At the eve of independence, India stood a juncture of unique yet precarious socio-economic circumstances. The people lived in high poverty levels and life expectancy was merely 32 (approximately). Moreover, the Indian populace was a victim of its social evils: the most atrocious being the stringent caste system. The constitution makers were well aware of this malice that was deeply rooted in the society. The caste system was not only rigid but highly discriminatory. Thus, Indian constitution makers decided that the country in the years to come would follow the policy of affirmative action. Affirmative action is basically the government and state institutions taking some positive measures to bring everyone on a level playing field. In other words, it is to bring the people, groups and communities (who have been disadvantaged for centuries by virtue of their caste) up to the level of the general society by providing them with certain concessions, advantages and special opportunities. Through affirmative action the government seeks to create an atmosphere as egalitarian as possible. This is also known as positive discrimination. One of the most prominent as well as controversial forms of affirmative action visible in India is reservation. Reservation, as the name itself suggests, is the ‘reserving’ of seats. These seats are “reserved” or kept aside for the disadvantaged in government jobs, educational institutions and even the legislatures. Reservation in India is the policy of the government which has been provided backing by the Constitution of the country. The Constitution of India states in article 15(4): “Nothing in … shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially, and educationally backward classes of citizens of or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes”. Initially this reservation was to be for a period of ten years. Yet, due to certain reasons, (most of which are politically motivated) even after more than seven decades of independence these reservations have continued by the means of various amendments to the constitution. It is said that reservations are envisaged at achieving two main twin goals: one of advancement and the other of adequate representation. Nevertheless, if reservation has strong proponents, it also has its set of fierce critics. Many people and scholars have today come to claim that the reservation policy in the country needs to be drastically revamped. Some say reservation should be completely eliminated while others say it’s criteria be changed like from caste based to economic status based. For instance before 2019, the main basis of reservation was social and educational backwardness (caste). However, from 2019, economic backwardness is also taken into consideration for providing reservation. For instance, the 124th constitutional amendment provided a 10% quota for “economically weaker sections” from the general category of the population as well. But the experts did nit welcome this as they hoped they would because providing this quota would violate the 50 per cent cap on reservation set by the Supreme Court of India. The apex court in its landmark 1993 judgment in Indra Sawhney vs Union of India stated that the total number of reserved seats cannot exceed 50% of what is available and that under the constitutional scheme of reservation, economic backwardness alone could not be a criterion. Therefore, taking an aerial view of the Indian reservation policy, about 60% of seats are reserved in the country for various sections like the Scheduled Tribes (ST), Scheduled Castes (SC), Other Backward Classes (OBC), and the Economically Weak Sections (EWS) with respect to Government jobs like the Civil Services and Higher Education Institutions like IITs and IIMs. In addition, 3% of seats are also reserved for the differently-abled persons across all categories. This also means that approximately only 40% of seats are available on the basis of merit which frankly is unfair to meritorious candidates. In the merit seats, not only the general category candidates but all other categories like SC, ST, OBC, and EWS can also compete. Thus we need to keep in mind that we cannot compromise the meritorious candidates buy virtue of their caste and put them at a disadvantage to put others in an advantageous position. Hence, a thorough recheck of the Indian reservation policy should be conducted and designed in accordance with the contemporary Indian socio-economic and political context of the worlds biggest democracy.
- Post author:UNNATI The Knowledge Hub for Civil Aspirants
- Post published:June 11, 2021
- Post category:Uncategorized
- Post comments:43 Comments