The book under review has a different sub-title on the inner cover (Ideology and Population Policy in India) was avoidable as the book’s focus is the state’s ideology of development, gender, underlying reproductive health policies and programme, and the discursive processes giving birth to these ideologies.
Although it presents itself as a historical ethnography, this is as much a volume in the rather rare but always exciting genre of political ethnography. The essays explore – in a variety of country contexts, some historical, others contemporary – the meaning of the vote as a material technology as well as performance.
The idea of reservation in the private sector arose in the Indian context almost entirely because of the drying up of employment opportunities in the government and public sector – negative growth in employment since 1995 and a significant increase of about 1.9 per cent annually in the organised private sector from 1995 to 2002.
The editor of this volume quotes Nicholas Dirks from his book Castes of Mind to show the ubiquitous presence of caste in today’s India. Caste continues and ‘continues to trouble’. Caste names and jati classifications have found their way into every Performa, ranging from school admissions to student scholarships and plush jobs.
A few months ago, several televison channels – local and national – were telecasting the reactions of young professionals or aspiring students on the policy of extending reservation for the students of Other Backward Castes (OBCs) in IITs and IIMs and other centrally sponsored professional colleges.