[Answered] Critically examine Caste based Reservation system in India. Discuss the way forward.

Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Write both positive and negative effects of caste based reservation system.
Conclusion. Way forward.

Reservation in Indian law is a form of affirmative action whereby a percentage of seats are reserved in the public sector units, union and state civil services, union and state government departments and in all public and private educational institutions for the socially and educationally backward communities and the Scheduled Castes and Tribes who are inadequately represented in these services and institutions.

Arguments that favour caste based reservation:

  1. Equal Opportunities and respectThe underlying theory for the reservation by the state is the under-representation of the identifiable groups as a legacy of the Indian caste system. The framers of the Constitution believed that, due to the caste system, SCs and the STs were historically oppressed and denied respect and equal opportunity in Indian society and were thus under-represented in nation-building activities.
  2. Oppression on weaker sections of the societyThe oppression of the weaker section of society (Including lower and backward castes and tribes) by the stronger (upper castes) section has not ended. In fact, it has been aggravated. A new era of social justice and equality still remains a dream to be achieved. The benefits of development have been appropriated by about 20 per cent of the population at the top.
  3. Social JusticeIt establishes a new social order that would secure to the underprivileged sectors of our society justice in social relations and equality of opportunity to rise in society.

Arguments against the caste based reservation:

  1. Increased CasteismCasteism has been granted a fresh lease of life. Our country is already divided into various groups. Reservation will further divide the population artificially. Earlier, reservations were accepted under special conditions for a period of fifteen years only, but continuing them forever will produce vested interests and separatism, and will lead to a caste-war and the disintegration of the country.
  2. Reduced meritocracy- Merit and calibre have been replaced by mediocrity. Reservation policy has generated a spirit of self-denigration, each caste and community competing to be more backward than others.
  3. Breach of 50% limit- The Supreme Court ruled that reservations cannot exceed 50% and put a cap on reservations. The central government of India reserves 27% of higher education, and individual states may legislate further reservations. Reservation in most states is at 50%, but certain Indian states like Rajasthan have proposed a 68% reservation that includes a 14% reservation for forward castes in services and education. However, there are states laws that exceed this 50% limit. For example, the caste-based reservation fraction stands at 69% and is applicable to about 87% of the population in the state of Tamil Nadu.
  4. Vote bank politics- Attempts to include more and more castes/classes in the list of OBCs, have changed the social and economic landscape beyond recognition.
  5. Increased conflicts- In some states for anti-reservation agitation have increased violence in the society. There is increase in discontent among people of advanced castes. The seventies, the eighties and the first six years of the nineties witnessed countrywide waves of violent protests.
  6. Impact on administrative efficiency- This not only politicised the civil services but also affected the efficiency of the administration. Most of the officers are now working on the basis of caste and creed.

Way forward

Reservations should be accompanied by structural changes like land reforms and an inclusive educational support systems. The demands for special concessions and privileges to the under­privileged are matters of right and not of charity or philanthropy. All the commissions and the committees that have examined this issue like the Kelkar Commission have accepted the need for compensatory discrimination to a certain limit. Reservation policy should be reviewed every five years so that the state can rectify distortions and people both backward and non-backward. The poor should get special weightage but a watchdog body should keep an eye on their progress. As soon as it is found that they no longer need the crutches of reservations, all jobs should be declared open to all.

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