CASTE BASED RESERVATION
The caste system which is prevalent to date has been a fundamental part of Indian culture for time immemorial. This system led to the subjugation of the “lower castes” by the “higher castes.” Thus to improve the situation of the lower castes, the Government of India introduced caste based reservation in governmental jobs and educational institutions. But the question remains whether this has been beneficial or if it has led to further enhancement of the differences? Or whether the income/economic-based reservation scheme is a better option?
History of Caste Based Reservation in India
The first written text which talks about the caste based system or “dharma of the four social classes” in its entirety is the Manusmriti. It says that every individual’s job was fixed by their birth.
But today are these reservations actually being implemented as was envisioned by our policy makers? The answer is prima facie ‘NO’ because the benefits are being stolen away by the “creamy layer.”
The Reservations Against Reservation
In accordance with the 93rd Constitutional Amendment , the government is allowed to make special provisions for “advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens”, including their admission in aided or unaided private educational institutions. And it was proposed that this reservation policy should be gradually implemented in private institutions and companies. This move faced severe opposition from non-reserved category students, as it reduced seats for the General (non-reserved) category from the existing 77.5% to less than 50.5% (since members of OBCs are also allowed to contest in the General category).
However, clause 4 of the same article provides for an exception by conferring a certain kind of power on the government:
“it empowers the state to make special provision for the reservation of appointments of posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which in the opinion of the state are not adequately represented in the services.”
What is ironical is that even though our constitution is reservation friendly, nowhere in a bare reading of the Constitution is the term ‘backward classes’ explicitly defined. What determines the backwardness or constitutes backwardness are still unanswered and only with the help of certain judicial pronouncements have they been given some meaning.
To quote an example, the decision of IIT Roorkee to expel 73 students with poor performance was an eye-opener to the condition of many kids who make the near impossible entry into the IIT campuses. A report by The Indian Express suggested that 90% of the expelled students were from SCs, STs and OBCs. Another instance that could be stated is of the “alleged suicide” of a Dalit student at IIT Mumbai last year which gives us a glimpse into the suffering of backward caste students in institutions such as IITs. His performance had been poor, he had uncleared papers and was subject to taunts by general category students and shockingly a faculty member too. Reporting this case, DNA said that about 56% of students under reserved category felt discriminated against. Moreover, 60% of them also felt more pressured by academics than the general category students. There is a growing concern, the government might be trying to ensure a level playing a field, but it is failing- and miserably so- to ensure that they benefit from it. There are about 50% seats reserved for them, but if most of them fall through the cracks- as the above instances show- it serves no purpose.