What is the easiest of the things for Politicians? Divide and rule. For them, creating a divide on the basis of religion, caste, language, region or ethnicity is a child’s play. On the contrary, development politics need hard work and long-term planning. Additionally, the benefits of development politics seep in late while that of divisive politics does wonder overnight. Apparently, right before the stroke of the assembly elections slated in May, 2023; the Vasavaraj Bommai government has resorted to regionalism, linguistic chauvinism and regressive politics. This may woo voters and give an edge in the upcoming assembly elections but will be disastrous for the nation in the long run.
Succumbing to regionalism
For a very long time, the Karnataka government was striking all the right chords. The state was emerging as an invincible fortress for the saffron party, BJP. Further, the opposition in the form of Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) are a divided house. However, in a desperate urge to seal the fate of the upcoming election, it seems the Vasavaraj Bommai government has shot itself in its own foot. It has moved a disastrous linguistic and regional act which may reap short term benefit but will be a catastrophe for the nation as well as state’s economy and cultural bonhomie.
Evidently, on 22nd of September, Karnataka Kannada and Culture Minister V Sunil Kumar tabled ‘the Kannada Language Comprehensive Development Bill.’ The Bill classifies Kannadiga as a resident whose parents or guardians have been living in Karnataka for at least 15 years and can read, write Kannada language.
Notably, the bill has been brought in a hasty manner. As the state government faced backlash for celebrating Hindi Diwas on 14th of September. So, in order to dispel the angst of regional narrow-minded politicians and certain Kannada groups, the Karnataka government brought this legislation within a week’s time. It clearly indicates that the government kneeled in front of petty political protests and regional fringe elements.
What does the proposed legislation state?
With this proposed legislation the government has given preference to Kannadigas in government jobs. It will also provide reservation to locals in private jobs generated in the state. The Karnataka Industrial Policy 2020-25 mandates companies to reserve 70% jobs to Kannadigas and 100% for Group D employees.
In addition to the so-called job security, the Bill promotes the use of Kannada in institutes of higher learning. The Bill offers reservation in higher education for students who have studied in Kannada medium from Classes 1 to 10.
Additionally, Kannada will also be used for making Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for industries that employ locals.
Further, the Bill proposes the setting up of an Official Language Commission. It will also set up an enforcement mechanism that will implement the official language at the state, district and taluk levels.
With this bill, even the employees of banks and other financial institutions have been forced to use Kannada as a medium of communication with the public. Even the courts have not been barred from this. As per the proposals of the Bill, Kannada will be used in subordinate courts and tribunals in the state. The Bill further states that Kannada will be used in Information Technology services and billboards.
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The new controversial Bill suggests penalising companies that don’t adhere to this reservation and Kannada promotion policy. If the bill becomes an act, then the state government will deny land concessions and tax rebates to such errant companies. Further, the bill will also penalise state government employees for not using Kannada in official transactions. The Bill treats this act as dereliction of duty.
However, this is not the first time that some state governments in Karnataka have tried to play regional cards. Earlier, in 1984, the Sarojini Mahishi Committee made 58 recommendations to provide more employment for Kannadigas in Karnataka. However, the suggestions were very harsh and they couldn’t see the light of day.
Recommendations of S.M. Committee
The committee proposed 100 per cent reservation for Kannadigas in all public sector units, 100 per cent reservation for Kannadigas in Group ‘C’ and ‘D’ jobs in Central government departments and PSUs in Karnataka. It also suggested a minimum of 80 percent and 65 percent reservation in Group ‘B’ and ‘A’ jobs respectively.
It will strangulate competition and within no time undo the success done with the hard work of the best of the best Software Engineers and other such domain experts from all across the country in Bengaluru and rest of Karnataka.
It is often noted that to quel one problem politicians try to find solutions to a problem that doesn’t even exist at that moment in time. Similarly, this local Employment reservation Bill by the Bommai government seems to be on the same lines. Under the needless hue and cry of Dravidian Politicians over the so-called Hindi-imposition and sidelining of Kannada, the Bommai-led government opened this can of worms, that is, playing this controversial regional card.
This is a big blow to the nation. The premium reason being that Bengaluru, Mangaluru and certain industrialised reasons were a symbol of India’s aspirations, developments, prowess of Indians in the service sector among other progressive things. However, with this regressive divisive identity politics and succumbing to regional feelings, regional and linguistic chauvinism have triumphed over development politics.
The move smells less of a progressive CM but of small-time regional leader like Raj Thackeray. By replacing Yediyurappa BJP would have wanted to give politics a fresh leader who will take the state to new heights with new ideas but it seems that with such moves the CM is doing only the contrary.
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