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Published in the 1-15 Mar 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Narendran Commission report

Kerala govt for consensus on minorities

By AP Muhammed Afsal

The Milli Gazette Online

Refusing to learn any lessons from the past, the Kerala government is again trying to reach a consensus on the Narendran Commission report. The report which revealed inadequate representation of minorities in government services has been a centre of controversy right from the time of its submission. The government’s latest decision of scheduling of a discussion on the report on March 10 in the state assembly caused a raging protest from vested interests. With confrontationist posturing taken by organisations like the Nair Service Society (NSS) which warned that the discussions would result in the revival of divisive and communal tendencies, it is being proved that the only requirement for implementing social justice is a political will, not endless discussions aimed at consensus.

The three-member Justice K.K. Narendran Commission, appointed in February 2000 by the erstwhile Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, submitted its report to the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) government in November 2001 with significant observations along with a plethora of data on the representation of the various communities in the state government departments like judiciary, public sector enterprises, universities and other autonomous institutions. 

According to the report, Muslims, a major backward class community, "have not fared well". The report showed that Muslim representation in various categories is below their reservation quota, the difference being between 0.3 per cent and about 6 per cent in the four categories. Several other communities including the Latin Catholics too had inadequate representation in government jobs. Since the Narendran Commission was asked only to "study and report" whether the representation of the Backward Classes in public services was "adequate" or not, the commission did not recommend any "remedial measures" like special recruitment. But it is the duty of the government to ensure social justice, especially when a committee appointed by it found serious inadequacy. 

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on January 31 said the Government was ready to discuss the Narendran Commission report and evolve a consensus before implementing its recommendations. The real problem lies not in the stated position of the government, but an unnecessary threat perception of the majority. It was clear that Chandy was going to follow his minority-baiter predecessor AK Antony, when he talked about 'problems'. He said, "steps in the direction should not result in problems, divisions or misunderstandings in our society. Hence, a consensus should be evolved by discussing the report." 

With the elections round the corner and taking a view of its eroding popular support, Indian Union Muslim League has also taken an aggressive position this time. Its general secretary PK Kunhalikutty said a total consensus could not be evolved on the issue, as it involved interests of different sections. It may be recalled that all along the three years after the commission submitted its report, PK Kunhalikkutty had been a firm advocate of consensus on Narendran Commission.

Though the report has been discussed in the assembly twice earlier, the government did not have a detailed discussion on it. The government could not blame the opposition either as the CPM has endorsed the implementation of the report. When it cropped up again in assembly, opposition leader VS Achutanandan again clarified this. The CPI had long ago taken a firm view on the same line. When the report is again tabled for a discussion, it should be the duty of the government to view it through the larger perspective of social justice, not the narrow political suitability. «

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