Progress Made Under Reservation In India & Its Criticism
In the previous article we have discussed the Reservation System in India, how it started and chronology of reservation till date. We have also discussed the role played by Indian Judiciary and Legislature in shaping the reservation system that we see today and various amendment acts that altered the original provisions of Reservation. In this article we would be discussing the Progress made under the Reservation system in India, why it is criticized by people belonging from the upper caste, how it is affecting the current educational system, recent agitations in India related to Reservation demanded by various communities and our views.
Progress Made under Reservation System: Whatever reason is provided by the groups that oppose reservation but it remains a fact that reservation has helped to increase the representation of the reserved category. In many government institutes, there has been an increase in the proportion of scheduled caste, scheduled tribe, and other backward classes. The data can be categorized as follows:
- Most of the Government Jobs in India are divided into 4 categories: Group A, Group B, Group C and Group D. Class A employees take up 2.2% of the public sector workforce, Class B employees take up 3.3%, Class C employees take up 66.8% and Class D employees take up 27.2% of the public sector workforce. Over the years the representation of SC has increased significantly in all those four types of government jobs which is a promising sign.
- Enrollment of SC and ST has increased in undergraduate, post-graduate, technical and professional courses. Percentage of enrollment of SC in these categories was 7.08% in 1978-79 which increased to 13.30% in 1995-96.
- Percentage of depressed class living below poverty line was 51.32% in 1978-79 which was reduced to 35.97% in 1993-94. Although it was still above the national poverty average.
- A case study done by Andhra Pradesh Government showed that more than 10% of backward classes have been admitted in the open competition quota, apart from the 25% in reserved quota. This shows that the backward classes are competing by merit in open competitions.
- An analysis of the number of students applying for Scholarships & Reimbursement of tuition fee shows that there is an increase in the percentage of applications on average. This means there is an increase in poor BC students opting for higher studies.
- In 13th Lok Sabha, there were 79 seats reserved but there were 81 SC representatives in the house. Though the number was very small it is a promising result that now SC is elected even from seats which were not reserved.
Criticism of Reservation in India: Reservation has been criticized by various groups and people (usually from General Category) from time to time. The main reason given by these groups is that reservation was intended for 10 years only and now it has been 70 years since the policy was implemented. Instead of scrapping the reservations the government is increasing it through various amendments.
- Many people say that reservation is against the constitution of India which says “No discrimination on the basis of caste, religion or sex”, but in India reservation is provided on all of these bases. Second, reservation in India has now shifted from a policy of upliftment to a vote bank politics and no one wants to lose this opportunity. It is to be noted that in 1950’s a person of SC/ST community who benefited from the reservation, it would be their 5th generation taking the advantage of the same reservation system in 2015.
- National Survey showed that “In India, only 0.7% of scholarships are provided on the basis of merit. Most of the scholarships or aid is available only for OBC, SC, ST, Women, Minorities & Muslims”. This hampers the growth of aspiring students from upward caste who are financially weaker.
- The seats reserved for SC/ST are not utilized in the manner it should be and most of the reserved seats are generally grabbed by privileged SC/ST students, making it difficult for poor SC/ST students to benefit from the reservation. As a result, scholars such as Oliver Mendelsohn, Sachchidananda, and G. Narayana have brought to light the emergence of a “Harijan Elite,” who are gradually moving farther and farther away—politically, socially, and economically, from the rest of the SC population.
- Unemployment in India has increased from the time India gained its independence. In 1951, 3.29 lakh educated people were unemployed and has increased to 300 lakhs in 2010. With the successive increase in the percentage of reservation, dissatisfaction among unemployed youth has increased. Also, various state governments have tried to increase the reservation beyond 50% which is seen as an injustice by the today’s youth. There have been many demonstrations against reservation. In 1990’s two students, Rajiv Goswami and Surinder Singh Chauhan committed self-immolation in protest of Mandal Commission.
- There is no information about the number of people belonging to the OBCs category who occupy positions in the state governments. Also, no data has been provided by state governments to evaluate the effectiveness of OBC reservation and still the reservation cap has been increased. Similarly, the data for SC & ST are obtained from the reports provided by National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. It is to be noted that the Commission is composed of SC politicians, it has been alleged that assessments may be biased.
- Successive governments have used reservation as a “Lollipop” to lure the general public but the reservation has not yet reached to the very deprived section of society living in remote areas. Also, there has been a decrease in women literacy from SC community. The literacy gap for women has widened from 9.66 percent in 1961 to 15.53 percent in 1991.
- There have been protests by the people from SC, ST and OBC communities who were not benefited properly from the current reservation system and they demand a separate quota within the SC/ST quota. The conflict of Mala and Madiga Caste in Andhra Pradesh and Gurjjar Agitation in Rajasthan are the best examples.
Protests & Agitations for Reservation in India: Since the implementation of reservation there have been many protests especially from people belonging from upper caste as they see it as a direct threat to their educational and carrier growth. There is no doubt that reservation has helped people from the backward community to stand and compete with people of upper caste but at the same time, the policy has been in implementation from such a long time that now people who are already benefited from this system now their 4th and 5th generation are taking advantage. In its initial days there were protests against reservation but nowadays there are protests for inclusion of some community in OBC, SC or ST category.
Mandal Commission Protest: It started in 1990 when Central Government headed by V.P Singh which recommended 27% reservation for people belonging to Other Backward Class (O.B.C) in public universities and government jobs. Self-immolation was done by Rajiv Goswami and Surinder Singh Chauhan while protesting against Mandal Commission.
2006 Indian anti-reservation protests: The 2006 reservation protest started when Indian Government decided to implement 27% reservation for OBC community in central and private institutes of higher education. There were series of protests organized by doctors and students against this reservation but it was implemented and these protests slowly died down and eventually ended.
Gujjar Agitation in Rajasthan: The Gujjar agitation started in Rajasthan in 2008 when they demanded a lower Scheduled Tribe status, instead of their current, higher OBC status. Total 37 people died in these protest.
Patidar Reservation Agitation in Gujrat: The agitation was started by the Patidar community who asked for the status of Other Backward Class. The agitation started in July 2015 in Gujrat and 11 people died in these protests.
Jat Reservation Agitation in Haryana: The Jat reservation agitation started in Haryana in 2016 when Jat community demanded inclusion of Jats in OBC category.
Our View: We know the reservation has been one of the most controversial issues in India and had it been effectively implemented, it would have ceased to exist after 10 years. You would be surprised to know even Babasaheb Ambedkar was not a supporter of reservation and he had stated that it should cease to exist after 10 years of commencement. He believed if the policy is strictly implemented, the secluded group would be able to compete with others. In India, reservations have been implemented for last 70 years and it is still going on without any review. The poor and the needy belonging to upper castes are the worst sufferers because although they are poor they are not classified as weaker section and therefore not entitled to special provisions (Except BPL). Also, they lack the power of organized revolution since they do not constitute the group in terms of vote bank. On the other side, a study in Karnataka revealed that 13% of rural Dalits are not able to wear clothes or jewelry of their own choice. Another study in Karnataka revealed that 70% of the Dalits were denied participation in the religious processions. Above example shows both the necessity of reservation as well as the necessity to review that it includes every section of society. Also, discrimination is an area that cannot be handled effectively only by reservation. Inter-Caste marriages should be promoted as they are the best way to reduce the caste barrier. We need strict laws and vigilance to protect the interest of the backward class. Also, we need an expansion of reservation in the judiciary as they have very less representation.
The unwanted consequences of reservation are, it had created divergence within the community and made it difficult for the reserved category to regain the confidence for open competitions. Second, under the new economic policy in which the privatization has been taking place the reservation has started to lose its meaning. It is difficult for Indian Government to force the reservation policy on the USA based MNC’s and more focus is required on proper education and skill development rather than reservation. The final solution is not to scrape the reservation or to continue it till the Earth lasts but to have a proper update of progress made under reservation. The concept of reservation only up-to 2 generations, reservation on the basis of economic conditions and promoting reservation in case of a girl child and special provision for SC, ST, and OBC belonging to rural areas could be a welcome move. Though in countries like India where fake certificates can be made just by spending 100 Rs it is a difficult task to implement if proper vigilance is done it is not a hard target to achieve. Also, special support is required from people belonging to reserved category and they should not use reservation if they are financially strong but they should allow the same reservation to be used by some needy candidate belonging to the same “caste” or “category”. Remember “No Nation is perfect, it’s perfect because of people living in it.”