“It is against the fundamental principles of humanity, it is against the dictates of reason that a man should, by reason of birth, be denied or given extra privileges”– Mahatma Gandhi
Article 14 of the Indian Constitution guarantees equality of status and opportunity, and it is a fundamental right that protects equality before the law. Reservation is an attempt to foster citizen equality by providing all residents with equal and fair chances. They are generally government-initiated projects in educational and government settings to ensure that Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Castes are not pushed backwards and are involved in all initiatives, sectors, and schemes. Only socially and educationally inferior classes were given reservation under the Indian Constitution. In India, however, caste-based reservation took the place of class-based reservation. Reservation has become the greatest foe of meritocracy, failing to achieve its goal of providing equal opportunity to all. It makes us wonder aren’t there any alternative mechanisms to uplift the marginalized so that merit is not compromised?
By offering reservation through relaxed entry criteria, we are fueling inflation of moderate credentials as opposed to the promotion of merit based education system. Reservation policy has openly promoted caste over intellect and hard work. As a result, of the current reservation policy, we are generating substandard engineers, doctors, bureaucrats, and other professionals. At a young age, the reservation policy has begun to divide India’s future generations. Children who do not belong to a reserved category must work twice as hard as a child who has a reserved future and already has significantly more financial resources. Reservations should be given to the needy in the form of monetary assistance rather than at the cost of knowledge.
Article 16 of the Constitution guarantees equality of opportunity when it comes to public employment. The first two clauses of the Article explain the fact that no citizens of India shall face discrimination in respect of employment. These two clauses lay the foundation for equal employment opportunity and eliminate compartmentalization in the name of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, or any other. In individual states such as Tamil Nadu or within the northeast, where backward populations predominate, over 80% of government jobs are set aside in quotas, despite Supreme Court in the case of Indra Sawhney v. Union of India[i] ruled that 50% ought to be the maximum limit. There is a rise in brain drain, with under graduates and graduates transferring to foreign universities for higher education, as meritorious candidates fear being overtaken by those with inferior academic performance or intelligence. Only because of their preservation of merit do the IITs and IIMs, hold such high reputation in today’s world. Merit is the only means that can help India compete with developed countries of the world.
Caste-based reservation strengthens the concept of caste in society rather than reducing it as a social component, as the constitution intended. Other minorities are demanding reserved representation as well, which would result in a situation in which the majority’s seat is not proportional to their population. As a result, the entire goal of ensuring equal opportunity is destroyed. The quota policy has created a hostile environment between people of different castes. Regional political parties have sprung with a goal to promote casteism for their partisan gains and vote banks. Reservation has evolved into a political weapon.
In addressing social justice problems, a comprehensive Affirmative Action plan that takes into account a variety of exclusionary characteristics can be provided. In the case Balaji v/s State of Mysore,[ii] it was held that ‘caste of a person cannot be the sole criteria for ascertaining whether a particular caste is backward or not. Determinants such as poverty, occupation, place of habitation may all be relevant factors to be taken into consideration. The government should review the test and if a class reaches the state of progress where the reservation is not necessary it should delete that class from the list of backward classes.’ At the grass roots level, revolutionary changes like eliminating the entire creamy layer of all castes from reservation and enhancing their potential rather than handing them a reservation for higher education or jobs is urgently required.
It can be inferred that reservation policy, if it continues, is more likely to widen the caste divide than to narrow it. The harsh reality is that these policies will never assist in achieving the long-sought goal of equality. As a result, significant evaluation of India’s reservation policy is required, particularly when it comes to educational institutions and employment opportunities. Reservation is fair, as long as it provides appropriate positive discrimination for the benefit of the oppressed and economically backward sections of the society. However, when merit and efficiency are in grave danger, it is necessary to attempt a fresh strategy and remove reservation.
We need a policy that truly assists people who are denied of education and other opportunities for a better life. In every way, reservation is impeding the country’s progress, development, and capability. On one hand, our constitution’s preamble declares that we are a free, democratic and sovereign nation and on the other hand, reservation system is chaining all these aspects into its clutches. Reservation is only one strategy for achieving social advancement. Other approaches, such as offering scholarships, funding, coaching, and other welfare systems, could be used to ensure that everyone is treated fairly. It is past time we addressed the issue of reservation in an open, honest, and innovative manner.
1. Dr. Ashish Singhal, Eakramuddin, Jamshed Ansari, A Study on the issues of reservation policies in India, International Research Journal of Engineering and Technology (IRJET), Vol. 06, no. 04, April 2019, pp. 4253-4260, https://www.irjet.net/archives/V6/i4/IRJET-V6I4894.pdf
2. Shubham Aparajita and Rishee Rhudra, Right to Equality in India Vis-À-Vis Reservation in Favour of Backward Classes, International Journal of Law and Legal Jurisprudence Studies, Vol. 2, no. 7, pp. 302-311, http://ijlljs.in/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/221.pdf.
3. Nitesh Mishra, An Analysis of Reservation in India, Law Times Journal, https://lawtimesjournal.in/an-analysis-of-reservation-in-india/.
[i] Indra Sawhney v. Union of India, (1992) Supp. (3) SCC 217.
[ii] Balaji v. State of Mysore, AIR 1963 SC 649.
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