Reservation policy in India

Demand for Reservation

Reservation in India is the process of facilitating a person in education, jobs, scholarship and in promotions etc. The reason for giving reservation is that predominantly agrarian communities have been hit by the rural distress. Unemployment was one of the major factors triggering the demand for reservation Wages in the private sector are much lower than in the public sector. Salaries of government jobs are mostly attractive at entry-level.  Previously advantaged castes, such as Brahmins, Rajputs and Chettiars, have begun to feel severely disadvantaged. According to Indira Sawhney judgement by the Supreme Court, the total reservation for SC/ST and other backward classes or special categories should not exceed 50 per cent.  In 2014, the then government had granted 16 per cent reservation for the Marathas. However, the reservation was stayed by the Bombay High Court.  In Rajasthan, the Supreme Court had said quota in jobs and education in the state has exceeded the 50 per cent cap and it cannot be stretched further.

 Advantages

It is a form of positive affirmation hence helpful to do away with discrimination of the minorities. It helps in formulating right to equality. It has been mentioned in the Constitution. A socially and educationally backward class can be extended benefits of reservation under Articles 15(4) and 16(4) of the Constitution. To a great extent caste based reservation reduced the gap between upper and lower castes.  Reservations have not hampered the efficiency of administration, rather they have enhanced quality.  The example of the Indian railways proves that where SC/ST employees are more in number, the results have been better. Social realities and discrimination are still very prevalent.

Disadvantages

It creates more discrimination. Untouchability is prohibited already. Merit is compromised when reservations are given. Many castes come up with demand for reservation. Recently the Maharashtra government has cleared reservation for the Maratha community in education and government jobs.  It will have implications on other communities which have been demanding reservation such as Kapus in Andhra Pradesh, Jats in Haryana and Patidars in Gujarat. Reservation policy is confusing to layman. Constitution is not very clear on the same. Quotas offer only a limited, short-term solution to these problems.  Reservation is indeed an instrument to rectify social and educational backwardness, but it does not have solutions for every social and economic ailment. Courts keep on changing their stands on this issue. Reservation has been used as a saftey net by people only for their particular selfish concerns.  It also takes a lot of precious judicial time when several other important issues are pending in courts for years. As the reservation pie grows larger, it becomes a method of exclusion rather than inclusion.  In Ashok Kumar Thakur v. Union of India, Justice Ravindran opined that when more people aspire for backwardness instead of forwardness, the Country itself stagnates.  The reservation system can harm the economic structure of the country as it could bring down the efficiency of its labor.  Many upper castes are still suffering from poverty and illiteracy. The reservation system has just become a tool for politicians to gain vote banks.  The Jat agitation in Haryana resulted in several deaths, cancelation of hundreds of trains, and the loss of many working days in schools and workplaces across Haryana.

Way Forward

The government will have to expand the economic aspect and create fresh opportunities. A balanced decision should be made.  Problems of these castes should be addressed through government schemes and programmes. Progressive steps should be taken to ensure that poorer section among the backward communities get the benefit of reservation system.  The policy of reservation should be gradually phased out after it serves its purpose.


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