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Lecturrete Topic 101 - Indian Reservation Policy


In simple terms, reservation in India is all about reserving access to seats in the government jobs, educational institutions, and even legislatures to certain sections of the population.

Also known as affirmative action, the reservation can also be seen as positive discrimination. Reservation in India is a government policy, backed by the Indian Constitution (by means of various amendments).

The purpose of reservation in India

The two main aims to provide reservation as per the Constitution of India are:

  • Advancement of Scheduled Castes (SC) and the Scheduled Tribes (ST) OR any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens (Eg: OBC) OR economically weaker sections (EWS) – Article 15 (4), Article 15 (5), and Article 15 (6),

  • Adequate representation of any backward class of citizens OR economically weaker sections (EWS) in the services under the State. – Article 16 (4) and Article 16 (6).

The underlying theory for the provision of reservation by the state is the under-representation of the identifiable groups as a legacy of the Indian caste system. After India gained independence, the Constitution of India listed some erstwhile groups as Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST).

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.

The Constitution laid down 15% and 7.5% of vacan­cies to government aided educational institutes and for jobs in the government/public sector, as reserved quota for the SC and ST candidates respectively for a period of five years, after which the situation was to be reviewed.

Committees and Commissions on the Issue of Reservation:

A. 1882 – Hunter Commission was appointed. Mahatma Jyotirao Phule made a demand for free and compulsory education for all along with proportionate reservation/representation in government jobs.

B. 1953-Kalelkar Commission was established to assess the situation of the socially and educationally backward class. The report was accepted as far as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were concerned. The recommendations for OBC were rejected.

C. 1979-Mandal Commission was established to assess the situation of the socially and educationally backward. The commission didn’t have exact figures for a sub-caste, known as the Other Backward Class (OBC), and used the 1930 census data, further classifying 1,257 communities as backward, to estimate the OBC population at 52%.ln 1980, the commission submitted a report, and recommended changes to the existing quotas, increasing them from 22% to 49.5%.ln 1990, the Mandal commission recommendations were implemented in Government Jobs by Vishwanath Pratap Singh. Student Organisations launched nationwide agitations. Rajiv Goswami, a Delhi university student attempted self-immolation. Many students followed suit.

D. 2003- The Sachar Committee headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar, and including Sayyid Hamid, Dr. T.K. Ooman, M.A. Basith, Dr.Akhtar Majeed, Dr.Abu Saleh Shariff and Dr.Rakesh Basant was appointed for preparation of a report on the social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community of India. Dr.Syed Zafar Mahmood was the civil servant appointed by the PM as Officer on Special Duty to the Committee. The committee submitted its report in the year 2006.

The issue of reservation has remained a cause of disagreement between the reserved and the non- reserved sections of the society. While the unreserved segments , keep on opposing the provision, the neediest sections from within the reserved segments are hardly aware about how to get benefits from the provision or even whether there are such provisions.

On the contrary, the creamy layer among the same segment is enjoying special privileges in the name of reservation and political factions are supporting them for vote banks. Reservation is no doubt good, as far as it is a method of appropriate positive discrimination for the benefit of the downtrodden and economically backward Sections of the society but when it tends to harm the society and ensures privileges for some at the cost of others for narrow political ends, as it is in the present form, it should be done away with, as soon possible.

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