By Sumedha Upadhyay:
We live in a free country and this freedom is a gift of democracy to us. Our constitution gives us the right to freedom and most importantly to exercise this freedom in an equitable manner. At the same time it is incumbent on the part of the state to ensure that equality prevails in all sections of the society.
However in today’s time one of the major roadblocks to this equality is the Reservation System.
India being a developing nation is currently facing many challenges and the reservation system being one of them. The biggest question that lies in front of us is whether implementing this reservation system has really helped the downtrodden?Â The current scenario clearly depicts that the ‘lower’ castes are still discriminated in their daily lives. To uproot casteism it is important that we fight the reservation system which alone will lead us to development, competency, equality and unity.
The reservation system finds its origin in the age-old caste system of India. The caste system at its birth was meant to divide people on the basis of their occupation like teaching and preaching (Brahmins), kingship and war (Kshatriya) and lastly business(vaish) etc. but soon it became an instrument to divide the society on caste-basis, creating various walls between different sections of the society. Today we stand divided widely into Hindu, Muslim, SC, ST & OBCs with newer reservations coming up for other different sections of the society like Christians, Kashmiris, Jats, Kashmiri Pandits, Tribals etc.
Firstly we need to understand that the reservation system only divides 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.
Currently, as per the government policy, 15% of the government jobs and 15% of the students admitted to universities must be from Scheduled castes and for the Scheduled tribes there is a reservation of about 7.5 %. Other than this, the state governments also follow their own reservation policies respectively based upon the population constitution of each state. So nearly 50% seats are reserved.
The Mandal commission was established in 1979 by the central government to identify the socially or educationally backward people. It was also set up to consider the question of seat reservations and quotas for people to redressÂ caste discrimination. It used social, economic, and educational indicators to determine backwardness. But today are these reservations actually being utilized on the above mentioned factors? The answer is prima facie ‘NO’ because the benefits are being stolen away by the creamy layer.
TheÂ 93rd Constitutional Amendment allows the government to make special provisions for “advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens”, including their admission in aided or unaided private educational institutions. Gradually this reservation policy is to be implemented in private institutions and companies as well. This move led to opposition from non-reserved category students, as the proposal reduced seats for the General (non-reserved) category from the existing 77.5% to less than 50.5% (since members of OBCs are also allowed to contest in the General category).
Article 15(4) of our constitution empowers the government to make special provisions for advancement of backward classes. Similarly Article 16 provides for equality of opportunity in matters of employment or appointment to any post under the State.
“Clause 2 of article 16 lays down that no citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them be discriminated in respect of any employment or office under the State.”
However clause 4 of the same article provides for an exception by conferring a certain kind of power on the government:
“it empowers the state to make special provision for the reservation of appointments of posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which in the opinion of the state are not adequately represented in the services”
Thus two conditions have to be satisfied:
- The class of citizens is backward
- The said class is not adequately represented.
In a caseÂ Balaji v/s State of Mysore (AIR 1963 SC649) it was held that ‘caste of a person cannot be the sole criteria for ascertaining whether a particular caste is backward or not. Determinants such as poverty, occupation, place of habitation may all be relevant factors to be taken into consideration. The court further held that it does not mean that if once a caste is considered to be backward it will continue to be backward for all other times. The government should review the test and if a class reaches the state of progress where reservation is not necessary it should delete that class from the list of backward classes.’
What is surprising is that our constitution clearly is a reservation-friendly constitution but nowhere in the constitution is the term ‘backward classes defined. What actually constitutes a backward class? What are the determinants of a backward class? These questions remain unanswered and it is only with the help of judicial pronouncements that they have been given some meaning. Question arises how can reservations be made for something that has not been defined?
Today when a student applies for an admission in any university, the admission forms are filled with questions like ‘Are you SC/ST or OBC or General Category?’ How does it matter which category does he belong to, what matters is his merit. A category cannot decide whether he is eligible for admission or not. There many economically worse off children belonging to the forward classes but they cannot get the fruits of such reservation merely by virtue of belonging to the ‘general’ category. Sometimes these children belonging to the backward classes do not even deserve and still possess the necessary merit as against a child who studied very hard for months to get a seat, thereby snatching away that seat just because he comes from a particular religion or caste for which our government provides reservation.
Reservation should be purely made on the basis of the economical conditions of the applicant and nothing else. The kind of reservation policy that our government currently follows does nothing but divide the society into different sections.
When the then HRD minister Mr. Arjun Singh introduced 27.5% reservation for OBC in centrally funded educational institutes including IIMs and IITs a petition was moved to the President and the Prime Minister stating that such a reservation will take India back from where she is today. Further “everyone understands the need for all sections of the Indian Society to get an opportunity to be a part of this economy but reservation based on caste is not an answer to this.Â These policies have been in India since the last 50 years and they have failed to meet their objectives. The government should go into the reasons of the failure. Many students don’t make it to the institutes because of the economic reasons and those who do not fall in the reservation criteria don not get a fair opportunity too”.
To remove this evil it suggested the following:
- Make education mandatory and free for all till age of 15
- Propose reservation based on economic status
- Provide opportunity to students to earn while they study.
Instead of introducing reservations for these backward classes what is required is to bring about revolutionary changes in our education system at the grass-root level. When proper education is not provided to children belonging to such categories during the primary stage itself then on what basis are the reservations provided at a subsequent stage.
Reservations 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 constitution lays down that every child has a right to education and no where expresses that any child belonging to a backward class has a little more of this right than the general category. By reserving one category against another creates a feeling of division which is now resulting in a chaos with every small section of the society asking for it.
Reservations on the basis of caste and not on the basis of condition are bad and unacceptable. Fair and just reservations to uplift the people with poor conditions of life, those who don’t have meals to eat, clothes to wear and no home to live in. They shall be made on the basis of factors such as gender as women are more disadvantaged than men since primitive times, domicile, family education, family employment, family property, family income and if any disabilities and traumas. The process of reservation should be such that it filters the truly economically deprived individuals and bring them all to justice.
Thus reservations are anti-thesis of development and equality. We don’t need reservations based on castes or religion but only to actually provide aid to those who have minimal resources; and merit should be given equalÂ and due importance in admission procedures as well employment opportunities. This way we would be successful in removing caste discrimination and unite the economically rich together in helping the economically poor, irrespective of their castes.
The basic idea was undoubtedly superb as, it was in all good intent, meant to build up to a certain level those sections of the Indian society which had hitherto been left uncared for. Besides, this was originally to be fixed for only the first fifteen years of independence. This was done so, with the expectation that, one single generation would be turned out in fifteen years and would become capable of joining the others and forging a march ahead. The programme as visualized, was rather good, but, what shape it has taken in the last fifty years is for all of us to see, and appreciate. The system has been misused by one and all, just for the betterment of each one’s fancy.
The Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes were, originally the only ones who were given this reservation, and that too for fifteen years. It was for this specific period only because, it was expected that, one generation would be helped to rise in this period. However, as we see it today, the policy of reservation has been completely changed in the span of the last fifty years. There has been unlimited extension of the policy for, no one knows how long, it appears as though the policy has come to stay for ever and its extension is also as though unlimited, with several more sections joining the bandwagon of the privileged reservationists.
A series of backward classes have now been included to be termed as the OBCs, and the latest category include in the list is of women. There are about than 50% or more of seats reserved everywhere for these classes, and where will all this end up, and, where will the so-called advantaged majority go, if reservations keep rising at this pace no body knows.
Reservations have come up in educational institutions, in jobs, in state assemblies, in parliament, in every feasible sphere. It will a wonder if this system is really going to help us raise our standards in any sphere at all, or will this become just a tool in the hands of a few, to forward their own interests, as has been upto this juncture. The reservation has been fitted only few families of any weaker section and not the mass in general. The reservation must be restricted to provide education to some state and give employment to one only one. After employment he should not be given any other facility and should be left to raise his family on his soldiers it self. Why a minister’s, chief minister’s or Deputy Commissioner’s sam be treated as poor and be given reservation once he is able to raise his family of its own.
Being of a reserved category should give a normal being a feeling of being someone less than others, but, in our present day scenario, it seems we take pride in being one of a reserved category, which shows an absolute lack of self respect in us Indians. Is reservation something we should hanker for, is it not charity that we want to progress upon? If we are a self respecting community, we should never want any reservation for ourselves. However, we seem to take pride and feel privileged when we are among the reserved class.
Reservation should not be based on caste colour or creed as it is now. The only plausible basis for reservations should be economic status of an individual. Those who cannot afford to be educated in Institutions of repute, and are really interested, should be allowed entry free in order to encourage them to follow their educational pursuits. They should be allowed to grow with the others, and not allowed any lenience in their passing, for, once they have the same educational background as all others, and not allowed any lenience in their passing, why should they have any further advantage over the others. Any lenience to them in the marking schedule etc., destroys the basic standards of our education, and beyond that, the standard of our workers.
Only economic backwardness should be the yardstick for anything like reservation. This policy in its present shape must be scrapped altogether, as, it is leading to more of heart burning than any progress of the backward classes. It is creating more and more confusion on the planning side and more cracks are seen to appear among different sections of society. By this policy what we are in reality achieving is, much too negative a prospect to be of any utility at this point of time. Most of the time we see that, in this process the brilliant children of the upper classes get stranded in their pursuits of education or job hunting because the vacancies are reserved for only the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes. This puts in the mids of these good students a hatred for these classes, and this not wrongly so. So, instead of doing away with the class evil, the system is making the demarcation still deeper. It gives a sense of frustration to the upper classes and at the same time, an unwanted boost in the aspirations of the Scheduled Classes. They begin to feel that, their’s are the reserved seats so, they do not have to make any effort. In this way, the reservation policy is helping to widen the gap between the two classes instead of bridging it, for which the policy was originally meant. On the work front also, when we put in less capable people just because the job is reserved for them, the work bound to suffer.
Regarding this policy, if at all it has to be maintained indefinitely, it should be reservations only for the economically backward, and not based on any other criteria. Besides, reservations should be only for education and that also, only for those who are economically weak. There should be no reservations for anyone at all in jobs, for, when all have had the same education, they are all equally capable to enter any competition in the open job market, and all at par so no reservations are required. For this system, the education has to be spread even to the poorest of the poor and this education of the best quality must be provided to all free of cost to all people of all castes, creeds and then they should all enter the job hunting spree on their merit. Only if merit is the only criteria we can aspire to get the best quality of individuals getting the best.
Once when a person gets what he deserves, he will have no qualms about favouritism etc. It has often been seen that, all the cream of our children coming out of educational institutions are going out of the country. Of course money they get outside is one aspect for going out, but another important criteria for this is a feeling of frustration among them while in India. This is because, the good students do not really get in India what they truly deserve, for, in several places, the obviously less worthy are placed higher than them due to the very reservation policy. This can and is very detrimental in our achievement of quality.
The reservation has therefore become more of a hoax and a vote catching device rather than serving as a booster to the lower sections of society, and help them rise to any worth while levels. The policy was very well meaning in its original setting but, as time has passed, the policy has become as if a convenient cash crop for the politicians in the last five decades. This has been done just to serve their own ends and not to serve the backward classes. Like any other policy of India, this has also become a sham and deceit throughout.