The Reservation policy of India: needs to be amended
"It is against the fundamental principles of humanity, it is against the dictates of reason that a man should, by reason of birth, be denied or given extra privileges" - Mahatma Gandhi
· What is reservation in Indian context?
According to Wikipedia, “Reservation in India is the process of facilitating a person in education, scholarship, jobs, and in promotions who has category certificates. Reservation is a form of quota-based affirmative action. Reservation is governed by constitutional laws, statutory laws, and local rules and regulations”.
· What is intention behind giving reservation in India:
The primary objective of the Indian reservation system is to enhance the social and educational status of underprivileged communities and thus improve their lives. The idea was that a vast majority of the poor were from a very small caste group and they needed a social net so that they can be accommodated into society as full-fledged members. It was a small way of compensating the millions of unfortunates who suffered daily the inequities and humiliations of untouchability.
· Reservation in India:
India’s reservation policy which launched in 1959 is the oldest such program in the world.
The idea of caste based reservation system was envisioned by William Hunter and Jyotirao Phule in various forms in 1882 and implemented by Chatrapati Sahuji in 1901. However, the reservation system that exists today, in its true sense, was introduced in 1933 when British Prime-Minister Ramsay Macdonald presented the ‘Communal Award’. This made a provision for separate electorates for Muslims, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, Europeans and the Dalits. This system was opposed by Mahatma Gandhi who even fasted in protest against it. But after India’s Independence, there were some major changes were made in for the STs, SCs and OBCs. One of the most important occurred in 1979 when the Mandal Commission was established to assess the situation of the socially and educationally backward classes.
The Supreme Court of India ruled in 1992 that reservations could not exceed 50 percent; anything above which it judged would violate equal access as guaranteed by the Constitution. It thus put a cap on reservations. However, there are state laws that exceed this 50 per cent limit and these are under litigation in the Supreme Court. For example, in the State of Tamil Nadu the caste-based reservation stands at 69 per cent and applies to about 87 per cent of the population.
· Present scenario:
The Constitution laid down 15% and 7.5% of vacancies to government aided educational institutes and for jobs in the government/public sector, as reserved quota for the SC and ST candidates respectively for a period of five years, after which the situation was to be reviewed.
After introducing the provision for reservation once, it got related to vote bank politics and the following governments and the Indian Parliament routinely extended this period, without any free and fair revisions. Later, reservations were introduced for other sections as well.
The present reservation system can, in fact, harm the economic structure of the country as it could bring down the efficiency of its labour. The reservation system is only dividing the society leading to discrimination and conflicts between different sections. It is oppressive and does not find its basis in casteism. It is actually the antithesis of a communal living.
· Why this system needs to be gauged?
o Reservations are the biggest enemy of meritocracy. Meritocracy should not be polluted by injecting relaxation of entry barriers, rather should be encouraged by offering financial aids to the underprivileged although deserving candidates only. Today the NTs and IIMs hold a high esteem in the global scenario due to their conservation of merit.
o Caste based reservation is a tool to meet narrow political ends.
o A comprehensive scheme of Affirmative Action would be more beneficial
than reservations in addressing concerns of social justice.
o Allocating quotas is a form of discrimination which is contrary to the right to equality.
o The entire policy needs to be properly examined, and its benefits over a span of nearly 60 years have to be gauged.
o Poor people from “forward castes” do not have any social or economical advantage over rich people from backward caste.
o Most often, only the economically sound people make use of most of the seats reserved for “backward” castes, thus making the aim a total failure.
o There is fear that reservation once introduced will never be withdrawn even if there is a proof for upliftment of backward classes, due to political issues. For example, in Tamil Nadu, forward castes were able to secure only 3% of total seats (and 9% in Open Competition) in professional institutions at Undergraduate level as against their population percentage of 13%. This is a clear case of reverse discrimination.
o Many cite the Mandal Commission report while supporting the idea of reservations. According to the Mandal commission, 52% of the Indians belong to OBC category, while according to National Sample Survey 1999-2000, this figure is only 36% (32% excluding Muslim OBCs).
o Reservation has caused increase in brain drain as Under graduates and graduates started moving to foreign universities for higher education.
In the 21st century, it is quite debatable if the caste of a person even forms a reasonable basis for reservation in government jobs and colleges. Many people of lower castes have stepped up the social ladder and are now on an equal footing with the ‘general’ population. On the other hand, many upper castes are still suffering from poverty and illiteracy. However, the caste-based reservation cannot be claimed to be completely irrelevant as the time in which it was created India had many discriminatory laws and rules made by religious heads on various levels. Even today, the lower class is exploited and discriminated against after 63 years of the abolishment of untouchability as is evident in the case of Rohith Vemula. But the country needs a better basis of reservation which includes the poor and the backward groups and excludes the rich and the dominating sections among all castes.
Reservations nowadays are nothing but means to prosper the vote banks of politicians. They are hindering the country’s growth, development and competency in all aspects. On one hand the preamble of our constitution states that we are a free, democratic and sovereign nation and on the other hand reservation system is chaining all these aspects into its clutches. It is creating disparity and differences amongst the people.
The neediest sections from within the reserved segments are hardly aware about how to get benefited from the provision or even whether there are such provisions. The creamy layer in the same segment is enjoying special privileges in the name of reservation and political factions are supporting them for vote banks. Reservation is no doubt good, as far as it is a method for the benefit of the downtrodden and economically backward Sections of the society but when it tends to harm the society and ensures privileges for some at the cost of others for narrow political ends, as it is in the present form, it should be amended, as soon possible.