Dravidian socio-economic development model


    In Context 

    Social justice has been the integral part of the Dravidian development model.

    What is the Dravidian model?

    • The Dravidian model of governance is about peace, progress and prosperity, which is achieved by pursuing the principles of social justice, rational thought and action firmly rooted in equity. 
    • This translates to inclusive financial planning, access to education, housing, nutrition and health for all, a meaningful implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, encouraging independent decision-making in structures of democratic governance at all levels, and the State adhering to the Indian Constitution in letter and spirit on all issues—including that of religious and personal freedom. 
    • Beginning 
      • Social justice principles in Tamil Nadu were initially emphasised and propagated by Periyar, who fought for community-based representation while fighting the evils of the caste system. 
      • Dravidian politics in Tamil Nadu has played a significant role in democratising the public space for wider participation. 
    • Progress 
      • Tamil Nadu has been a pioneer in broad-basing entry into school education through a slew of incentives, the noon meal scheme being the most well-known. 
      • Over time, mobilisation and policy response fed into the creation of school and college infrastructure, apart from expanding the horizon of aspirations among lower caste households, and enabled one of the highest enrolment rates for women and lower caste groups. 
        • Among other factors, lowering the cost of education played a key role. 

    Backward Classes (BC) Commission’s report

    • First BC commission report
      • The report of the first Backward Classes (BC) Commission, headed by A.N. Sattanathan in its report of 1970 highlighted the unequal distribution of reservation benefits in favour of certain communities within backward castes.
      •  It stated that around nine castes (that accounted for 11.3% of the total backward castes) held 48% of gazetted posts and 37% of non-gazetted posts
      • In the education sector, it was 47% of medical seats, 44% of engineering seats and 34% of scholarships denying an opportunity for the remaining 88.7% of backward castes in Tamil Nadu. 
      • Recommendations 
        • It recommended economic criteria and taking out certain castes out of reservation benefits, due to political and electoral reasons, the government increased the quota for Other Backward Classes (OBC) from 25% to 31% and for Scheduled Castes (SC)/Scheduled Tribes (ST) from 16% to 18%.
    • Data from second commission
      • The AIADMK government increased the Other Backward Classes quota from 31% to 50%, which made the Supreme Court of India direct the Tamil Nadu government to set up a second Backward Classes’ Commission in the year 1982 to assess the ground reality.
      • The commission, under J.A. Ambasankar, reiterated the unequal distribution of benefits among backward classes as stated by Sattanathan in the first Backward Classes Commission. 

    Political moves

    • In 1989,  the government under M. Karunanidhi divided the 50% OBC reservation into 30% for backward classes and 20% for Most Backward Classes (MBCs) and denotified communities (DNC) due to agitations led by Dr. S. Ramadoss of the Pattali Makkal Katchi, demanding more representation for the Vanniyar caste.
    • In 2000, then Chief Minister Karunanidhi released a white paper on the ‘Reservation in Government Employment for the Adi Dravidars, Scheduled Tribes, Backward Classes, Most Backward Classes and Denotified Communities. 
      • In 96 government departments, the SC representation in Group A, B and C was below their constitutionally mandated quota. 
        • The BC had more than majority representation. It was only in the Group D category that SC/STs and MBC/DNCs had noticeable representation. 

    Neoliberal state, social justice

    • The neoliberal phase after the 1990s has expanded the scope of the private sector in key sectors of the Tamil Nadu economy which included social sectors such as education and health.
      • According to the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2019-20 report, 86% of colleges and 44% of universities in Tamil Nadu are owned by the private sector. 


    • The pandemic and the unprecedented fiscal burden are the  most immediate concerns. 
    •  The growing concentration of power in the Union government and the erosion of policy autonomy aggravating challenges.
    •  The New Education Policy seeks to centralise policies pertaining to education, restricting the role of state governments
    • Affirmative action in employment has already become less effective due to the reduction in the public sector and has been further eroded now. 
    • Apart from inserting a quota for economically weaker sections from the upper castes, the Supreme Court recently ruled against the possibility of increasing the total reservation of seats to more than 50 per cent. 
      • it has suggested that state governments can no longer retain the right to frame their own reservation policies, such as deciding on the backwardness of castes.

    Recent Initiatives taken 

    • DMK government signed five important orders that included Rs.4,000 as financial assistance for families during the COVID pandemic, free bus travel for women, reduction of milk prices, creation of a department to fulfil the promise of addressing people’s complaints within 100, days and covering expenses for COVID treatment in private hospitals under the Chief Minister’s health insurance scheme.
    • Sustainable industrial development is the key to prosperity. The government has initiated various methods to attract investment and improve the industrial climate. 
      • Through investment conclaves held in Chennai, Coimbatore and Thoothukudi, it has so far signed 124 MoUs for investments totalling Rs.62,276 crore, which will create job opportunities for 1,90,702 persons.
    • The government is creating a Land Bank to the extent of 45,000 acres in the next five years.
    •  It has released the Tamil Nadu Fintech Policy 2021 and the Tamil Nadu Export Development Strategy 2021 and launched the Single Window Portal 2.0, the Single Window Mobile App and the Tamil Nadu Land Information Portal at Investment Conclaves.

    Way Ahead 

    • The Dravidian social justice model was able to democratise the public sphere by opening the space in education and employment, there is a need to revisit many aspects of social justice to reach out and benefit more people.
    • The Tamil Nadu government should release a white paper on reservations and pursue quota in the private sector
    • It is imperative for the Tamil Nadu government to release a white paper on reservations in Tamil Nadu to take stock of changes that have happened in the social composition of employees in the government sector after the year 2000.
    • Apart from filling the SC/ST backlog vacancies, the government should increase the SC/ST reservations as their population according to the 2011 census is 21.1%.
    •  The State government should pursue the policy of reservations in the private sector, which the DMK principally supported in its election manifesto.
      • Reservation in private educational institutions has a constitutional mandate in Article 15(5), which came through 93rd Constitution Amendment Act in 2005. 
      • Such proactive measures are needed to add meaning to social justice principles under the Dravidian model.