When elections come, opposition political parties would wake up from their slumber to make a slew of impracticable demands, or launch protests or rake up old and closed scams to keep their vote banks intact. They will be in protest mode. The quota politics (seeking enhanced or reservation for their communities) is predominant in the run-up to the elections. This is common to all over Bharat. Now in Tamil Nadu, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) founded by Dr S Ramadoss unleashed a mayhem on 1st December by throwing stones on Trains and buses. Traffic came to standstill for an entire day.
PMK, which was founded in 1980s to fight for the causes of Vanniyar caste, a predominant in Northern parts of the state including Vellore, Ranipet, Cuddalore, Kancheepuram, Chenglepet, Tiruvallur, Dharmapuri, Tiruvallur and Villupuram districts. The Vanniyars, also known as, Vanniya Kula Khatriyas, are among the 35 plus castes that fall under the Most Backward Classes (MBCs) in the state. They together with the de-notified communities are given 20 per cent reservation out of the total 69 per cent quota. In the 80s, literally, PMK had taken their protests to roads and streets. Trees were the victims for their protests. They fell trees and put them on the road to block traffic. It earned them the sobriquet of ‘ Tree cutters/fellers” from its detractors. PMK, an ally of AIADMK and part of NDA, had in October, accused the Edapadi K Palaniswamy led government of not redressing people’s grievances. The party is planning to hold a massive protest in 2021 demanding 20 per cent quota for Vanniyars. It had set 1st December for their first phase of protest.
On Monday the state witnessed a mayhem. Trains including city-bound and outbound, suburban and vehicular Traffic were affected the worst. Normalcy returned only today early morning (2nd December). Office goers, those who were coming to city or going out of the city were the worst hit due to their protest. Cadres threw stones on incoming trains. Suburban trains were not operated in Chennai from 7 am to 11 am and trains were halted at different stations in a bid to halt the PMK cadres from entering the city. Ambulances were struck at several locations. PMK held protests in 78 locations in Chennai and suburban cities. Over 2,500 PMK cadres were booked for violation of Covid-19 pandemic rules.
Majority of the people, DMK, left and other political parties agree that PMK has the right to protest but not taking law into violence into its hands or unleash violence or cause hindrance to normal life of public. They wanted the cadres who threw stones on trains, buses or instigating violence should be booked and dealt sternly. Their properties should be confiscated as no one has the freedom to damage public properties. BJP chief L Murugan wanted the government to consider their demand positively.
But the people are of the opinion that any political party that cause inconvenience to public or damage public properties should be taken to task. They have a fundamental right to protest without causing trouble to the general public. They have no right to vandalize trains, government or private vehicles, halt traffic. The government should take a stern action on such political parties and its cadres. Courts have already made this point clear in earlier incidents”.
On Monday, Chief Minister Palaniswamy announced that a commission would be set up to exclusively collect current caste-wise data and submit a report to the government. He said that quantifiable data on castes was necessary considering a case on 69 per cent quota in the Supreme Court, the need to ensure that welfare schemes reached the intended beneficiaries and also in view of a long time demand in the state for a caste wise headcount. The CM said “Complete information (on castes and their population) can be obtained only by collecting caste-wise data across Tamil Nadu”. This should be viewed as a matter related to TN’s growth as Vanniyars constitutes one-fourth of the State’s population”.
TN CM has directed the commission to submit a report within three months. Notably, the commission would collect caste-wise data and not beneficiaries. TN CM recalled in a statement “it was Amma (Jayalalithaa) who ensured constitutional protection for TN’s 69 per cent reservation. Political parties and caste organisations have been demanding caste-wise surveys from time to time. While TN has been implementing several welfare measures. It has to ensure that the benefits reach all”.
PMK founder Dr. S Ramadoss said the state has cheated them. He said that the announcement of CM Palaniswamy about setting up a commission to undertake a caste-wise survey as ‘delaying tactics’. Ramadoss also said that it has become customary for successive governments to ‘cheat the community’ after extending assurances about taking a favourable decision on their pending demands of 20 per cent reservation. His son Anbumani Ramadoss told media persons, “ This is a most backward community. Our protest is not against anyone”.
Political pundits warn “agreeing for their demand will open flood gates. Other communities will make such demands by mounting pressure before polls. They will try to extract assurances from the government both at State and Centre. A day will come, the government will not have space to give reservations once its 100 per cent. Reservations, our founding fathers envisioned, as a short time time-bound measure to uplift some castes or communities who were denied due to various reasons. But it is a fashion now for each and every individual, barring a handful of few, community to demand reservations in government jobs, promotion, education and even in private sector employment. The TN government has refused to implement centre’s 10 per cent quota for economically backward among other castes and is also refusing to issue certificates to the needy.
Critics of the caste based reservation point out no other country are extending reservations in education, job and promotions. The country would prosper only if meritorious people are at the helm of affairs.