A century of reservation: Leveller now political tool

MYSURU: On Thursday, Mysuru quietly turned a leaf in its history book, as it marked a century of the epic step which brought in the reservation policy in India.

On August 23, 1918, the princely state of Mysuru, with Maharaja Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar at the helm, scripted history by forming a committee to explore the possibilities of reservation for all community members in government services.

The move, perhaps, is regarded as the first-ever effort by undivided India to provide reservation on the basis of caste in government service, at a time when Brahmins dominated administration in the princely state.

“Suppose a person by virtue of reservation gets into IAS and becomes secretary through reservation in promotion. Can a very senior bureaucrat‘s grandson and great-grandson be treated as backward for promotion in employment, and that too in perpetuity?‘ The Supreme Court asked on Thursday.

Krishnaraja Wadiyar braved resistance to implement the reservation policy, as recommended by committee head Sir Leslie Miller, the then Chief Judge of the Chief Court of Mysore.

Nalwadi stoutly supported the non-Brahmin movement in the princely state by appointing the committee. In its order, it was mentioned that dominance of Brahmins in public service was too high, and the state desires that other communities too be adequately represented, and sought measures to bring in changes required in the existing policy of recruitment. It also spoke of special status to be given to encourage the deprived classes and measures to be adopted to increase their representation.

“Since the princely state of Mysore was controlled by officers from , British officers appointed Madras Brahmins as ‘Dewans’. It was first opposed by the Mysore Brahmins who were against this preference,” explained PV Nanjaraj Urs, historian. This controversy ceased with the appointment of M Visvesvaraya as Mysore Dewan in 1912.

The concept of “creamy layer” for one group of OBCs — wards of employees of PSUs — continues to be muddled. In keeping with past years, the government has again deprived reservation benefits to 29 successful OBCs in UPSC examinations for elite services like the IAS and IPS. Twelve OBCs were left out of the UPSC list in 2012, 11 in 2015 and four in earlier years, as per the figures compiled by the aggrieved group.

Sometime later, non-Brahmins led by and Lingayat organizations challenged Brahmin monopoly and demanded preference in government service. Around 1916, they gave a representation to then ruler, Krishnaraja Wadiyar. Brahmins, chiefly Dewan M Visvesvaraya, advocated meritocracy in administration, saying that it would otherwise lead to substandard efficiency in governance, and suggested that schools be opened to educate people from backward classes.

The Maharaja and Dewan exchanged several letters over the reservation issue, before the Dewan was asked to put in his papers. Later, the Maharaja took measures to honour demands by appointing a committee, and directed newly appointed Dewan Kantharaje Urs to act suitably.

MILLER COMMITTEE REPORT

Echanur Kumar, a historian, explained that when a representation was given by non-Brahmins, the Maharaja took two days’ time before forming the committee. During this time, the Maharaja, through his close advisers, carried out a study and may have been convinced before forming a committee in August 1918, he stated.

The committee consisted of six non-officials from different communities, including Brahmins, Lingayats, Vokkaligas, Muslims and backwards, with Sir Leslie Miller as its chairman. The committee submitted its report in May 1919, recommending to the state that within a period of not more than seven years, the proportion of members representing the backward community in all departments of the state service should be gradually increased to 50%, as long as they possess the prescribed qualification.

Krishnaraja Wadiyar’s effort was the first in the whole of India to introduce reservation in government services on a large scale, the historian concluded. This came nearly four decades after Mysuru State set up Mysuru Representative Assembly, to include people from different backgrounds to formulate policies. It was in the 1880s that then Maharaja Chamaraja Wadiyar set up the body, which was the first representative body in India, which had a say in the functioning of the government.

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