Friday, March 20, 2015

Inclusion mantra

Vartanama, Mar '15
By Pawan Dhall

On March 17, 2015, the Supreme Court of India struck down a Government of India decision to include the Jat community in the Other Backward Classes (OBC), and said that caste can’t be the sole factor for inclusion in the OBC category. Instead, the apex court asked the government to prioritize “new and emerging” groups like transgender people for inclusion among OBCs and identification for reservation benefits.

While the suggestion to consider transgender people for affirmative action is consistent with the Supreme Court’s April 2014 judgment on transgender identities and rights, what is not clear is how the quota percentages will be worked out. Will transgender people have a quota beyond the 27% already reserved for inclusion of OBCs in central government jobs, admission into educational institutions or other benefits? What if a transgender person belongs to a community already included in the OBC category? What if they belong to a community that is not ‘backward’?

There is also the question about the merits of a reservation-based approach to address the historical wrongs against marginalized communities in India, including transgender and other queer communities. This and other concerns around socio-economic inclusion of queer communities in India have been discussed in a new case study published recently by the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK. See excerpts from this case study in Queer Case for Economic Inclusion, the lead story in this issue of Varta.

While on the subject of economic inclusion of different sections of society, one of the vexed questions that remain is how to monetize the efforts of homemakers – even if for no reason other than to accord a certain respect for their endless hours of toil, a respect that perhaps only the colour (or sound) of money can evoke. I am sure economists the world over will have a lot to say on this subject, but being home alone for the last one month, with my mother on a long visit to her older son, has given me a certain insight into the matter.

Attending to the household maintenance and rations, coordinating day-to-day matters with the cooks and cleaners, keeping track of the newspaper vendor, milk delivery man and cooking gas delivery, sharing an apple or a couple of cookies with the sweeper’s child, humouring the truant car cleaner or dhobi, being neighbourly to the neighbours . . . all these life nurturing activities carry an immense opportunity cost.

What if my mother decides to chuck out all these from her daily agenda on a permanent basis, and entrust me with all the tasks? I shudder to think of the opportunity loss I may be faced with, in terms of consultancy contracts, coffee-tea-or-me dates, film shows, browsing through books, participation in protests against assorted injustices – clearly, the opportunity cost of what our mothers (and sometimes fathers) do at home is not just the value of employment opportunities they forego, but also at least a certain share of what all the other members of the family earn. Respect!

Pawan Dhall aspires to be a rainbow journalist and believes in taking a stand, even if it’s on the fence – the view is better from there!

Artwork source: Clip Art from MS Office.

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