reservation system in india

Reservation in India is a system of affirmative action that provides representation for historically and currently disadvantaged groups in Indian society in education, employment and politics. Enshrined in Articles 15 and 16 of the Indian Constitution, it allows the Indian government to set quotas to ensure any “socially and educationally backward classes of citizens” is properly represented in public life. It is intended to realise the promise of equality enshrined in the Constitution of India.

Reservation is primarily given to 3 groups: Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes, abbreviated as SC, ST, and OBC respectively. These are groups that have faced social and economic discrimination in the past and/or the present and were severely underrepresented in public life. Today anyone whose forefathers belonged to ST/SC community gets the benefits of reservation irrespective of his socioeconomic status. Originally reservation was only given to SCs and STs but was later extended to OBCs in 1987 after the implementation of the Mandal Commission report.

 Need for reservation-

  • To correct the historical injustice faced by backward castes in the country.
  • To provide a level playing field for backward section as they cannot compete with those who have had the access of resources and means for centuries.
  • To ensure adequate representation of backward classes in the services under the State.                                                                
  • For advancement of backward classes.
  • To ensure equality as basis of meritocracy i.e all people must be brought to the same level before judging them on the basis of merit.

Reservation system is one of those topics which will always have two sides and both sides will aggressively defend their stance. Reservation system refers to that system in which people who  are from backward classes are given reservation due to which they will be selected in government colleges and government jobs even when they get lower marks or merit in the examinations as compared to normal or general class. In order to understand about this system, one should look at the advantages and disadvantages of reservation system.

Though the Reservation System works in favour of the backward castes of the society, at the same time, it has brewed up some controversies in the country too. It is believed that the system supersedes merit in certain circumstances, when meritorious candidates are deprived of the jobs or admissions so that candidates of backward classes can be accommodated as per the reservation system. Moreover, the system is confined to government institutions and firms, while those in the private sector are still beyond the reach of people belonging to the backward classes, either because they lack the skills needed to enter these firms or institutions or they are not financially sound enough to afford them. Some believe that the reservation system is a political tool to get hold of the backward class vote bank and it has an overall negative impact on the productive workforce of the country by ignoring the people with true potential and giving people opportunities on the basis of caste rather than merit.In India, reservation is provided for historically backward and suppressed classes of Hindu society. These include the scheduled caste or SC, scheduled tribe or ST and other backward classes or OBC. The reservation in provided in the fields of education as lower cut-off marks for entry into educational institutes, reserving parliament or legislative assembly seats and reserving job vacancies. 

The advantage of these reservations is that they allow these backward classes a chance at improving their lives and status in society and getting meaningful employment. They also get representation in various aspects of society and decision making, something that has been denied to them for a long time.

The disadvantage of the reservation is that it suppresses meritocracy, that is the availability of options to the most capable and deserving person. An example may be taken from the field of education. The top engineering colleges in India conduct an entrance test to admit students. However because of the reservation system, the reserved seats go to candidates who scored less than half the marks as compared to general candidates. This also means that the reserved candidates are less capable than their peers in the classroom and hence almost always play the role of second-class citizens. So even though the system may have some merits, it should be used with caution and not indiscriminately.

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