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January 02, 2017

Essay : Reservation Policy in India - Does it Need Review ?

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Reservation Policy in India - Does it Need Review ?

Overview
  • What is equality ? 
  • Caste system in India. 
  • Reservation policy taken by our Constitution. 
  • Mandal Commission report. 
  • The basic idea of reservation.
  • The change in the policy of reservation. 
  • Actual application of the policy is needed.
Two thousand years ago, the great philosopher Aristotle said, "Injustice arises when equals are treated unequally and also when unequals are treated equally". This profound statement is what lies at the heart of equality-a fundamental human right. Every human simply by virtue of being a human being is entitled to equal treatment.


The most significant, pervasive and violent discrimination in our country is the centuries old caste system. It was abolished by the Constitution in 1952 and untouchability was declared a crime. There was a category of people called dalits outside this system who were discriminated and treated as untouchables. They were thus given reservation by the government.

Reservation in India is the process of setting aside a certain percentage of seats (vacancies) in government institutions for members of backward and under-represented communities (defined primarily by caste and tribe). It is a form of quota-based affirmative action. Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other backward classes are the primary beneficiaries of the reservation policies under the Constitution with the objective of ensuring a 'level' playing field.

The Constitution of India states in Article 15(4) that, "All citizens shall have equal opportunities of receiving education. Nothing herein contained shall prevent the state from providing special facilities for educationally backward sections".

It also states that, "The state shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of society and shall protect them from `social injustice' and all forms of exploitation". The Article further states that nothing in Article 15(4) will prevent the nation from helping SCs and STs for their betterment.


In 1982, the Constitution specified 15% and 7.5% of vacancies in public sector and government-aided educational institutes as a quota reserved for the SC and ST candidates respectively for a period of five years, after which it was to be reviewed. This period was routinely extended by the succeeding governments. The Supreme Court of India ruled that reservations cannot exceed 50% and put a cap on reservations.

However, there are state laws that exceed this 50% limit and these are under litigation in the Supreme Court. For example, caste based reservation stands at 69% and the same is applicable to about 87% of the population in the state of Tamil Nadu.

In 1990, Prime Minister VP Singh announced that 27% of government positions would be set aside for OBCs in addition to the 22.5% already set aside for SCs and STs. This was followed according to the Mandal Commission which was established in India in 1978 by the Janata Party government under Prime Minister Morarji Desai with a mandate to "identify the socially or educationally backward".

Now, the question arises whether there is a need to review the reservation policy in India or should continue with the tradition? The basic idea of reservation was undoubtedly superb as it was in all good intent, meant to improve till now the status of those sections of the society which had hitherto been left uncared for. However, as we see it today, the policy of reservation has completely changed in the past few 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 forever and its extension is also as though unlimited, with several more sections joining the band wagon of the classes under reservation.

If we look at the reservation policy in India, we are the only country in the world that provides affirmative action based on individual caste identities. It is a well established fact that reservations are tools of upliftment for those disadvantaged groups who have suffered years of discrimination and oppression at the hands of the higher castes.

We the people of India, believe in the concept of `Vasudeva Kutumbakam' where we take each and every person on equal terms and also take the path of fraternity into its ambit. The reservation policy in India gave a chance to the backward and downtrodden people to be on equal terms with the other classes of the society. It not only helped them in improving their lives and status in the society but also provided them with an opportunity to represent themselves in various aspects of the decision-making part of society, something which was denied to them for a long time.

Reservations has come up in educational institutions, in jobs, in state assemblies, in Parliament and in every feasible sphere. It will be a wonder if this system is really going to help us to raise our standards in every sphere 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 policy has taken only few families of weaker sections and not the masses, in general, in its purpo'sed ambit. If we do not revise this preferential discrimination policy, we are going to see more division, more resentment and more violence. We need a policy which really helps people who are deprived of education and means of better life. Reserving certain percentage of seats in the higher education of institutions and jobs in the high ranks of the government is not going to help to solve problems of 85% of total backward castes population.

The government need to review its reservation policy instead of extending its benefits to the other sections also who call themselves backwards. The criterion for reservation should be totally restructured as we need to set certain definitions straight all over again before we decide whom to give reservation or not to give it at all. If equality is the aim, reservation should be given to people with lower income group so that they feel at pan with the rest of the society.

Economic background must be considered if reservations are actually to help deserving people. The current reservation policy and its persistence is likely to increase the caste gap which is most likely to solidify distinctions in the society producing unnecessary rancour. It should be kept in mind that lowering the standard of education for anyone is not the solution, it is important to raise the standards of facilities provided to people so that they become self reliant and come out of the vicious circle of caste and quotas. Reservation should not be looked at as the only tool for empowering the marginalised backward communities of the society.

Difficult Words with Meanings :
  • Profound intense, great
  • Entitled to give right or claim to something
  • Pervasive extensive, widespread
  • Litigation case, judicial proceedings
  • Mandate the authority given to an elected group of people
  • Intent resolved or determined to do something
  • Bandwagon a group movement that has become successful
  • Fraternity a group of people joined by similar interests
  • Ambit the limits of a something
  • Feasible practical, attainable
  • Juncture a point in time especially a critical one
  • Resentment something regarded as insult or injury
  • Deprived lacking a specified benefit that is considered important
  • Persistance determination, resolve
  • Vicious deliberately cruel or inhuman
  • Marginalised to confine to a lower limit
  • Rancour a feeling of deep and bitter anger and ill-will
shared by Nisheeta Mirchandani

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