Reservation: Blessing or Curse

Author:

Kshitij Sharma

Institution: The NorthCap University

Abstract

Reservation are the additional benefits provided to the economically marginalized sections of the society. Reservation in India begun due to harmful effects of caste system. According to caste system, Indian society was divided into four parts namely Brahmins at the top, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras at the lowest level. It is not a well-known fact that cast based discrimination is still practiced in many underdeveloped areas of India and withstanding this reservation is necessary. People who support reservation view it as a means to bring the socially and economically backward sections in the mainstream. People who oppose reservation view it as a means of reverse discrimination. Reservation is very important but not the way it is being implemented. There is vital need for systematic reforms in this field. Both sides to conflict should try and understand other side of the story as-well. In this way an agreement can be reached.

Introduction

Reservation are the additional services provided to economically marginalized sections of the society. It was a way to give them a chance to be part of the mainstream. Additional support is provided to backward sections in the form of financial assistance from government to help them live a decent and respectable lifestyle alongside the developed sections. Schedule cast (SC), Schedule tribe (ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) are given reservation under our Constitution.

It was introduced to counter the caste system that was prevalent in India since many decades. Deprived classes are given some concessions and exemptions from some of the requirements, allowing them to begin working in the various sectors that were previously available for only the recognized ones.

Background

Reservation in India begun due to harmful effects of caste system. According to caste system, Indian society was divided into four parts namely Brahmins at the top, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras at the lowest level. Brahmins got most of the opportunities, on the other hand people belonging to shudras community faced many atrocities economically and socially, they were considered untouchables. Due to such social discrimination they lagged behind in terms of development. Therefore to bring them up in the race of development it was necessary to provide them reservation.

Reservation was first introduced by the Maharaja Shahu of Kolhapur. Reservation was provided to the depressed classes like non Brahmins and Shudras. People who availed reservation were provided food and education. This system was further supported by the British government. The Government of India act 1909 consisted some elements of reservation.

In the round table conference of 1932, communal award was introduced. This proposed separate electorate for Dalits, but this was opposed by Gandhi and supported by BR Ambedkar. As a result this ended into a negotiation which is known as Poona pact. Under this it was decided that Dalits will not be given a separate electorate as it creates a divide among the society rather Dalits will be given reserved seats.

Reservation is also included in the constitution of India. Laws were formed to safeguard and promote reservation. Article 15 (4) states that no provisions under Article 15 & Article 29 should prevent state from promoting special laws and providing benefits to the socially disadvantaged category of people. Article 46 of DPSP states that state should promote economic and social interest of socially backward people specially schedule caste and scheduled Tribes.

Impact of Reservation

  • Deprived sections of society got uplifted and were provided educational and job opportunities.
  • There was 5% increment in the representation of SC and ST in salaried jobs.
  • It encouraged people from OBC to study more and excel in different fields.
  • With increased representation in Gram-Panchayat, poverty among ST decreased significantly.
  • Many government schemes now focus on the development of these marginalized groups.
  • Reservation has led many riots and fights thus creating discrimination in society.

Present Situation in India 

It is not a well-known fact that cast based discrimination is still practiced in many underdeveloped areas of India. In 2016 a phone survey was conducted by Social Attitude Research India (SARI) in Delhi, Mumbai, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Aim of the survey was to find the percentage of caste based discrimination prevalent in these area. In Delhi 39% Non-Dalit women agreed that someone in their family has practiced untouchability. 21% Non-Dalit women at agreed that they practiced untouchability. 60% Non-Dalit families in Rajasthan argue that inter caste marriage should be abolished. 

After independence, the socially backward section of the society were given reservation and they were given reserved seats in legislation so as to provide them political representation. Out of 543 seats in Lok-Sabha a total of 131 seats are reserved for SC and ST with 84 seats provided to schedule caste and 47 to schedule tribe. As per the population 15% seats are reserved for schedule caste and 7.5% seats are reserved for schedule tribe. After the Mandal commission report in 1993 other backward classes (OBC) were provided 27% reservation government jobs and educational institutes. Therefore the total reservation provided by the central government amounted to 49.5%, further states government were given freedom and power to provide additional benefits to SC, ST and OBC. In 2019 the central government announced further 10% reservation for the economically weaker sections from general category. So the total share of reservation amounted to 60 percent.

Demand for reservation was triggered by a protest against the rape and murder of a 15 years old girl of Maratha community in 2016. The demands laid down the banner of protest were to provide reservation to Maratha community in educational and employment sectors, secondly to provide justice to the girl. In 2017 due to violent protests and suicides, M.G. Gaikwad commission was set-up to find the actual position. In 2018 according to M.G. Gaikwad commission report, Marathas were given reservation considering them as SEBC.

Later a PIL was filed against Maratha reservations in Supreme Court. In 2020 Supreme Court put a stay order on the same. On 5th may 2021, Supreme Court quashed providing reservations as the 50% limit for reservation was exceeding. Those who got the benefits in 2 years span will not be snatched. So the 50% limit for reservation is still upheld.

This Act was assented by the president on 18th August 2021. This restores the powers of the state government to form their list for OBC reservation. The constitutional bill (127th ) for the same was passed on 11th August 2021. Earlier in the Maratha reservation case, Supreme Court clearly stated that, according to 102nd amendment, only the center has the power to make list for OBC reservation thus state’s power to provide reservations was dissolved. Only the center could make the reservation list for OBC based on the recommendations of National commotion for backward classes (NCBC). This was challenged in the Supreme Court as this disturbed the state-center relations and distorted the basic structure of the constitution. To clarify the misinterpretation of 102nd amendment, this bill was passed. Finally it was agreed that state has the power to make the reservation list for OBC.

Why Debate

The reasons behind existence of such a huge conflict and fight in the society over reservation are-

  • Recourses at stake- The matter of reservation is directly related to resources. Reservation helps in providing education, jobs, seats in legislature etc. In a country like India, where the resources are limited, allocation becomes very critical. Resources are related to human needs and if human needs are on stake we, don’t examine the whole idea rather criticize it.
  • Radically opposite views- In the society we live, there are two completely different groups of people having totally different mentality. The group which avails reservation, will talk about the atrocities they had faced earlier and therefore reservation is their right. On the other hand, the group which does not avail benefits will talk about the discrimination they face. This is such a sensitive topic that people from both groups are ready to fight over it.
  • No healthy discourse- Due to such radical views, people are not able to discuss on this topic in a healthy and rightful way. People inherit confirmation to their society’s beliefs and views therefore are not able to think in a reasonable manner. In this way they create biasness towards a group.

Supporters & Antagonists

People who support reservation give the following arguments in favor of reservation-

  • Inclusion- Supporters view reservation as a means to bring the socially and economically backward sections again in the mainstream. Due to discrimination and exploitation, they lagged behind in the race of development. Moreover for wholesome development of the country, unity and development of weaker sections is also necessary.
  • Democracy- India is a democratic country. Therefore everybody’s opinion is important. This will only be possible if the weaker sections are given reservation in the political representation of the country. Political representation should be in proportion to the total population of specific weaker sections. Hence reservation is very important.

People who oppose reservation give the following arguments against reservation-

  • Reverse discrimination- People from general category think that by providing reservations, their own seats and opportunities are on stake. It’s like providing help to an earlier discriminated group by discriminating other groups at present.
  • Not responsible- some people think that, people who had done and faced discrimination are not alive. Therefore making the present generation liable for the deeds of past generation is not valid.
  • Against merit- Providing opportunities to non-deserving people and snatching it from the deserving one’s can inherit the development of country.

Important Case Laws

# Indra Sawhney & Others v. Union of India AIR 1993

This case is also known as Mandal commission case. In 1979 a commission was set up with the aim of investigating and finding the number of socially and economically backward classes in the country. This commission was headed by BP Mandal. In 1980 reports were submitted by the Mandal commission and it was found that 3743 castes in the country can be considered as socially and economically backward classes.

It was recommended that these classes should be given 27% reservations in government jobs. This recommendation was implemented in 1990 by the VP Singh government. The same was argued in the Indira Sawhney case. 9 judges bench gave the judgment with 6:3 majority. The judgment by Supreme Court stated that 27% reservations for SEBC is valid. It also stated that reservation policy will be applicable in cases of appointment but not in the cases of promotions in government jobs. Further it stated that the reservation should not exceed 50% limit.

The parliament later brought amendments among the above mentioned principles. Reservation in promotions among the government jobs was included by 77th amendment. The 50% ceiling on reservation was removed by 81st amendment.

# Supreme Court’s decision on Vinod Prakash Nautiyal & Others vs. The State of Uttrakhand 2012

In the above case high court gave the judgment for inclusion of reservation in promotions. The supreme court of India quashed the decision made by high court. It was mentioned in the judgment that reservation in promotions is not necessary and is subjective opinion of the state. It also stated that reservation is not a fundamental rights. If the state wants to exercise their discretion and provide reservation in promotions, state should have strong reason and data for the same.

# Supreme Court’s decision on Hitesh Verma vs. The State of Uttrakhand 2020

In the above case The Supreme Court held that all insults or intimidations directed to SC/ST person will not be considered as an offence under the SC/ST Act. For an insult or intimidation directed to SC/ST person be considered an offence, the following essentials need to be fulfilled-

  • Intention to humiliate specific caste of SC/ST.
  • Humiliation should be in public or in the presence of 3rd person.

In the above case, second essential was missing as plaintiff insulted the SC/ST person inside his (SC/ST person) house and not in public. Therefore Supreme Court passed the judgment in favor of the plaintiff.

Conclusion

In my opinion reservation is very important but the way it is being implemented in India is not right. The groups which could not excel, in the past due to lack of opportunities and some radical thoughts, should be given some benefits and opportunities. Weaker sections of India, such as the SCs, STs, OBCs, and minorities, have been pushed to remain as such, therefore reservation should be mandatory. But not the way it is being given right now. The system of reservation has many shortcomings which need to be sorted with utmost attention. There is vital need for systematic reforms in this field. The groups eligible for reservation should be subdivided according to you there economic condition. This will create a divide between the more needy and less needy. People who are no more under the banner of backward sections should be eliminated from the scheme and reservation should be only limited to the people who actually need it.I think both the sides to conflict should get entire idea on the topic and understand other side of the story as-well. Reserved classes should understand the plight of non-reserved classes, as how they are left unemployed and potential candidates are not getting what they deserve. At the same time, unreserved categories must understand the problems and humiliations that reserved categories have faced in the past, and that reservation is necessary for their development and survival.  In this way we can get to a point of agreement where both the parties are satisfied. This will reduce the existing conflict among the masses and increase the unity.

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