Reservations: Is There Any Scope For Reforming The Process?

Aarti Chawla
Sunday, 20 October 2019

We live in a free country and this freedom is gifted to us by democracy. We have the right to freedom and, more importantly, the right to exercise this freedom in an equitable manner.

We live in a free country and this freedom is gifted to us by democracy. We have the right to freedom and, more importantly, the right to exercise this freedom in an equitable manner. To protect this right, the government must ensure that equality and equity prevail across all sections of society.

However, today, the issue of equality is raised by many in the society about whether economic criterion should be the focus of reservations? According to them, the major challenges faced by them (as an open category) is the inequality in our reservation system. Is that a valid argument? 

Speaking on the issue, Anjali Kurane, Professor of Anthropology at Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) said, ““I strongly feel that in India there is a need for reservation policy for the all backward caste people. The reservation policy is made to overcome the social backwardness and there is a large section in Indian society which is still backward, so if we want to have an egalitarian society, then there is no alternative but to give the special privilege to the backward castes.”

“Further, I would like to add that ‘reservation’ is not new. Reservation policy was before the Independence also, during the British period. And as an anthropologist, I’ll say that reservation policy was there in India since the BC, the only thing is category has changed. Like, initially, everything (100 per cent) was reserved for privileged class/caste people. Later, after the constitution came into existence, a little bit part of reservation was given to socio-economically backward people. And now if we see, it is (reservation) not 100 per cent i.e. 50 per cent and there also, I feel reservation is an equal opportunity for all communities,”” said Professor Kurane.

Class-based division
Reservation system in India was implemented in our Constitution to uplift the backward castes. Initially, the caste system was divided on the basis of the occupation of the people but lately, it has became an instrument to divide the society, which is creating a wall between the society.

Due, to ‘casteism’, lower caste people were discriminated in their daily lives which led to implementation of reservation system in India. But if we look at the flip side, the scenario is that due to the reservation system, the backward caste members get many benefits in the context of college admissions, government jobs and many other monetary benefits as well. This in a way is inequality and also displays a biased condition for the person who has the potential of a particular college seat but cannot get it as the backward class person is benefited and gets that seat.

While speaking to Gunratna Sontakke, Research Scholar from Savitribai Phule Pune University, he said, “As part of my research, I could understand the extent of caste-based discrimination in rural areas, those who were born and brought up in urban areas feel that it (reservation) is not required, they are not aware of the ground realities. However, the policy of reservation should be continued to bring them (the backward strata of the society) into the mainstream of society because caste-based discrimination is still prevalent in rural areas and in different forms and strategies in urban areas.”

“Such policies of positive-discrimination (reservation) are also being run in the western countries like the USA. If we really want to end this policy in India, we all should strive to annihilate the caste completely, then there will be no need to give caste-based reservation,” said Sontakke.

Is reformation possible
The issue raised by many in the open caste category is that even they should be given reservation based on their economic condition. Here the question that arises is should we ‘reform’ the system?

Well, over the years, much progress has been made. Many have risen from extreme poverty, the literacy rate has increased, life expectancy rate has gone up and much more. Likely, many challenges still remain, out of them one is lack of opportunity. But, there are still few cities and towns in our country where backward class people are still discriminated in their daily lives because they can’t match the standards of upper caste people. There are still a few people who have this mindset.

Certain downtrodden people are still discriminated, ill-treated and sometimes face violence as well and this discrimination not only exists in small towns and villages but in metropolitan cities as well. There are many (adivasis) who don’t even know their basic rights and due to this, they have been taken advantage of by upper caste people.

As the protest for Maratha quota gained momentum earlier this year, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had set a deadline for the State government enacting the reservation law. The quota bill, which is facing legal challenges was passed much ahead of the schedule. The political parties across the State supported the bill called the Maharashtra State Reservation (of seats for admission in educational institutions in the state and for appointments in public services and posts under the state) for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018.

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