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:
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.
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.
Numerous laws including the:
– 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.
Through the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995, the government provides 3% reservation for people with disabilities in government jobs.
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 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
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.
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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