Dalit groups have called for a nationwide protest against the Narendra Modi government’s decision to open joint secretary-level positions to lateral entry.
According to the Times of India, this protest may occur in August, closer to Independence Day when the monsoon session of parliament is on, as activists feel the action is more likely to resonate with people at that time.
Dalit activist Ashok Bharti told the newspaper that the move was an attempt to bypass constitutionally-mandated reservations for SCs and STs. “Anger is brewing on the ground over the lateral entry issue. Dalits see it as one that bypasses the constitutional mechanism of UPSC (Union Public Service Commission), which is mandated to recruit for top government jobs, and hence ignore the mandatory reservation criterion for SCs and STs created to ensure uplift of the underprivileged communities in the country. The protest is meant to send out the message that if their concerns are not addressed by the government, the community will give the ruling party a befitting reply in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls,” said the activist.
“This government has already appropriated autonomous constitutional institutions like the Election Commission, which are now dancing to its tune, and will now bypass the UPSC which is a constitutional body mandated to recruit bureaucrats, and allow lateral entries to suit themselves,” he added.
Opposition parties too have raised concerns over the decision, as has Dalit BJP MP Udit Raj.
P.L. Punia, Congress MP and former chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, was quoted by the Hindustan Times as saying,“The decision has been thought through; the government wants to bypass the rigorous process of selection through the UPSC to make way for the absorption of people affiliated to the RSS and the BJP through the back door.”
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury raised the reservation question in a tweet. “Why are time-tested UPSC and SSC being sought to be undermined? To fill IAS ranks with Sanghis and undermine reservation too, in the BJP’s last few months in office,” he said.
On April 2, Dalit groups called a nationwide agitation against a Supreme Court order that they said was diluting the SC/ST (Prevention of) Atrocities Act. Clashes between protestors and the police took place during the ‘Bharat Bandh’, leading to the death of nine people.