Reservation: A Social Transformation Hijacked by Political Ambition
This Article was shortlisted as the top entries at Educoncours 1st National Journalism Competition
“You cannot build anything on the foundation of CASTE. You cannot build up a nation. You cannot build up a morality…”
-Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
India has seen a number of social reformation since its independence. There has been a betterment in the conditions of women, children and senior citizens in various ways through various laws and Acts. All this has been possible due to the Constitution of India which is the supreme law of the land.
In India the plan of reservations, quotas and first preferences for the socially backward and disadvantaged people is ancient. It was believed that US is the first country which came up with the provision for underprivileged and marginalised class in 1960 but the plight of the socially disadvantaged class was recognized much earlier in India and the evidence to this is the provisions in the Indian Constitution. Article 366 (24) and 366 (25) defines Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes, respectively. Article 341 and 342 mentions about the broad policy issues and development level of SCs and STs, respectively. Article 16 ensures equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.. Article 15 prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, caste, race, sex or place of birth. Article 46 stipulates that the State should promote educational and economic interests of Schedule Castes, Schedule Tribes and other weaker sections. Article 335 contemplates that the claims of Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes to be taken into consideration to services and posts. Article 330 and 332 is about the reservation of seats for Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes in the House of People and in the State Legislative Assembly respectively. Article 243D and 243T is about the reservation of seats for the Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes in Panchayat and in the Municipalities, respectively. Article 334 which has been amended several times states that the reservation of seats and special representation to cease after seventy years. This time span was of twenty years with effect from 1970 but it has been amended and an extension every ten years is added till date making the reservation cease after seventy years w.e.f. 25-1-2020.
The reservation system in India is an affirmative action in which a percentage of seats are reserved in the Union and State civil services, public sectors, Union and State government departments and in all public and private educational institutions for the socially backward class of the society. The rationale behind this idea hailed by the framers of the Constitution was that due to the prevalent caste system SCs and the STs were socially suppressed and were denied equal opportunities in every field of life. This implied that they were under-represented in the important activities of the nation. The Constitution laid down 15% and 7.5% of seats should be vacated as reserved quota for the SC and ST candidates respectively in government-aided educational institutes and for the jobs in public sectors. This was for a period of five years after which the situation was supposed to be reviewed. The system of reservation today has taken its hold in every field of work. It has become related to vote bank politics and the following governments along with the Indian parliament kept on extending this period routinely without any proper and fair revisions. Article 334 of the Indian Constitution is the evidence to the above-mentioned fact.
Today, the reservation has become so deep-rooted that any small effort to eradicate it results in a revolt by the supporter of this idea. Today it has become more of a weapon for winning the elections. The sole motive of reservation of giving equal opportunities to everyone is not achieved even after 70 years of Independence. A chunk of the population living in remote areas is not even aware of these policies. The Creamy Layer which is relatively wealthier backward class enjoyed the special privilege of reservation until Justice Krishna Iyer in 1975 in the case of State of Kerala vs NM Thomas observed that the benefits of reservation are snatched away by the top creamy layer of the backward caste and thus keeping the weakest among the weak always weak. They are not eligible for government-sponsored benefits in education and employment. In any competitive exam, they are to be characterized under General category.
This system of reservation has slowly turned into a problem in the Indian society today. Reservation policy in today’s Indian society promotes caste over hard work, talent and intellect. Article 16 contemplates equality of opportunity in the matter of public employment. To implement the equality in its true sense, the clause 4 was introduced in this article. The expression in clause 4 “nothing in this article” refers that no other clause in this Article shall prevent the Legislature to make provisions for the backward class. The term “backward classes” is used in the similar sense as in Article 15(4) which provides special provisions for admission in educational institutes to the backward classes candidates. In M.R. Balaji v. State of Mysore, the Mysore government had issued an order under the Article 15(4) and reserved the seats in Engineering and Medical Colleges in that State up to 68% for the backward classes candidates. Only 32% seats were to be filled on merit basis. The Court held that Article 15(4) enables the State to make special provisions but not exclusive provisions for the members of the backward classes. The State would not be justified in ignoring altogether advancement of the rest of the society in its zeal to promote the welfare of backward classes. National interest would suffer if qualified and competent students were excluded from admission in institutions of higher education. The Court said that the special provisions should be less than 50%. But how much less than 50% would depend upon the relevant prevailing circumstances in each case. In the case of Indra Sawhney on 16 November 1992, the Supreme Court maintained the Mandal Commission's 27 percent share for in reserve classes, and also the rule that the consolidated planned station, booked tribe, and in reserve class recipients ought not to surpass 50 percent of India's populace. In the meantime, the Supreme Court likewise struck down the administration notice saving 10% government jobs or services for financially reserve classes among the higher ranks. Supreme Court was of the opinion that reserve classes of the Citizens in Article 16(4) can be recognized on the premise of standing and not just on the financial premise. This case made two important points, first was the 50% cap on the reservation, on the ground that the backwardness does not exist in theory; it relies on the average on society. Second, the Court held that reservation in public employment could only exist at the entry level.
The present situation unmistakably portrays that the "lower" positions are still segregated in their everyday lives. In Kerala, the reservation was given to the Muslim people and Latin Catholics even ideal from the 1950s, so, much so that the then Kerala Chief Minister, Mr A.K. Antony expressed that Muslims in Kerala had more advantages and that Muslims and Christians were more prosperous than the Hindus in Kerala. It was a sharp blend for some government officials in Kerala who needed Mr Antony to withdraw his announcement, however, a couple of scholarly people maintained his perspectives. On the quality of Mr Antony's announcement, will there be reservation for the alleged "top class" Hindus who have now turned out to be in a backward category?
To evacuate casteism it is essential that we battle the reservation framework which alone will lead us to improvement, competency, balance and solidarity. In any case, will any politician give more importance to the reality, a reality which won’t fetch them valuable votes? Reservation was included in the Constitution for the betterment of the oppressed by the framers of the Constitution but what they did not foresee was the political selfishness and greed of the forthcoming generations of politicians. Will the government give education ideal for each citizen the SCs, STs, backward classes, other backward classes and the main part of the poor among the supposed 'forward groups'? Are we phasing our reservation or making a reservation a never-ending process till such time as the poor among the supposed 'forward groups' turned out to be adequately minimized to wage another battle for reservation!
If reservation had been effectively implemented with the motive of making every man capable of contributing to the GDP of the nation, it would have ceased to exist after 10 years of Constitution. The reservation in India has been implemented for the last 70 years and is still going on without any proper review. One of the unwanted consequence of reservation is the divergence created by the community. This reservation system which is currently existent kills the talent, hard work and intellect of a meritorious student and promotes casteism in education and in employment.We need good doctors, lawyers, athletes to run our nation but it cannot be possible if the reservation system keeps rejecting the true talent on the basis of caste. Most important thing that we fail to understand is that not every general category candidate is rich and not every backward class candidate is poor. If a law can be dynamic then why not reservation also be dynamic? Earlier criteria were the under-privileged people who discriminated on the basis of their caste. But today the caste system is not that strong and so the ECONOMIC and EDUCATIONAL background must be the major criteria for reservation. This will help the talent to reach its true destination and will ultimately contribute in proper development of the nation. Underprivileged candidate’s merit should be considered and not the caste. Thus, if the government make rules like making education free and compulsory till 12th standard, propose reservation based on economic status then the misuse of the reservation system will be reduced to a great extent. Revolutionary change in education system can lead to eradication of evil political ambitions. Reservation in Parliament is fine as there is a need for a representative for every community in the Parliament but not in educational and employment field. If the current reservation system keeps on existing then there will be a time when getting basic things will be far-fetched for the general category people. This will initiate the revolt of reservation for the general category. And so, this cycle of revolting for reservation will never end only this time it will be the so-called “OPEN” category people.
1976 AIR 490, 1976 SCR (1) 906
 AIR 1963 SC 643
 AIR 1993 SC 477
Author: Avantika Singh
College: Amity Law School, Mumbai
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