It would be less than an incentive for domestic and international companies to invest in Tamil Nadu if those governing the state give the impression of being trapped in a time warp.
Finance Minister Thiagarajan of Tamil Nadu has received admiring attention from much of the media for his reported depth of knowledge and immense reserves of competence. If such be true, he would certainly be an asset not just to his party the DMK but to Tamil Nadu as well. The state would emerge as a model for other states, should the economic situation in a state that has always done relatively well in several economic parameters improve speedily and vastly. The future will tell. However, judging by his remarks on the recent move to have a 10% quota for the Economically Weaker Sections of the communities that have historically been excluded, it would appear that the TN Finance Minister believes that even during the past thousand-odd years, the so-designated “forward castes” of India have discriminated against the others within the Hindu community. This is indeed a discovery that needs to be applauded in textbooks of Indian history, that during Mughal and British colonial rule, the “forward castes” were so empowered that they wreaked havoc on the others. Till now, the perception was that Hindus in general (including the so-called “forward castes”) were subordinated to first the Mughals and later the British. Let it be added that the present writer has no quarrel with reservation quotas for the SC, ST and Backward groups. There must indeed have been discrimination in the past, even if more than a thousand years ago. As a consequence of such reservations, more and more from the population segments that were given the benefits of reservation improved their lot. Indeed, in Andhra Pradesh, the Kamma community is known for its entrepreneurs and the wealth of many within that group, far more than the Brahmins of the state are, and they are at least the equals in material advancement of the more “forward” Reddy community. In Kerala, it is the Ezhava community that is at parity with the Christian community in the matter of success in business, not the “forward” Nairs. In Maharashtra, not the Brahmins but the Marathas dominate the field of state policy, while in UP and Bihar, the Yadav community has emerged as probably the most influential, as witness the progress to the top of leaders such as Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav in their time. So what is Minister Thiagarajan upset about? All that he needs to do is to take a stroll around his ministerial bungalow, and he will come across several homes of those from so-called “forward” communities living in poverty. Surely hunger and want are felt equally by individuals who are classified as either “forward” or “backward”, or “most backward”? Or do “forwards” have some quality within themselves that they feel the impact of neither hunger nor the horrors of hardship? Now that the Supreme Court has given its imprimatur to the policy of providing a quota on the basis of economic need, including to sections of the population till now outside the matrix of reservations in state jobs, it is doubtful that the Tamil Nadu state government will succeed in getting the move overturned. All that will happen will be to accumulate the dismay of those who fail to understand the reasoning behind the implicit assumption that poverty is felt differently by individual segments of society.
DMK supremo Stalin became Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in the third decade of the 21st century. Surely it is time for him to join hands with other regional leaders who have refused to join in moves against a policy that has been overdue for 75 years. If he were to look around, he may notice that Tejashwi Yadav is not a copy of his father, nor is Akhilesh of Mulayam Singh or Aaditya of Uddhav Thackeray, just as the former CM of Maharashtra is not an exact copy of his father Balasaheb, who incidentally had a sense of wry humour that made him a pleasure to meet. Generation after generation has moved on from the 20th to the 21st century. It would be less than an incentive for domestic and international companies to invest in Tamil Nadu if those governing the state give the impression of being trapped in a time warp, unable to come to terms with a society that is very different from what it was a thousand years ago, or even a thousand weeks ago. Since the 1990s, this writer has talked of the “Mercedes Caste”. Whatever the family of an individual owning such a car might have been in the past, most fathers-in-law would welcome such a son-in-law into their homes. Among the many signs of hope for the future of India is the rising and welcome incidence of inter-caste marriages. Those who oppose such a marriage, and in some cases even resort to murder to prevent it, are indistinguishable from animals of the jungle, for they cannot understand that every human being has the right to equality, not only in law but in the treatment given to her or him by the rest of society. Surely the very well-regarded Tamil Nadu Finance Minister Thiagarajan is free of such Jurassic Park traits as refusing to acknowledge that the poor need to be helped to change their circumstances, no matter what classification has been applied to them. In the Karunanidhi clan, there are modern individuals with creative minds, such as the patriarch’s daughter, Kanimozhi. It may be time for those in the DMK who have adapted to the 21st century to show that today’s DMK is as changed as today’s India is.