Dilemma of Reservation and merit system



The year 2021 is the centenary year of the “Communal” Government Order (GO) in Madras Presidency. It introduced reservations based on castes and communities.

GO was the acknowledgment of the social inequalities prevalent in the society, by the British.

Reservation became one of the most divisive public issues, dividing them into ‘reserved’ and ‘general’ categories. The reservation was seen as the opposite of a merit system.

Reservation, the especially caste-based reservation has been established as bad, whereas the reservations in the name of ‘Merit Stream’ for the wards of employees or alumni of universities and colleges is seen as right and justified.

  • For example; some of the colleges reserve postgraduate seats for the students enrolled in their own undergraduate honors programs. But officially this system is called the ‘Merit Stream’.

However, now with the EWS quota and entry of reserved category students in unreserved categories this difference is getting blurred.

Are the merit system and caste-based reservation, mutually exclusive?

  • If not segregated by the ideological differences, all reservations use merit-based criteria for the selection of eligible candidates. Thus, they are not mutually exclusive.
  • Even in the merit-based system, reservation like arrangements has been established that built exclusionary access. merit is achieved by a mix of ability, effort, and social capital and the social capital plays the most crucial role in it.
    • For example; expensive private schools or coaching institutes are affordable for the rich only, thus ability and effort only cannot get a student admission in them.
  • Most recent judgment in the Saurav Yadav vs. State of Uttar Pradesh case, reiterate the judgment of Mandal judgment, that un-reserved category must be open to all and selection should be merit-based, including for those belonging to categories entitled to reservations.
  • Thus, the reserved candidates making their way into the unreserved categories by the competition with the unreserved candidates should be appreciated.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Free IAS Preparation by Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to the blog followed by several Rankholders and ensure success in IAS.