It’s often said that public has a short term memory. In India, policy of reservations has successfully defied this notion. Some thing or the other keeps popping up in the news every few days. So, what’s exactly reservations all about?
Reservations were envisaged by the founding fathers of the constitution as means to reverse the ill effects of the historical suppression of the lower classes of society by the upper class. They envisioned equality in the constitution as Equality among Equals. Keeping this view in mind, it’s not difficult to see that the lower classes needed a push and this is how Reservation Policy came around.
Not going into the political nature of the issue, the reservation was extended to the Other Backward Classes by VP Singh govt on the recommendation of Mandal Commission. After a subsequent Supreme Court judgement, the current status on caste based reservation is as follows:
- 15% for SCs
- 7.5% for STs
- 27% for OBCs – Non Creamy Layer
This reservation is with respect to access to seats in the different legislatures, government jobs, and to enrolment in higher educational institutions.
Ever since OBCs have received reservations, the general population have, time and again, vocally protested against the policy for obvious reasons. After realising that reservation policy wouldn’t end so easily, many castes have often agitated for reservation for themselves.
In light of the present situation, keeping the impact of the policy and changing times into view, one needs to critically examine the policy now. Taking the broader issue first. Should the policy be ended?
I believe this would be a bad idea. Taking “Roti, Kapda aur makaan” as still the basic needs, lets look into few numbers to see why.
- Literacy Rate for SCs and STs stood at 62% compared to the national average of 73% in 2009-10. In 1961, the respective numbers were 8.5% and 28.3%
- Poverty: While around 42% of the rural population was poor, around 47% STs, 37% SCs, 28% OBCs and 16% from the general category were poor in 2004-05. In 1993-94, the numbers were 37.3% (total), 53% (STs) and 48% (SCs) src: http://www.nird.org.in/Rural%20Development%20Statistics%202011-12/data/sec-10.pdf
The above numbers make two things very clear. Firstly, reservation policy has been successful. The beneficiaries have taken advantage of the policy to make it into the mainstream. Secondly, there is a need to continue the policy as there is still a stark difference between different sections.
However, the policy in its current form seems inefficient. Something is definitely out of place when a policy isn’t able to give the desired results in a span of over 70 years. This brings us back to the first intervention made by the Supreme Court when policy was extended to OBCs. SC introduced the concept of Non Creamy Layer, thereby excluding the economically and administratively inclusive sections of OBCs from the umbrella of reservations.
I believe same should be extended to SCs and STs. In the present form, it’s major beneficiaries are those sections of SCs and STs whose previous generations were benefited by the policy. Taking creamy layer out of the umbrella would give better opportunities to those sections of societies who really need it, making the policy more efficient. Even the general population criticises the policy when they see those unworthy of it, taking advantage of reservations.
Some might argue that reservations should be made for economically weaker sections of the societies but this argument doesn’t really stand ground. Reservation is an Indian Jugaad to uplift the suppressed “castes” of societies to reverse the effects of “their historical suppression”. To cater to the economically weak sections of society, government has several measures in place. This said, economic inequalities are bound to remain in every society no matter what you do. Compromising meritocracy for achieving economic equality is undesirable in a liberal society.
Thus, a more robust policy, where only the needy get the benefits, would help the policy achieve its goals and I don’t see a better way than extending the principle of Non Creamy Layer to the policy of reservations to make it robust.
“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer” – William Blackstone
In his seminal work “Commentaries on the Laws of England”, William Blackstone expressed this idea which though not new, was then cemented and became a profound principle in criminal law.
I find this quote rather under celebrated. To confine it to the brim of law and judiciary seems unjustified. For me, this summarises the differences between every ideology with a tinge of liberalism and those inclined towards radicalism. The focus on the rights of an individual associated with the quote has served as baseline for Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the stepping stone of liberalism.
Having journeyed through different ideologies and philosophies, it seemed we were converging to Liberalism. Year 2016, however, has seen a lot of diversions. Brexit could possibly be marked as the first event this year to reflect the shifting ideologies. People of Britain in a historic referendum chose to exit EU. If I may, British willingness to make innocents suffer (migrants) to salvage the economy (equivalent to punishing guilty which the move may or may not) goes to point out the shift.
In another part of the world, Colombians rejected the FARC peace deal, albeit marginally, because the idea of letting ten guilty persons escape than an innocent suffering apparently didn’t appeal to the citizens. People want FARC members to be punished even if it means prolonging an already consuming civil war and unrest. To top the above events, Americans didn’t mind choosing Donald Trump as the “Leader of the Free World” neglecting his inherent xenophobia, racism, sexism. Making America great again got priority over the side casualties to every other section of American society except for white males.
This finally brings us back to India. The government has demonetised the notes of INR 500 and INR 1000 to curb the growing menace of black money, counterfeit currency and terror financing, but at what cost? When the dust settles, it will be interesting to see what price of a human life can be used for future policies to be paid as collateral damage.
We are living in “exciting” times, witnessing a change in the prevalent ideologies. This period will definitely make a mark in History; good or bad is yet to be seen. If something can be said for sure, it’s that “The Times They Are A-Changin’ “!
Much has been discussed and debated recently about Uniform Civil Code with Central Government being asked by the apex court of its response on Shayara Bano’s petition. Petitioner Bano challenged the constitutionality of Section 2 of the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, in so far as it seeks to recognise and validate polygamy, triple talaq and ‘nikah halala’. The Union government told the Supreme Court that ‘triple talaq’, ‘nikaah halaal’ and polygamy, as practised by the Muslims in India, were not “integral to the practices of Islam or essential religious practices”.
In a piece of news which has created a storm across the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to the Washroom and didn’t click any selfie with the toilet paper, allegedly Made In India.