Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology Dr. Jitendra Singh on Wednesday (October 6) announced a baffling decision of opening 75 Science Technology and Innovation (STI) Hubs in different parts of the country, exclusively for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs). Singh said that the decision was taken after a high-level review meeting with senior officials of the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The development of new STIs comes at the heels of 20 other STIs incorporated by the government in the last two years, and that too exclusively for the SC and ST community.
The Union Minister remarked, “These hubs will not only promote scientific talent but also contribute to the socio-economic development of these communities. In the last two years, 20 STI Hubs (13 for SCs and seven for STs) have already been established by DST which will directly benefit 20,000 SC and ST populations through various interventions spreading across the farm, non-farm, other allied livelihood sectors, and various livelihoods assets like energy, water, health, education, etc,”
What about Equality? Ask Netizens.
The decision by the centre immediately drew a sharp response. The promise for equality enshrined in Articles 15 and 16 of the Indian constitution supposedly went for a toss when it came to ‘positive discrimination’ on reservation lines.
While it is understandable that why such practice has been introduced, the government should not strive to widen the divide even further. Reservation in jobs and education already gives a meaty pie of the cake to the SCs and STs – involving them here and segregating the Generals, EWS, and OBCs in research centres create a feeling of alienation.
Safe to say, the netizens weren’t impressed by the Union Minister’s decision and took him to the cleaners. One of the users asked the Modi government, what was the fault of the General people.
“Dear @narendramodi ji we thought at least in your terms general category people will get good benefits from government. But your government doing more cast benefits SCs, STs & Minorities. Does @DrJitendraSingh can explain what is the mistake of GC people? @BJP4India #Reservation”
Dear @narendramodi ji we thought at least in your terms general category people will get good benefits from government. But your government doing more cast benefits SCs, STs & Minorities. Does @DrJitendraSingh can explain what is the mistake of GC people? @BJP4India #Reservation https://t.co/Iqv8rY2Whs
— ಕನ್ನಡದ ಕಂದ. (@JustaskANDblock) October 8, 2021
Meanwhile, another asked the government if it was doing justice to citizens with its decision, “Are you doing justice with all Indian citizens? Govt itself doing discrimination in education and training. That’s ridiculous and anguishing Shame @narendramodi @rashtrapatibhvn dividing India into castes,”
Are you doing justice with all Indian citizens ? Govt itself doing discrimination in education and training. That's ridiculous and anguishing
Shame @narendramodi @rashtrapatibhvn dividing India into castes https://t.co/lEERm2iPNL
— Tanvi Jain (@TanviSolanki_) October 8, 2021
Other netizens reminded the union Minister of his roots and how through the centres of ‘exclusive teaching’ he was setting a dangerous precedent. TFI editor Shubhangi Sharma “Jitendra Ji of Jammu should know better than to say ‘exclusively for ..’ As a person with roots in Jammu, but raised in the northeast, I know the stinging feeling of being ‘na ghar ka, na ghat ka’. Furthering this trend in NE is the last thing BJP should do. Avoid shortcuts.” said one tweeter.
Jitendra Ji of Jammu should know better than to say 'exclusively for ..'
As a person with roots in Jammu, but raised in the northeast, I know the stinging feeling of being 'na ghar ka, na ghat ka'.
Furthering this trend in NE is the last thing BJP should do. Avoid shortcuts. https://t.co/tv7ZUswZJc
— Shubhangi Sharma (@ItsShubhangi) October 7, 2021
A misplaced sense of Social Justice
The decision goes entirely against BJPs ethos of creating a progressive society. The abrogation of articles 370 and 35A was done so that the community ownership of the land and property by a particular community could be challenged in Jammu & Kashmir.
It was meant to be a skipping stone for creating a homogenized society in the valley and bring back the old occupants of the land that were forced out in an exodus. If the aforementioned two articles were not removed, J&K would have remained a closed society with Islamists having the sole rights over the land, property and everything in between.
Sending mixed signals with its steps
The Modi government is sending mixed signals on how it wants to deal with the reservation issue. While on one hand, the government takes a laudable step by introducing 27 per cent reservation for OBCs and 10 per cent reservation for Economically Weaker Section in the All India Quota Scheme for undergraduate and postgraduate medical/dental courses, it simultaneously, on the other hand, goes ahead and announces such a partisan decision, clearly aimed at wooing the creamy layers within the SC, ST community.
And this is not about encroaching on the rights of SCs or STs, apart from the URs, what about the tribal communities in the Northeastern part of the country or tribal belts in Chhattisgarh, Odisha or Jharkhand, that do not come under the ambit of SC or ST. What is the government doing to bring inclusivity to the table?
The tribals of North East and the tribals of Left-wing extremism areas have faced innumerable social stigmas and continue to do so even after 70 years of independence. Development is still a far cry in most areas where issues as basic as education, housing, electricity, and all-weather roads are yet to make their mark.
The political leaders, looking to gobble up the vote bank continue to add advantageous groups to the SC and ST lists while leaving the backward classes to fend off the discrimination on their own.
Believing in the concept of ‘Social justice’ and then making such unilateral decisions is something that the current regime should avoid. The Minister should come out and remark that the word ‘exclusive’ was a mistake and take back the decision. Unlike the previous administrations, the Modi government tends to listen to the furore if it is legitimate. Thus, one can be hopeful that the government retreats and comes up with a much more inclusive announcement.