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.
Every once in a while we come across a book whose value is greatly enhanced if seen in a context other than the one for which it is explicitly written. David Edmonds’ ‘Caste Wars’, claims to be no more, and no less, than a philosophy of discrimination. It focuses on the ethics of treating people as if they are parts of groups.
Let me concede at the outset that Dilip M. Menon has forcefully presented the cause of dalits and their right to live in the caste-ridden in India. Caste violence has not received much attention of the social science scholars compared to the attention given to the study of communal violence.
In recent past there have been several publications on Decentralization for good reason. One that it is an emerging dimension of our polity which is bound to change both the political and social order. Besides, it seeks to alter the character of economic growth so as to make it edible for all, that is, ensure to every adult equitable earning opportunities and access to its fruits.