Reservation

“By equating reservation and social justice, the political discourse has prevented a deeper debate on the meaning of equality of opportunity and ideas for effective economic redistribution, where reservation is just one tool.” Elaborate and examine if reservation, as practiced in India, furthers substantive equality.(200 Words)

 
The provision of reservation was given by our founder fathers for a limited times, during which the govt could be able to take decisive steps so as to bring the backward communities on par with the mainstream society, with the reservation being scrapped eventually.
 
Why revision policy needs to be revisited?:
  1. The reservation as practised in India rather than emancipation of whole class of  deprived had created an elite class between these groups and created a creamy layer who benefits most from these reservation.
  2. Reservation did not lead to the goals for which it was accepted in first place. And its manifestation can be seen in the still vulnerable position of schedule castes and schedule tribes. Tribal people could not benefit because their right in forest-land was not properly recognised and capitalist class was favoured in the name of economic development.
  3. Used as an instrument of vote bank politics. Eg- Jats in OBC
  4. It is also creating division between religions. Eg- Maharashtra govt giving reservation to Marathas in spite of being dominant community while scrapping the same for Muslims.
 
While caste was indeed a prominent reason for historical injustice in india, it could not be the sole decider of backwardness of a class. Instead new practices, methods and yardsticks would have to be continuously evolved moving away from the caste-centric definition of backwardness.
 
We have to take into consideration the income, poverty levels, HDI of a particular caste so that only deserving members of that caste are given reservation benefits. Good educational opportunities and skill development should be provided. Initiatives like MUDRA etc can help in economic empowerment of backward classes.
 
 
Recently, while ruling on inclusion or exclusion of certain castes or communities for availing reservation benefits, the Supreme Court argued that caste cannot be the only standard to determine backwardness, but can be an important factor. What is your opinion on this issue? Do you think reservation is used more as a political tool these days than as a tool of social justice? Critically comment. (200 Words)

The framers of our Constitution were conscious that rigid hierarchies and structured inequalities had dehumanised many sections of the population, excluding them from the mainstream. They wanted to salvage the nation from this social exclusion at the earliest and make them full citizens of the nation. Thus, reservation is a fundamentally political promise made in acknowledgment of the fact that caste literally excludes sizeable communities from Indian society. Even after 65 years of working the constitution, caste is still the primary basis for social exclusion. There are other secondary factors too, like gender based, disability based etc. The correct way to tackle these is to provide quota within the larger SC/ST/OBS quota, like the PH quota and women reservation in local bodies.
Unfortunately, reservation is increasingly been used as a political instrument to ensure electoral support. Inclusion and exclusions from the list are done on the basis of political ideologies and vote calculations than for social justice. This was seen in the decision to include Jats in OBC list against the recommendation of NCBC and the decision to exclude Muslims in Maharashtra despite several reports, mainly those of the Sachar Committee, the Ranganath Misra  Commission and the Mehmood-ur-Rehman Study Group having accepted that Muslims are educationally and socially backward, and special measures are needed to bring them into the mainstream of secular education. We must react to the misuse of reservation (as in the Jat case) as we would to malpractice in any other vital area of public policy. For example, the proper response to corruption in defence procurement cannot be to dismantle the defence sector itself.
 
Can reservation be given on economic basis?
Recently Gujarat government announced a 10 per cent quota for the economically backward among upper castes— that is, those with family incomes of less than Rs.6 lakh per annum (p.a.) 
 
From where income data can be collected:
  1. India Human Development Survey (IHDS) 
  2. National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO)  data
  3. Data on income tax
 
Why we cannot rely on income as the basis for reservation?
  • Whatever statistics we use, a Rs.6 lakh p.a. cut-off will exclude less than 5 per cent of the population from being eligible for reservations if the Gujarat example is followed nationwide.
  • Identifying the poor is a difficult task resulting in errors of both inclusion and exclusion.
  • This is particularly the case when incomes are growing rapidly and a household that is poor in one year may well climb out of poverty the following year.
  • So focussing on just the poor among the general category may be more difficult than we anticipate.
Future of Reservation
  • Competition for government jobs is fierce.
  • Frustrated young men try to beat this insane competition by demanding inclusion in the reserved category.
  • The government salaries are increasingly becoming more lucrative, more so, with the Seventh Pay Commission around the corner.
  • If current initiatives for increasing employability and creating more manufacturing jobs succeed, this will reduce the pressure.
 
Long-term solution
  • It  requires re-evaluation of the fundamental nature of India’s reservation regime.
  • Affirmative action to make space for communities that have historically been subject to discrimination fits well with the Indian ethos of creating a level playing field and is part of the Indian Constitution.
  • But the patchwork implementation, particularly for the OBC classification that is currently in place, makes little sense and leaves room for powerful lobbies to unite around demands for inclusion.
  • One of the ways of dismantling the quota raj is to ensure that the reserved category certificate is not a currency that is hoarded by groups who no longer need it.
  • This involves periodic recertification/review into the reserved category.
 
For any revision, we need reliable data
  • Unfortunately, the current system has an established, if imperfect, procedure for notification of new groups into the reserved category but not for moving groups out of the reserved category.
  • A first step towards establishing such a process may be to ensure that we collect data on caste/tribe affiliation along with data on basic demographic and housing characteristics in the 2021 population census.
  • This would allow us to move past the exclusive reliance on the 1931 census and obtain information on the current socio-economic conditions of all castes and communities in India.
  • Without timely and accurate data we have no way of developing a rational system for responding to irrational  demands.