Dr BR Ambedkar, Mayawati, Abhijeet Sawant, PT Usha, we all know these notable people of society. They all are known for their distinguished effort and hard work. But do their caste or social backwardness has to do anything with their work as they all belong to the weaker sections of society? Are they at their stature because their caste had a reservation? Indeed the answer to all these questions is ‘no’.
Reservation in India is the process of setting aside a certain percentage of seats (vacancies) in government institutions for the members of backward and under-represented communities. Reservation is a form of quota-based affirmative action. Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) are the primary beneficiaries of the reservation policies under the Constitution. The concept was enshrined in the Constitution to allow the so-called deprived classes to come at par with the so-called privileged ones.
Initially, the reservation policy was only for 10 years after the independence to uplift the socially and under-privileged to stabilise them economically. Yet, even after 68 years of independence the Government has failed to truly uplift the backward sections properly.
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. After independence, the primary objective of the reservation was to uplift the untouchable who were the most marginalised.
But today we stand divided widely into Hindu, Muslim, SC, ST, OBC with newer reservations coming up from different sections of society like Christians, Jats, Pandits, Tribals etc. Unfortunately, the policy has failed to achieve the desired aim of bringing the non-privileged classes into the mainstream. It has instead marginalised them all the more and has deepened the rift created by the caste system even more. Moreover, today it is not taken as a right but it is considered more of a privilege by people, provoking unending debates.
The 93rd Amendment and the recent declaration of the government for reservation in institutions of higher education has stirred the anger of the youth in general all over the country. The UGC cell helps universities implement the reservation policy in student admission and staff recruitment process for teaching and non-teaching jobs. Protests from various sections of society had come stating that development of one section of the society should not be at the cost of the other section.
They have argued caste category cannot decide whether he/she is eligible for admission or not, what matters is merit. Further some have argued that in some cases children belonging to the backward classes do not even possess the necessary merit, thereby snatching away one seat, just because they come from a particular religion or caste for which our government provides reservation.
Recent ‘Women’s Reservation Bill’ passed by Rajya Sabha in 2010 got majority support but it has not been voted on the bill as yet. Its opposers say gender cannot be held as a basis for reservation alone. True, as Pratibha Patil, Meera Kumar, Sonia Gandhi and other women do not hold their position merely because of their gender reservation.
If one takes a look at the issue objectively, one will realise that the intention behind reservation is not faulty at all but it is the implementation and application that has proved ineffective. The benefit of reservation has failed to trickle down to the lowest section of the society. Also, it has killed the spirit of brotherhood and healthy competition.
India can take a lesson from the United States in this regard. For instance, US has long abandoned the quota system for affirmative action. They have put in place a point system under which candidates from Blacks, backward regions, immigrants etc., are given a few extra points in admission and appointment procedures. 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 could be the relevant factors to be taken into consideration. All sections of the society that need development and financial aids should be clearly identified. Then to uplift them with free-education or incentives and financial assistance should be provided. And if a class reaches the state of progress where reservation is not necessary then government should delete that caste from the list of backward classes.
With time, people have started misusing this policy. There are many examples of people making false documents just to get a seat in a college or a job. Politicians are playing a major role in fueling reservation policy. The reason behind this is that SC and ST make upto 33% of the population of our country. Politicians fear losing out on their vote bank if they make changes against SC and ST.
Let us not do such that these policies hinder the growth of our economy. Need of the hour is to remove this evil. Making education mandatory and free for all till the age of 15 is one good resolution that has been adopted. Other could be proposing reservation based on economic status and providing opportunities to students to earn while they study. Also from time to time such laws must be evaluated by experts and their impact on the development of under-privileged, and over-all society must be assessed. Let us believe in what Mahavira has said:
“If you want to cultivate a habit, do it without any reservation till it is firmly established….”