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Reservations, The Way Ahead

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.

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Uniform Civil Code: The dilemma

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”.

This has brought the topic of Uniform Civil Code into foreground again. While a large majority approves of UCC, the critics of UCC come mainly from Islamist groups who claim this would be a violation of their Right to practice their religion. Interestingly, apart from the aforementioned fundamental right, Constitution also says that “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India” in Article 44 (Directive Principles of State Policy)
However, Directive Principles of State Policy are not enforceable by any court, but are fundamentals to borrow for efficient, progressive and constitutional governance. This said, one needs to emphasise that in case of conflict in Fundamental Rights and DPSP, Fundamental Rights are to be upheld as they are enforceable.
But is Uniform Civil Code a mere reflection of the mentioned DPSP? Isn’t it enforcing the Right of Equality for women suffering because of regressive laws? Right to Life granted by the constitution comes with Right to dignity as stated by judgements of Supreme Court. Isn’t the practice of Triple Talaaq a violation to the Right of Dignity to the affected women.
A religion which doesn’t evolve with time to absorb the contemporary changes either dies or kills. The motivation of the Central Government behind implementing Uniform Civil Code shouldn’t let us diverge from the main topic in hand which is Right to Equality. It is about time good decisions are taken for the benefit of all.

ssshhh, People may get offended!

Hey there random stranger!

Do you know more people worry about their Gods (yeah, those people we read about in novels from yore) being shown in bad light than the lives of real human beings around them.

Do you know people are more concerned about two friends cussing at each other than paying attention to the cries of help by a girl being molested.

Well, now you know!

We are human beings which Google defines as

  1. “a man, woman, or child of the species Homo sapiens, distinguished from other animals by superior mental development, power of articulate speech, and upright stance.”

I have no doubt as far as power of articulate speech and upright stance is considered, but my problem is with the clause of superior mental development.

Life of a living being is unarguably the most precious asset. Humans kill each other for reasons like religion, family honour, not to mention the other “usual” reasons. Till date I haven’t witnessed or heard of animals killing each other for reasons as superficial as these. Do humans still come out as the living beings with superior mental development?

Next would probably be the freedom of speech, freedom to express oneself. Ever heard of animals boycotting a particular river because it allowed animals of other species to drink water from it? Ever read about lions not letting elephants trumpet? I think your answer would be same as mine, NO. Now try to think of similar examples in humans. Yeah, there are plenty, the AIB roast being the latest in the list.

So, are you still thinking we are superior to other animals when it comes to mental development? ssshhh, don’t say it out loud, people may get offended!