Job for Son of the Soil

by M C Behera

(Professor of Tribal Studies, Formerly Dean, School of Cultural Studies; Former Director Arunachal Institute of Tribal Studies; Former Director, Center for Distance Education)

Shivraj   Singh Chauhan announced on 18th August that government jobs would be reserved for citizens of Madya Pradesh.  This announcement underlies the politics of the son of the soil concept and a potential threat to social harmony. There are examples of the problems associated with the notion of the son of the soil after Independence.

India as a Nation-State came into being during the colonial period. However, there are fissiparous forces working in one form or the other, at national and state levels, and challenge the very notion of oneness. The idea of the son of the soil operates at the level of the state and displays different ramifications. The issue has historical roots in some states while it emerges in recent year’s response to political expediency.  In Assam, son of the soil issue is around Bangladeshi refugees who migrated to the present state during the British period and are still migrating. The issue in Meghalay is around Nepalis who were settled in the state by the British. Meghalaya has another implication of the issue of son of the soil.  Communities belonging to Scheduled Tribe category, but migrated from Assam or neighbouring areas and living with Khasi, Jaintia and Garo are denied of indigenous status with the advent of Indigenous movement.   By denying them indigenous status, the earlier inhabitants claim rights over land. ‘Non-indigenous’ though belong to ST category would have no rights over land in Meghalaya. The Nagaland issue is different. It is a separatist movement based on the notion of ‘Nagaland for Nagamese’.

In Maharashtra the issue is raised mainly by Shiva Sena for political mileage. The Marathi and non-Marathi issue has witnessed several incidences of violence. On 20th October 2008, North Indian students preparing for railway entrance examination were attacked by the supporters of Raj Thackeray, the chief of MNS political party.

Ethno-Nationalism is based on this notion of son of the soil. The violence of 3rd January 1980 in  Barikadanga village of Nalabari district;  the killing of several members of a particular community on 1st November 2018 at Bisonimukh village in Tinsukia, Assam and the violence against the Biharis in Assam in 2000 and 2003 are the deadly consequences of the idea of son of the soil.

Son of the soil concept is not conducive for a healthy democracy and a strong Nation-State.  If one takes a deep look into the problem, political maneuvering will stand out. What happens today has its root in the political decisions taken in the past or politics at the time of occurrence of the incident. In tribal states/tribal areas, reservation of posts for the locals and denial of land rights to non-natives (outsiders to the state), though, are protective measures against encroachment, has set the son of the soil idea in the embryo which may take birth at any time.  After the abolition of Art.370, the non-Kashmiris are eligible to own land in Kashmir.  The politics of son of the soil though emerges at the level of politicians it has not been active so far. Politicians may make it an issue of vote politics.   Evidently, political decision underlies the possibility of emerging idea of son of the soil mostly due to politics or a sense of deprivation.

The announcement of Shivraj Singh Chatham undoubtedly seems a positive step to tackle unemployment problem, but on the other hand, it alludes to insider and outsider issues of which many states, as has been discussed, are suffering from. The subject of employment and unemployment is in the concurrent list of the Constitution and thus his decision is constitutionally right in the interest of the state.  Government job for the citizens of Madhya Pradesh however has definitional problems. Is a newly married woman to an MP man a citizen? How long it will take her to be a citizen of MP? What is the status of the children of private sector and central government employees who work for a term period, but their children get an education in the state during the tenure? What will be the eligibility of outside students studying in MP? The short term workers or outside students definitely contribute to the economy of the state. If they are accommodated in the law,   employment will have a negligible impact on unemployment; but unfortunately, the feeling of the son of the soil issue will take a stronghold one day to the detriment of social harmony. Undercurrent of political employment and caste considerations, which exist to some extent (though officially cannot be proved) will be more pervasive leading to substandard work culture. Unemployment no doubt is a burning problem demanding top priority of our attention. But the step should be such that in future it does add to already existing social and national problems.

Two examples are in order. When people of different cultures come together they know and understand one another; appreciate the diversity and develop habit of living together harmoniously. Son of the soil policy in government jobs, as is evident in the announcement of the Chief Minister of MP, is likely to deny such an ambience of cordiality; a space of interaction, assimilation and enculturation. This policy, however, does not suggest that   people of other states would not live and work in private sectors. But the feeling of alienation, which the son of the soil policy in government jobs is likely to cause, would pervade through the social fabric of MP and non-MP inhabitants resulting in a mindful perception of a narrow space of state, culture, etc. to the detriment of national consciousness and  the spirit of unity and co-existence.

This policy therefore needs to search for a better alternative, for unemployment is a curse. In this regard, self-employment, employment in private and corporate sectors with all provisions of benefit due to government employees should be planned, for public sector is shrinking in response to privatisation policy of the government.

It is   well known that government sector is viewed insufficient and unremunerative as compared to non-governmental enterprises. This is one of the reasons of promoting privatisation. Son of the soil approach in government jobs would have following implications: First, for all post, technical and non-technical, skilled and un-skilled, suitable required candidates may not be available.  So, the posts will remain vacant or be fulfilled with non-suitable candidates leading to decline in work culture/efficiency and productivity. With preference given to local candidates, which normally happens, whatever outside candidates are employed, would serve a balance between   inefficiency and efficiency in work culture. What is the guarantee that given the present stupid culture of vote politics regional sentiment would not  be manipulated and used  to deny job opportunity   to candidates of one region in the state in another, for once a dichotomous sense of alienation and accommodation enters into the thought process it does not know any limit.  Needless to say, the policy, though may have immediate urgency, needs scrutiny in view of its diverse negative implications in the long run.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *