Tamil Nadu implements special quota for Vanniyars, how this will work

With the effect of the recent order, the caste cluster of “Vanniyakula Kshatriyas” will be able to claim 10.5% from within the 20% meant for MBCs.
 M. K. Stalin
M. K. Stalin

Chief Minister MK Stalin has approved the implementation of the 10.5% internal reservation for Vanniyars in the state. Vanniyars are categorised as Most Backward Class (MBC), but also hold considerable social and political power in the northern regions of the state. They had originally demanded 20% internal reservation, an ask that has taken four decades to be partially fulfilled. Their demand for a separate internal quota was based on their belief that given the large population of the community they were unable to compete fairly for jobs or seats in education.  The government order, passed on 26 July, states that the 10. 5% reservation will be ensured in both public and private education and in appointment to state government jobs.

Additionally, the order declares that it will be retrospectively brought into effect from February 26, 2021—the date the Special Reservation Act of 2021 was passed in the legislative assembly. The bill had been introduced by the previous AIADMK-led government, passed in the assembly and received the Governor’s assent on the same day.

The MBC category was carved out of the Other Backward Classes category in the 1980s and made separate. Out of the 50% that had been demarcated for OBCs, from the overall state limit of 69.5%, 20% was given to MBCs separately. With the effect of the recent order, the caste cluster of ‘Vanniyakula Kshatriyas’ will be able to claim 10.5% from within the 20% meant for MBCs.

This so-called “Vaniyakula Kshatriya” comprise of seven caste groups including Vanniyars, Gounders, Padayachi amongst others. By this Act, other MBCs and DNCs are further divided into two groups who will compete for the 9.5% remaining within the 20%. The first, comprising 93 caste groups, are granted 7% reservation and the second, comprising 26 caste groups, are granted 2.5%.

The Act has met with repeated resistance and also has been challenged both in the Madras High Court and at the Supreme Court. The timing of the bill had been questioned by many as it was passed minutes before the Election Commission was set to announce the dates for the 2021 Legislative Assembly elections in several states including Tamil Nadu.

A plea was filed in the Madras High Court to stay the law citing this as a concern. The petitioner had also argued that the government had set up a commission headed by retired High Court judge A Kulasekaran in December 2020 to collect data on castes, tribes and denotified communities, but had passed the bill before the data had come in. A two-bench judge in the Madras High Court dismissed the plea on the grounds that the alleged intention of passing the bill at the time did not offer convincing grounds for an interim stay on the order. The plea was also similarly dismissed by the Supreme Court in July.

The demarcation of 10.5% has also been critiqued as arbitrary and as antithetical to the notion of restorative justice that reservation is based on. Some have pointed to the Vanniyars’ social and political dominance and thus questioned changes to the reservation roster, especially without data from a current caste census, arguing that this cannot be celebrated as true social justice. Earlier in March, when other MBC communities had objected to the 10. 5% granted to Vanniyars, the then Deputy Chief Minister O Paneerselvam had stated that it was a temporary measure and the percentages would be revised when the government had the necessary caste data.

The Vanniyar Kula Kuttuiyakkam, an organisation that represents Vanniyar interests, has meanwhile said in a press note “A hundred thousand thanks on the behalf of the Vanniyar community to the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister for passing an order granting 10.5% reservations to Vanniyar Kula Kshatriya Kuttiyakkam.

PMK founder-leader S Ramadoss welcomed the move in a tweet saying “I spoke with the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin over the phone. I thanked him for his order to implement the 10.5% reservation in education and jobs.”

The PMK, seen largely as a Vanniyar party, had been a key ally in the AIADMK-led government and instrumental in the introduction of the bill in the legislative assembly

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