Reservation System in India: Concept, Arguments and Conclusions!
Reservation in common terms refers to an act of reserving, keeping back or withholding.
Reservation in the Indian Context:
Reservation in Indian law is a form of affirmative action whereby a percentage of seats are reserved in the public sector units, union and state civil services, union and state government departments and in all public and private educational institutions, except in the religious/ linguistic minority educational institutions, for the socially and educationally backward communities and the Scheduled Castes and Tribes who are inadequately represented in these services and institutions. The reservation policy is also extended for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for representation in the Parliament of India.
The Rationale behind the Concept:
The underlying theory for the provision of reservation by the state is the under-representation of the identifiable groups as a legacy of the Indian caste system. After India gained independence, the Constitution of India listed some erstwhile groups as Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST).
The framers of the Constitution believed that, due to the caste system, SCs and the STs were historically oppressed and denied respect and equal opportunity in Indian society and were thus under-represented in nation-building activities.
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.
The Present Status:
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 Supreme Court ruling that reservations cannot exceed 50% (which it judged would violate equal access guaranteed by the Constitution) has put a cap on reservations. The central government of India reserves 27% of higher education, and individual states may legislate further reservations. Reservation in most states is at 50%, but certain Indian states like Rajasthan have proposed a 68% reservation that includes a 14% reservation for forward castes in services and education.
However, there are states laws that exceed this 50% limit and these are under litigation in the Supreme Court. For example, the caste-based reservation fraction stands at 69% and is applicable to about 87% of the population in the state of Tamil Nadu.
Arguments Offered By Supporters of Reservation:
a. Reservations are a political necessity in India
b. Although Reservation schemes do undermine the quality of education but still Affirmative Action has helped many if not everyone from under-privileged and/or under-represented communities to grow and occupy top positions in the world’s leading industries.
c. Although Reservation schemes do undermine the quality, they are needed to provide social justice to the most marginalized and underprivileged which is their human right.
d. Meritocracy is meaningless without equality. First all people must be brought to the same level, whether it elevates a section or decelerates another, regardless of merit.
e. Reservations have only slowed down the process of “Forward becoming richer and backward becoming poorer”.
Arguments Offered by Anti-Reservationists:
a. Intellectuals and Philanthropists agree that reservations will divide India Reservation is similar to internal partition because in addition to being a form of ethnic discrimination, it also builds walls against inter-caste and inter-faith marriages. Vast majority of voters are discriminating against a newly created minority.
b. Reservations are the biggest enemy of meritocracy. By offering reservation through relaxed entry criteria, we are fuelling inflation of moderate credentials as opposed to the promotion of merit based education system, which is the foundation of many progressive countries. 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.
c. Caste Based Reservation only perpetuates the notion of caste in society, rather than weakening it as a factor of social consideration, as envisaged by the constitution. Reservation is a tool to meet narrow political ends.
d. Affirmative Action can be provided at a more comprehensive level taking into account various factors of exclusion such as caste, economic conditions, gender, kind of schooling received etc. A comprehensive scheme of Affirmative Action would be more beneficial than reservations in addressing concerns of social justice.
e. Allocating quotas is a form of discrimination which is contrary to the right to equality.
f. There is great confusion in the “pro-reservation camp”. While they clamour for 33% reservation for women in parliament and state legislatures [and do not accept caste quotas as part of women’s quotas], they do not want special consideration for women in quotas in higher education. This is implicit acceptance of the fact that there are multiple factors of exclusion and discrimination at work in society.
g. The policy of reservation has never been subject to a widespread social or political audit. Before extending reservation to more groups, the entire policy needs to be properly examined, and its benefits over a span of nearly 60 years have to be gauged.
h. Poor people from “forward castes” do not have any social or economical advantage over rich people from backward caste.
i. Combination of factors like Wealth, Income, and Occupation etc will help to identify real needy people. 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.
j. 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.
k. 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).
l. This policy of the government has already caused increase in brain drain and may aggravate further. Under graduates and graduates will start moving to foreign universities for higher education.
Committees and Commissions on the Issue of Reservation:
a. 1882 – Hunter Commission was appointed. Mahatma Jyotirao Phule made a demand of free and compulsory education for all along with proportionate reservation/representation in government jobs.
b. 1953-Kalelkar Commission was established to assess the situation of the socially and educationally backward class. The report was accepted as far as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were concerned. The recommendations for OBC’s were rejected.
c. 1979-Mandal Commission was established to assess the situation of the socially and educationally backward. The commission didn’t have exact figures for a sub-caste, known as the Other Backward Class (OBC), and used the 1930 census data, further classifying 1,257 communities as backward, to estimate the OBC population at 52%.ln 1980, the commission submitted a report, and recommended changes to the existing quotas, increasing them from 22% to 49.5%.ln 1990, the Mandal commission recommendations were implemented in Government Jobs by Vishwanath Pratap Singh. Student Organisations launched nationwide agitations. Rajiv Goswami, a Delhi university student attempted self-immolation. Many students followed suit.
d. 2003- The Sachar Committee headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar, and including Sayyid Hamid, Dr. T.K. Ooman, M.A. Basith, Dr.Akhtar Majeed, Dr.Abu Saleh Shariff and Dr.Rakesh Basant was appointed for preparation of a report on the social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community of India. Dr.Syed Zafar Mahmood was the civil servant appointed by the PM as Officer on Special Duty to the Committee. The committee submitted its report in the year 2006.
Implementation of Sachar Committee Recommendations: Marching Towards ‘Inclusive Growth’:
Welfare of Minorities, specially of the underprivileged section of them, has been put high on the agenda of the UPA Government ever since it adopted ‘inclusive growth’ as its guiding principle of governance. Otherwise too, in every meaningful democracy, it’s the duty of the state, and as a corollary, responsibility of the majority community to ensure the welfare of minorities so that all sections of the society feel proud to be part of the democratic setup and thus contribute their best to the development of the nation.
Specially in our historical context: where all communities and sections of people had marched shoulder to shoulder and laid down their lives in the War of Independence, the concept of ‘Inclusive Growth’ becomes sine qua non for the roadmap of development and progress.
It was in this context that the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, had appointed in March 2005 a High Level Committee under the Chairmanship of Justice Rajindar Sachar to prepare a report on social, economic and educational status of the Muslim Community of India.
This study was necessary because till then there was no authentic information on the social, economic and educational backwardness, of this community, thereby hampering proper formulation and implementation of specific policies, interventions and programmes to address the issues relating to its socio-economic backwardness.
This 7-member High Level Committee, popularly known as Sachar Committee, gave its report in November 2006 – and it clearly found that the Muslim community was really “seriously lagging behind in terms of most of the human development indicators.”
The Government immediately sensed the gravity of the problem and started working on the follow-up action in right earnest. Of the 76 recommendations of the Committee, 72 were accepted. Ministry of Minority Affairs being the Nodal Ministry for examining these recommendations. And in less than a year, i.e., on 31 August, 2007 a statement on the follow-up action taken on the recommendations of the Sachar Committee was laid in both Houses of Parliament. The progress of implementation is being reviewed regularly.
Ever since the Government has been taking regular steps towards implementation of major recommendations of the Sachar Committee. Education being the most powerful means of socioeconomic transformation, a multi-pronged strategy to address the educational backwardness of the Muslim community, as brought out by the Sachar Committee, has been adopted.
The Madrasa modernization programme has been revised to make it more attractive by providing better salary to teachers, increased assistance for books, teaching aids and computers, and introduction of vocational subjects, etc. This scheme, now known as Quality Improvement in Madrasa Education, has been launched by the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
A new centrally sponsored scheme of financial assistance for Infrastructure Development of Privately Managed Elementary/Secondary/Senior Secondary schools set up for minorities has been launched. National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has prepared text books for all classes in the light of the National Curriculum Framework-2005.
Thirteen universities have been provided Rs.40 lakh each for starting centers for studying social exclusion and inclusive policy for minorities and scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Under the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya scheme (KGBV), criteria of educational backward blocks has been revised with effect from 1st April 2008 to cover blocks with less than 30% rural female literacy and in urban areas with less than national average of female literacy 53.67 % (Census 2001).
Universalization of access to quality education at secondary stage (SUCCESS) has been approved. Setting up of new Jan Shikshan Sansthans (JSSs) is being incorporated in the revised schemes by the Ministry of Human Resource Development. Provision of more girls’ hostels in colleges and universities in minority concentration districts/blocks is proposed under the existing University Grants Commission scheme of the Ministry of HRD.
Three scholarship schemes for minority communities viz., Pre-Matric, Post-Matric and Merit- cum-Means were launched and 6.89 lakh scholarships were awarded to students belonging to minority communities in 2008-09. The corpus of Maulana Azad Education Foundation, which stood at Rs. 100 crores, was doubled to Rs. 200 crores in December, 2006.
The corpus was increased by Rs. 50 crores in 2007-08 and by Rs. 60 crore in 2008-09. A budget provision of Rs.115 crore has been made in 2009-10. A revised Coaching and Allied scheme was launched and 5522 candidates belonging to minority communities were provided assistance in 2008-09.
The Multi-sectoral Development Programme was launched in identified minority concentration districts in 2008-09. Plans of 47 Minority Concentration Districts (MCDs) in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Manipur, Bihar, Meghalaya, Jharkhand, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Orissa were approved and Rs.270.85 crores were released in 2008-09. In the current Financial Year.
Plans of more than a dozen more MCDs have been approved till date. An inter-ministerial Task Force constituted to devise an appropriate strategy and action plan for developing 338 identified towns, having substantial minority population, rapidly in a holistic manner submitted its report on 8th November, 2007. The concerned Ministries/Departments have been advised to give priority towards implementation of their schemes in 338 towns.
Economic factor being an important tool in the upliftment of a community, all public sector banks have been directed to open more branches in districts having a substantial minority population. In 2007-08, 523 branches were opened in such districts. In 2008-09, 524 new branches were opened.
Reserve Bank of India revised its Master Circular on 5th July, 2007 on priority sector lending for improving credit facilities to minority communities. Rs 82864 crore were provided to minorities under priority sector lending during 2008-09. District Consultative Committees (DCCs) of lead banks have been directed to regularly monitor disposal and rejection of loan applications from minorities. The Government has accorded ‘in principle’ approval for restructuring of National.
Minorities Development and Finance Corporation:
A National Data Bank, to compile data on the various socio-economic and basic amenities parameters for socio-religious communities, has been set up in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. An autonomous Assessment & Monitoring Authority (AMA), to analyse data collected for taking appropriate and corrective policy decisions, has been set up in the Planning Commission.
A training module has been developed by the Indian Institute of Public Administration, for sensitization of government officials. The module has been sent to the Central/ State Training Institutes for implementation. Lai Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) has prepared a module for sensitization of organized civil services and it has been incorporated in their training programmes.
Under Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns (UIDSSMT), additional central assistance of Rs 1602.20 crore has been sanctioned for 69 towns having substantial minority population, out of which Rs.659.37 crore was released in 2008-09.
A High Level Committee, set up to review the Delimitation Act, has considered the concerns expressed in the Sachar Committee report and submitted its report. Guidelines on Communal Harmony have been issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Dissemination of information regarding health and family welfare schemes is being undertaken in regional languages in minority concentration areas.
State Governments and UTs have been advised by Department of Personnel & Training for posting of Muslim police personnel in thanas and Muslim health personnel and teachers in Muslim concentration areas. State Governments have been advised by Ministry of Panchayati Raj and Ministry of Urban Development, to improve representation of minorities in local bodies.
The recommendations of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on Wakfs have been received. These have been processed as per approved modalities. An expert group constituted to study and recommend the structure and functions of an Equal Opportunity Commission submitted its report on 13th March, 2008.
This has been processed, along with the report of the expert group on diversity index, as per the approved modalities. To meet the ever growing need for ameliorating the condition of minorities, and Muslim community in particular, the Annual Plan allocation for the Ministry of Minority Affair is has been increased substantially to Rs 1,740 crore for the year 2009-10.
The issue of reservation has remained a cause of disagreement between the reserved and the non- reserved sections of the society. While the unreserved segments, keep on opposing the provision, 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.
On the contrary, the creamy layer among 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 of appropriate positive discrimination for the benefit of the downtrodden and economically backward Sections o, 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 done away with, as soon possible.
But human rights of Dalit women are violated in peculiar and extreme forms. Stripping, naked parading, caste abuses, pulling out nails and hair, sexual slavery & bondage are few forms peculiar to Dalit women.
Woman abuse is an issue of power , when men feel threatened or are raised to feel superior to woman and want to show it(Apologies for oversimplification ) . Being a Dalit and a Woman surely compounds the problem.Why do you think that is?
People speak of “free markets” and “equal opportunity for all” as arguments for speaking against reservation, while conveniently forgetting that these are the people who are NOT getting equal opportunities . Free markets do not work in case of externalities and this is an externality.
Let us all be aware that Untouchability cannot be wished away.
So now coming back to the question of Reservations
Whenever there is a section of society that is so much discriminated against , the best way to end that discrimination is by mixing them up with the general population and bringing them into mainstream. There will be uproars as people do not like change and the deep rooted biases act up , but that is what we as a society have to fight.
Only when we see people from that community all around us , understand them, see that they are not different, can we be able to remove this discrimination.
We need this section of society to be in all areas of the community , from doctors to engineers to entrepreneurs to CEOs to Artists to teachers . This is the only way to end this discrimination and give equal opportunity to all.
We need to level the playing field for people who were not allowed to even compete.
And all this while , we need to be conscious that Bias exists. Just because caste-based discrimination is illegal, does not imply that it does not happen.
So now that we have established that there is a section of society that has been and still is unfairly treated and that biases still exist.We also established that the best way to end those biases would be to get these people in all areas of society , rather than confining them to jobs they are traditionally made to do based on their caste.
How do we do this?
This is where the government comes in. Let us understand a simple fact that whenever X is given to Person 1, that X cannot be given to person Y. Resources are limited . The government needs to come up with schemes and measures to help this section of society rise , this will be done at expense of something. This is not optional , we as a society cannot accept that a large part of us are denied basic human rights.
These schemes involve resources . Resources for education , resources for loans , resources for gainful employment and resources for spreading awareness .When the government reserves seats to SC ST , look at it as an allocation of resources . Another way could be to halve the number of government colleges and spend that money on other endeavors . You do not have reservations then, but then the number of seats available to “General Category” is still the same.
Reservation system In India was one of the ways (Not the only way)to achieve this goal of getting SC ST OBCs into the mainstream.
So Is Reservation Good?
Yes and No.
Yes: The intention for reservation is good , necessary and correct.
No: Because it has not been implemented properly.
The basic problem with the reservation system in India has been its misuse(or may I say heavy abuse). Reservation was never intended to help the Rich SC kid get an Easy entry to educational institute . It was meant to give a shortcut to millions of SC ST and OBCs out of the rut , taking their families along, and making the society more accepting of them .
It was also supposed to end, but sadly due to political corruption and vote bank politics , it did not. But when we say that , we need to remember that it was also thought that the caste based discrimination too would end. If our politicians have failed, so have we.
Another issue is that the reservation in higher educational institutes, without proper support for primary education seems like a cop-out. The government’s job was to bring about a change in mindset of people ,create and employ strict laws to stomp out any discrimination , but that is a really hard thing to do. It requires patience and courage to risk annoying your vote bank which not many politicians are willing to do.
Plus it may not be the best way anymore , there can be a serious discussion on relevance of reservation in this time. Agreed that discrimination is still alive, but is reservation still a good way to end it?
Why the heck am I writing This?
To be fair, I am not too sure either. I have been on the other side, blaming the SC ST /OBC for taking such disproportionate number of seats to all the coveted institute , for getting seats in IITs while knowing much less than me(I did not make it to IIT –Failed to clear Mains ..Missed by a whisker) . Yes I too have been really angry at the system .I too called the system unfair to me and claimed that SC ST have it too easy.
But In retrospect , I believe I was ill-informed . My anger was directed at the wrong place and I see too many people like me , who ignore the very basic fact that this system is still relevant because we still have discrimination . The anger also needs to be directed towards the society as a whole , not just the government and certainly not against the SC ST/OBC community as a whole.
Yes reservation system in India is inherently unfair , but our society itself is based on unfairness at this point , where some people are superior to others and some inferior based solely on their birth and not merit.
There needs to be a serious discussion on the relevance of reservation system in India for solving this issue. What can be the better way? In an education hungry society like ours , Is compromising on student intake for some of the most premium colleges worth it?
Also till reservation is there , how can we make sure that it is not abused? What laws need to be brought into place to prevent non-deserving people taking it? I personally know cases of millionaires taking advantage of the reserved seat for their son, which is preposterous. Can I do not something about it? How do we make sure that the Creamy Layer(annual income >6 Lakhs) does not take advantage of this system?
How can we strengthen the basic education system so that all kids can get an equal shot at a good education?
And finally , how to end it? It will end when the cast based system actually becomes irrelevant . We do need to ask the question that “if Reservation system in India is becoming an impediment to that?” Instead of removing , is it now strengthening the divide, making it more vivid? If yes, we might need other ways to fight it.
For this we need more voices , voices from the SC ST OBC community as well to speak out, do you think reservation system in India is still required?
And why are we seeing an increasing number of people demanding to be put as OBCs? Why are we doing this? Should this not be banned? For people who face economic hardships, we need a system based purely on financial well-being rather than caste based.
And yes , a hard-line. Any politician who takes a stand on getting a hard-line date to end this system will potentially kill his or her political career , but I am sure there are some politicians who might risk it. By hard-line , I do not mean just some arbitrary date which can be later extended, but a dead line that cannot be changed or is too difficult to change , e.g.: Only if 99% of both houses of parliament decide to extend it .We could also use the legal route where only an appeal to supreme court could overrule this, thus giving a face-saving cop out to the party in power then. “We tried, but the SC refused”
Finally , Reservation System in India is not a revenge on General Class as some people make it out to be. It is a system which had to be brought in to end an unfair system , and is potentially itself becoming part of the problem rather than a solution.
If we want to end it , at least we as a society need to end the discrimination . Let’s do our part as well, shall we?