level presence of backward classes increase later stage reservations can be reduced. Her suggestion is that if "properly implemented" along with outcome tracking, it could take just 10 years to equalise as envisaged originally. She too takes the untenable view that reservations do not reduce efficiency and supports private sector reservations. She would do well to read the state of play in governments today in Shourie's book. Most importantly she argues that even after adjusting for class, caste discrimination exists in labour markets, even in the private sector and even in urban India, pointing to a study documenting how many call backs per resume is observed depending on the caste of the applicant. This latter is critically important for arguments purely based on economic factors alone. The many studies she cites are illuminating. Hanna and Linden 2009, as one example, demonstrated how teachers gave lower marks to kids with lower caste names, even after controlling for the answer itself (by randomly assigning names on answer sheets). She argues that such pre labour market discrimination warrants state support on a caste basis. Thorat and Attewell 2007, as another example, sent out exactly identical resumes to domestic cos and MNCs but Dalit call back rate was67 pct of upper caste names. The less said about studies in rural India, where many forms of discrimination exist, the better for conservatives.Having read both books, to me the balance seems to be a middle ground where reservations continue (considering Deshpande's citations as to the efficacy) but that a) means testing needs to be introduced b) that means testing should cover all indians and not just hindus as in the current system. C) that to counter caste discrimination in the private sector, and even in the public sector (for non reserved jobs), there should be anonymised hiring (even for student applications to universities) so the name, ethnicity, gender and place of the applicant is a no go area for the employer or college/university and shortlists and interviews are conducted without using names or using dummy names for convenience (can be implemented in law). D) the roster system, accelerated promotions system, and carry forward from prev years system in the public sector should be done away with entirely, as experience or talent could suffer significant reverse discrimination e) reservations to superspecialty and highly technical positions have to be on the basis of merit. Perhaps have a committee decide what jobs qualify under this - the court itself in Indra Sawhney pointed to a few like pilots, surgeons, defence technicians etc and f) implement a nationwide monitoring programme on how well the programme is doing and learn. In fact if there is learning from implementation, then a good equilibrium may be arrived at, one hopes, irrespective of starting point. With no such effort people end up quarrelling endlessly on programme design. g) there should be a well defined ceiling on reservations that is rigorously implemented.Will any of this happen? NoShould we do away with caste entirely for reservations? If anonymised hiring and applications are in place, then a means tested reservation process (considering the political congealment around caste cracks may make it impossible to do away with it anyway ) may reduce the many negative effects of a pure caste based reservation. Where there is a conflict between the systems, means test should win. Maybe have two economic slabs, one for the poorest and one for the not v poor but maybe socially backward using economics as a proxy for social backwardness (just as caste was used). This slab will be similar to the sc st and obc dual slab we currently have. It is also meaningful as it is fundamentally unfair for middle class or upper middle class to claim reservations on the basis of being socially backward, when they have the resources and the voice to "pull themselves up" (it is debatable what constitutes social backwardness if you are not economically backward) on social and educational parameters.Lastly a few words on data - it is important to note that all the politics and policy is happening around a vacuum of data as the last public caste census was in 1931. While a caste census was done in 2011 it wasnt done alongside the national census. SC's suggestion of 50 pct limit for reservation is based on conjecture.While it is obvious we cannot stick our head in the sand on the caste census, for good reason a full blown caste census cannot be fully trusted. Everyone will have incentives to be classified as backward and may end up lowering their income or other attainments too. One idea to throw out there (just for my record and not a policy recommendation) - there can be two surveys, say based on aadhaar (I am not considering privacy here and that may be a problem). In the first, you don't ask for caste. In the second, say which is done a year later you do a caste census exclusively. Even if caste identity is biased, the other data is clean. Is this the approach taken in the 2011 census (even though there was no unique id per person which makes it difficult to get a combined read on the data)?

  • Sajith Kumar
    2018-11-02 18:44

    When Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh announced that he was instituting reservation for Other Backward Castes (OBC) in government service in 1990, it was a bolt from the blue. Nobody had seen it coming and all hell broke loose as the country plunged into a series of violent protests, in which a few young men publicly immolated themselves to vent their anger at the supposed loss of jobs for forward castes. The backward classes which constituted 74 per cent of the population and the progressives among the upper castes welcomed the initiative, while quite understandably, a section of the people opposed it tooth and nail in parliament and law courts. The Supreme Court finally delivered its verdict in 1993. It upheld the constitutional validity of reservation for OBCs, but ruled that the well-off among them, christened the Creamy Layer, should be removed from its ambit. The country still follows that principle, while sporadic opposition to reservation continued. By the beginning of the present century, a new trend became noticeable. The upper castes also started the clamour for labeling themselves backward and accord reservations to them. The Jats have almost succeeded in getting what they wanted, while the Patidars of Gujarat are currently on the war path. Their logic is clear. With every judicial avenue closed for repealing reservation, and the political route impossibly difficult as the physical number of backward castes are far more numerous, the only thing they can hope for is to crash the gates, register all forward castes as backward and thus defeat the very purpose of granting reservation. Arun Shourie was the editor of the Indian Express when the Mandal agitation roiled the country. His fiery editorials and polemical essays added fuel to the fire. Shourie still retains his strident tone, even after all these years. This book contains his observations on reservation and the judicial support it had received. Terming those judges who ruled in its favour as activists and revolutionaries, he spits venom at the so-called judicial populism.Shourie’s attack on the backward castes of India runs on all fronts. He treats them as non-entities, people with no talent to run government institutions, but who wrested concessions from pliable politicians owing to their electoral muscle. He quotes a letter Prime Minister Nehru wrote to state chief ministers in 1961 in which he reacted strongly against reservation which leads to inefficiency and second-rate standards. If we go for reservations on communal and caste basis, we swamp the bright and able people and remain second- or third-rate. Nehru adds that this way lays not only folly, but disaster. The parting shot is Nehru’s rhetorical question on how we could build the public sector or indeed any sector with second-rate people. Shourie builds on where Nehru has left off by questioning even the existence of backward castes. His argument is that the consciousness of caste came into being only when the British started counting castes in decennial census. Centuries of untouchability and caste oppression are just wished away by the author, who then takes the next arrow from the quiver. Article 16(4) of the Constitution of India, on which the entire scheme of reservation rests, envisages reservation on appointments and posts in favour of any backward class of citizens. The statute uses the term ‘class’ instead of ‘caste’ and about a quarter of the book is dedicated to push this idea down the readers’ throats. Several judgments of the apex court had clarified this issue long back. They held that the term ‘classes’ mentioned in the constitution indeed referred to ‘castes’. This is quite logical if a bit of thought is applied to the matter. The framers of the constitution wanted to reserve jobs for the backward sections lagged behind others. But, if they specifically mentioned castes in the constitution, that’d have been valid only for that period, as there is every chance that the plight of the backward castes might improve in the future and the need for reserving seats for them might become obsolete. Another group – need not exactly be a caste – may become backward by then and the provisions of this enabling clause in the constitution can be used to provide succor to them. We want the Constitution’s provisions to be applicable for a very long time to come. May be it is with this intent that the makers of the constitution used the generic term ‘class’ instead of the very specific ‘caste’? It is for the legislature to decide which group is backward and the duty of the judiciary is to review it. Both have done their jobs well, but the author accuses them of populism.The book includes some prescient remarks that highlight the shrewdness of the author. He rightly surmises that if individuals and groups get rewarded on the basis of their being different from the rest, leaders will foment a politics that exacerbates the difference (p.33). That such an insightful scholar let go of absurd notions as well may surprise the readers. The hypothesis that castes in British India were in a state of flux is one such, especially with exodus of rural folk to the cities. Shourie’s point is that ‘in towns, it was quite easy for a low-caste person to claim a higher caste without any fear of detection’ (p.56). So, that’s it! The only way out for a person of backward castes to gain some dignity is to masquerade as a high-caste one in a far-off town! Elimination of the comparatively better off among the downtrodden communities has been a strong demand of all those who opposed reservations. Unfortunately, the passion of petty jealousy which underpins this idea remained unnoticed in the judicial review and the court’s reason for exempting the creamy layer was that reservations were to be for a class. To be a class, the group must be homogeneous. When some in it are clearly different from the others, it loses the character as a class. Besides, unless these advanced persons are excluded, they’d hog all the benefits that legislation may seek to provide to the backward classes. But, eliminating such a big chunk of eligible people from the purview of reservation has made it partly ineffective. It was reported recently that less than half the seats reserved for OBCs were actually filled in the last quarter century in which reservation was in place.Shourie treats the backward castes as subhuman morons as he pities the condition of the administration where half the posts are manned by such people having no qualifications for the job. His contemptuous duplicity fails to mention that all candidates – irrespective of whether they are backward or not – must qualify the basic criterion say, a degree. There is no relaxation to the backward castes in that. It is only in the screening process that some allowance is made. However, screening is not an essential part of selection. If the total number of candidates is less than or equal to the number of vacancies, everyone would be selected without further screening, provided they have the prescribed academic qualifications. Can we say that people appointed thus are not qualified enough or not talented enough? Shourie himself admits that not enough candidates from reserved categories are found. According to his own data, in 1992, the medical officers of UP from SC/ST communities comprised only 6 per cent of the total, whereas 20 per cent was earmarked for them as reservation. Most of the quota remained vacant, but the author fumes over promotions granted to them. Shourie breaches his leash and jumps at the judges with foaming mouth as he accuses them of populism and playing into the hands of opportunist politicians. His choicest invectives are reserved for Justice V R Krishna Iyer.The book is good reading for those who want to follow the court verdicts against finer aspects of reservation and how the legislature bypassed it by amending the constitution. However, finding the useful information from the sea of irrelevant rant will be a herculean task. Many points and ideas are needlessly repeated with detailed nitpicking of court rulings and judgments reproduced verbatim. It is plain boring at such times. The book is written in a propagandist style with absolutely no wit or humour. The author is always in a state of rage right throughout the entire text. This can be expected when you feel that what you are saying is not convincing to the people who hear it.The book is not recommended.

  • Arvind
    2018-10-23 22:50

    This book deals with the issue of OBC reservations and Supreme Court judgements pertaining to the same. It was surprising to know how Constitution talked of 'class' which was (deliberately and obstinately ?) misinterpreted as caste. The caste census of 1931 was used which anyways covered only 60% of the population. How merit and efficiency were made terms to scorn at ! etcIf u have read Arun Shourie before, u will already know to expect a terse and a bit repetitive style with no-comic relief as is d case with pop-writers today. But, rest assured the subject matter is dealt in great depth. This should have been 4/5 but then the choice of subject and thoroughness warrants a generous rating.

  • Nikunj
    2018-10-31 17:54

    The book can be submitted as a good thesis for Mr. Shourie to earn his Phd in Literature or Philosophy. The research undertaken is really Exhaustive and Profound, though the average reader will find the book quite repetitive, heavy as well as confusing. This book is a bible for any student interested in the history,present as well as the future of reservations in India. The consternation in the average public`s mind regarding the future of this country along with reservations hovering at every stage is really alarming.Overall an average read.

  • Dr.J.G.
    2018-10-26 18:41

    Most people, whether individually or as social groups, communities, have two very distinct, very separate needs, often but not always necessarily, conflicting. One is for more of wealth, more of power, stability of well being, security, and so forth. This is of course well understood and often used for a hold over the person or group as a leverage to use them. Another is of the sort that might begin to border on higher ideal - of a rise in terms of things other than those considered worldly needs. However, when the two conflict, often people free to choose will go for the worldly needs rather than higher ideals. And then resent those that do not, or cannot, for whatever reason. Hence the effort to portray one's community as higher if that gives a rise in status and all out efforts to prove it so, and on the other hand the opposite if that pays in terms of economic security. Given a chance - that is, if the two do not conflict - most people would prefer the higher ideal and rise in terms of other than worldly criteria. It is a pity that such chances are withdrawn and instead there is an incentive to downgrade one's roots in order to secure a better economic status. It is all the more reprehensible if the nation's higher authorities who are responsible for encouraging progress and evolution of nation and holding up just treatment go overboard bending over backwards and instead are responsible for a race in the nation to prove one was from low roots, and indulge in reprehensible practices including alcohol to prove the claim, all in order to secure benefits of a policy of reservations without merit on basis of ancestry from backward - not poor, but otherwise backward - classes.

  • Anurag
    2018-11-10 16:40

    'Falling over backwards - an essay against the reservation and judicial populism' is one of the most meticulously researched and persuading book written by a zeal of a person with a mission in his mind. And the mission was to make it a point that individual should be the unit of the governance not the interest groups or communities. The author Arun Shourie who has written many more books on the topics which just do not get too much attention in the public discourse that we have in place today. Written in 2005, Shourie took many cases from the history, words from the constitutional amendments, and excerpts from the judgments of high courts and supreme court just to debate on the merit of the reservations being given on any basis. In this book, Shourie emphasizes on basically three things : first, the tendency among the public to register as uppers castes during British Raj and subsequent loosening of the caste boundaries; second, the politicians approach to identity politics and seeing this as a chance to rise in Indian political landscape; third; the response of High Courts and Supreme Courts and the arguments given by progressive judges. These are three main areas in which the author researched and put forward his arguments.Read more about these points in my detailed book review here: BOOK REVIEW : 'FALLING OVER BACKWARDS' BY 'ARUN SHOURIE'

  • Sonali
    2018-11-05 20:42

    An eye-opener!

  • Abhishek
    2018-11-16 21:44

    This book will test your patience, and when you succeed, rewards will be unparalleled...Lengthy, repetitive at times, still a honest book one must read.

  • Vivek Anandh
    2018-10-27 19:51

    One of the very few well researched book on this topic. But can be too boring for it is far too repetitive and its not so interesting language.