SHOULD THERE BE RESERVATION?

SHOULD THERE BE RESERVATION?

To rule India — with her huge size and population — the British hit upon a simple yet brilliant idea: divide and rule, with the State playing the crucial role of an arbitrator between various warring groups.

The government of Independent India is largely a remnant of the British Raj with one crucial addition: the ruling elite, comprising Marxists and pseudo-Marxists, largely understands the collective psyche of Indians far better than our colonial oppressors. After all, poverty of ideas invariably leads to politics of poverty.

Accordingly, subsequent governments in India have first ensured shortages, and then played Santa by rationing the insufficient. Quotas fall in this genre.

Even after 60 years of independence, India is still struggling for socio-economic upliftment of weaker sections of society. Despite of tremendous efforts on the part of legislature, judiciary and executive like giving reservation to weaker section of society, we could not eliminate the huge socio-economic gap between the upper and the lower classes. India’s situation raises a question, “Where are we lacking?” “Shall we ever be able to fulfill the dreams of our freedom fighters who sacrificed their life for the independence and development of this country?”

Post independence, India has been trying hard to overcome the backwardness bequeathed to it by the 200 years of colonialism. The basic law of the land is the Constitution of India which incorporates various provisions for the furtherance of socio-economic development. The Indian society, since the Vedic times, has been trapped in the rigid caste system. Originally on the basis of division of labour in the society and was calculated to promote economic efficiency. It was possible for a member of one caste to change to another caste. But as the time passed, the caste system became rigid and social status of a person was determined by the caste he possessed. This led to a huge socio-economic gap between the upper and the lower classes/castes.

The foreign rule had eaten away the economy of India which led to a great technological gap between India and the world. It also withered away the love and feeling of brotherhood existing among the various classes of Indian society. At the time of independence, India was left with shattered economy and wrecked socio-political system.

Various political leaders from time to time advocated for the upliftment of lower classes. The father of nation Mahatma Gandhi assuring dignity to the schedule caste and underprivileged, raised voice against untouchability practised by the upper classes and called them “Harijans” i.e. God’s own people. By promulgating the rule of law and establishing India as a democratic state, the fore fathers of Indian Constitution tried to lay a strong social foundation.

The basic law of the land i.e. the Constitution of India also incorporates various provisions for the furtherance of socio-economic development. The very introduction of the constitution i.e. the preamble to the constitution declares to secure to all its citizens equality of status and of opportunity. Articles 14 – 18 are the main provisions which contain a comprehensive law relating to ‘right to equality’ and Article 17 specially talks about abolition of untouchability thereby ensuring equal and dignified treatment to all the classes and castes existing in India.

However, it was felt that equality can be talked amongst equals. And where there was huge socio-economic disparity among the various castes such principles might sound “Utopian”. So, the first positive action was taken in the very first year of inception of the Constitution i.e. in 1951, when clause (4) was added to Article 15 which provides “nothing in this article or clause 2 of article 29 shall prevent the state from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes”. Similarly Article 16 (4) creates reservation in the public employment i.e. “nothing in this article shall prevent the state from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which in the opinion of the state is not adequately represented in the services under the state”.

Such enabling provisions help in establishing ‘equality’ in the society. They confer discretion on the state to make special provisions or reservation or appointment as the case may be. At the time of their incorporation, these provisions were said to be a temporary measure introduced to uplift the socially and economically backward classes. However, so many years have passed and in the present political scenario there does not seem to be any intent to eliminate such provisions. Rather after every decade or so, these provisions are revised and the percentage of reservation is increased. In every election manifesto, fresh promises are made to promote the cause of lower classes. The constant renewal of these provisions and the consequential increase in the percentage of reservation every time, itself questions the efficacy of these provisions. More than fifty five years have passed since the Constitution came into force and the government is unable to improve the condition of lower classes and class discrimination is still prevalent in the society, thus it is implied that the so called enabling provisions are not implemented for the required purpose rather they are used for the desired purpose by the political parties i.e. to appease their vote bank.

Till date the burden of reservation was on the public sector but with the passing of 104th Amendment bill 2003 (93rd Amendment Act 2005) the burden is to be borne by the private sector as well. 93rd Amendment Act 2005 introduced reservation for SC/ST and other backward classes in private educational institutions. The idea of introducing reservation in private sector emerged because of adoption of new economic policy (NEP) by India, in 1990s which is based on globalization, liberalization and privatization. Adoption of NEP brought many multi- national corporations / companies (MNCs) to India. The foreign direct investment (FDIs) have increased and an upswing in the Indian economy is witnessed. The government is withdrawing from various business activities with a view to concentrate more on administration and governance of the country. The shrinking of the public sector has indicated the loss of job opportunity to the backward and scheduled classes. Thus eyes are on expanding private sector to make reservation for such classes.

However, the other segment of the society i.e. general category is not happy with such a proposal. Their contentions are that such proposal if implemented would ruin the economic growth of the country. Private sector depends on merit and efficiency. Profitability is the baseline of their business. So if they have to forego meritorious candidates for the sake of socio-economic justice then probably they would not take initiative to develop business in India and for India. It will also give a setback to the foreign investment in India and on the social front, it would enlarge the caste gaps because the general category feels that it is a discriminatory approach of the goal. The reservation on the basis of caste system will not only divide the country on the basis of caste but will also promote social injustices of the worst type. It is not a social justice to select the son of a millionaire so called backward caste parents with 40% marks and to reject the son of a landed labourer belonging to a non-reserved category with 80% marks. Such reservation will discourage hard work. The nation will prosper only when hard work is rewarded. It is not justified to implement such reservation policy as there is ambiguity regarding method of identification of weaker section which needs support for upliftment. Reservation have been in existence for more than 50 years and yet have not improved the lot of class in the middle and lower ranges of SC/ST. Only the so- called creamy layer of the SC/ST group and the privileged among the backward classes has benefitted out of it.

But disregarding the resentment shown by the upper classes, the government passed the 93rd Amendment Act 2005 to create reservation in private unaided educational institutions. In August 2005, the SC in P.A. Inamdar and others vs. State of Maharashtra and others declared that “the state can not impose its reservation policy on minority and non-minority un-aided private colleges including the professional colleges”. To override the SC

decision, on December 21, 2005 the Lok Sabha passed the 104th Constitutional Amendment Bill 2005 and introduced a new clause i.e. clause 5 into Article 15 to allow for reservation for SCs/STs as well as other backward classes in private unaided educational institutions other than minority institutions. SC again imposed restriction on reservation by its decision in Ashok Kumar Thakur vs. U.O.I. & others. In this case, the reservation granted to the OBC in the private educational institutions under Article 15 (5) and non inclusion of creamy layer has been challenged. The matter is still pending before the court. However, interim stay has been imposed upon the reservation to OBC in such admission until the judgment passed by the court.

Nobody disputes the need to uplift the poor and the under-privileged, but such reservation policy will never help them. If the politicians are really interested in their welfare, they will have to start with the root cause of the problem of their backwardness. Voluntary reservation by private sector is better than forced reservation and government should offer fiscal incentives, tax relief etc. to the organizations for giving voluntary reservation to weaker sections of society. As a first step, measures should be initiated to scrap caste system by law. This step will have to be supplemented with wide publicity that there are no higher or lower castes. In the application form for jobs, the column of caste should be deleted. Strict instructions should be issued to the recruiters that they would not ask the candidates to tell their castes in the interview. Once caste system is scrapped, the next step is to identify the real poor, the downtrodden and the under-privileged on individual basis in every village, town and city irrespective of caste, creed, religion or any other consideration. Third step should be to arrange for suitable education of the wards of these people free of cost. Every encouragement and incentive needs to be given to children of such parents to join the schools. They must be given all possible facilities for higher education as well. Once they are educated according to their inclinations and attitudes, arrangements must be made for coaching institutes which should prepare such youth for competitive examination. The fourth step is to realize target of universal education at the earliest possible. There should be a well-conceived plan of incentives and disincentives for parents to send their children to schools. There should be common syllabi of education right from the lowest to the highest level of education.

The question of lack of funds should not be allowed to come in the way of putting through these plans. No other investment is as important as investment incurred for human resources development. It must be emphasized that these steps should be taken not in a chronological order but simultaneously because we cannot afford to lose time any more. Let there be a five year plan specially devoted to this purpose.

It is the need of the hour that we should understand our responsibility towards our country and work for its development instead of thinking for selfish ends. There is no doubt that weaker section of society needs a helping hand for its upliftment, but this helping hand should be such which actually reach them and raise them from darkness of backwardness. For this, we have to give up age old rigid reservation policy which could not address the desired end result even after 56 years of independence. If we follow the above suggestions, then the day is not far away when all sections of the society will come up almost at the same level and hard work and excellence will dominate which certainly constitutes the bedrock of justice in an equalitarian society. The truth needs to be told, facts debated and our assumptions re-calibrated

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