From the time he took over as Karnataka State Commission for Backward Classes chairman in 2014, H. Kantharaja’s focus has been on the state’s socio-educational and economic survey, a first-of-its-kind effort. He talks to Outlook about the challenges faced and the impact the survey will have. Edited excerpts:
What have been your biggest practical challenges?
Covering migrants, slum-dwellers and the homeless was our main challenge. In some urban localities, people didn’t let us into their apartments. The survey’s purpose was to collect information about each and every person in the state and not just people belonging to the backward classes. We visited the entire state twice: once to inform people about the survey and later on, for deciding their various claims before the commission. We have collated over 220 representations.
What is political backwardness?
In 2010, the Supreme Court said the criteria for the purpose of reservation for socially and educationally backward classes is different from the criteria to be adopted for the purpose of political backwardness. So, if we cannot apply that criteria, then what should it be? That is to be decided. Since that question will also crop up, we have included some questions about political backwardness such as—are there panchayat members or MLAs in your family? So we can assess how many people have got opportunities and how many haven’t.
How do you respond to people questioning the intentions of the survey?
The intention is only that of a developmental programme. Only after knowing the details will the government be in a position to go for certain policies. This may also help them to go for political reservations, say, in local body elections. Also, the Panchayat Raj Act says it should be done on rotation basis so that every caste gets an opportunity. If you don’t know the population, how will you allot the seats? The SC has said that empirical data is needed to correctly decide on all this. Look at any of the previous commissions. Invariably, all of them, at both national and state levels, have made recommendations for the purpose of conducting this type of survey.
How will the survey impact the current structure?
All I can say is that we will present our data to the government. It’s open for them to reject, but if so, they will have to give reasons. Let me tell you that such surveys are not new to any country.