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Is The Line Between Reservation Policy And Protective Discrimination Too Thin?

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The reason behind reservation is the discrimination suffered by the oppressed and the disadvantaged section of society. This may include the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, women, the elderly, people with disabilities, socially or economically backward classes and religious minorities. This reservation over a long period of time has led to the concept of ‘protective discrimination’. The provisions were formulated to bring those suppressed beneath to the mainstream society by protecting their interests.

Some efforts made by the Parliament to protect the interest of SCs and STs are:

1. Untouchability (Offences) Act, 1955 (renamed Protection of Civil Rights Act)

2. Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989

Many states have provided reservation in legislature services and other facilities to SCs and STs in the matter relating to education, employment and assistance in economic fields.

A History Of OBC Reservation

Following the Kaka Kalelkar Commission Report in 1995, which identified 2,399 caste groups as well as socially and educationally backward classes, the Mandal Commission formulated these 11 indicators in 1978:

– Four on social backwardness

– Three on educational backwardness

– Four on economic backwardness

The Mandal Commission finally identified 3,743 backward classes and recommended a reservation of 27% of the jobs for OBC (other backward classes) in Central services and public undertaking.

Protection Of The Interest Of Women

Numerous laws including the:

Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

Equal Remuneration Act, 1976

The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1952 (also known as the Nirbhaya Act since its amendment in 2013)

have been passed by the Parliament for protecting the interest of women. Moreover, through the 73rd and 74th amendment acts, one-third of the seats in rural and urban local bodies has been reserved for women.

Protecting The Interest Of People With Disabilities

Through the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995, the government provides 3% reservation for people with disabilities in government jobs.

The Newly Introduced EWS

Economically Weaker Section in India is a sub-category of people belonging to the general category with an annual family income of less than Rs 8 lakh rupees. Under the 124th Amendment Bill of 2019, people in this section, who do not belong to any other reservation category (such as SC, ST or OBC across India), and are provided with 10% reservation in educational institutions and governmental jobs.

The Present Scenario Of Reservation In India

The present reservation break-up in India is as follows:

27% for other backward classes

15% for scheduled caste

10% for economically weaker section

7.5% for scheduled tribes

Two school girls in India

Advocates of the reservation policies mentioned above argue the following:

1. Reservation has helped many people to grow and occupy top positions in public offices.

2. It has helped historically discriminated minorities get social justice.

3. It has helped the deprived section of society to avail education, which had been denied to them for centuries.

4. There has been an attempt to bring everyone to the level of equals.

5. Reservation gives a life stability to survive in this era where people die for stealing food, thrown out of houses or not allowed to drink water because they are Dalits. Not much has changed since then, except that now some people from the lower castes are educated and still face discrimination. Reservation must exist in India till discrimination vanishes from our society.

Arguments Against Reservation

There is still a large section of society that is not in favour of reservation. They make the following arguments:

1. Reservation is the biggest enemy of meritocracy. By relaxing the entry criteria for the reserved categories, we are opposing the promotion of a person in a merit-based system, which is the foundation of many progressive countries.

2. Caste-based reservation only perpetuates the notion of caste in society rather than weakening it. These reservations become a factor of social consideration as envisaged by the Constitution.

3. Reservation policies of the government have already caused an increase in brain drain. They may aggravate further as many students at an undergraduate and graduate level have started moving to foreign universities for higher education.

4. Our politicians use reservation for their vote bank politics. So, the real purpose of reservation is not to benefit the SCs and STs, but to benefit politicians. This provision was introduced for just 10 years, but continues after 73 years of independence.

5. Reservation can only benefit less than 1% SCs while creating an illusion that all are getting benefited. There are over 16 crore scheduled castes in India, but only a few lakh reserved jobs for them. So only a small number of people are going to get the benefit of the reservation, and most of them will be from creamy layer.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

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With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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