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Social and political Values and Systems in India.

Will reservation in education and jobs bring welfare of the society and nation?

Introduction – Recently LS Speaker Sumitra Mahajan has expressed doubts over effectiveness of offering reservation in education and jobs for indefinite period. But what politicians did after Independence, was that after every ten years, when Reservations were to be reviewed on the floor of Parliament, reservations have been extended for next 10 years.   She asks can reservation ensure welfare of millions of downtrodden or will it bring prosperity to the country. 

The current political turmoil, to a great extent, is the result of fast changing global scenario, polarized public opnion and very slow pace of change in Indian Social system. In this turmoil, people have forgetten their traditional knowledge and contributions of its philosophers, gurus and seers, from Adi Shankaracharya and Ramanuja to Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Vivekanand and Maharishi Ramana. Throughout its history, the Indian culture believed in assimilation and absorption rather than strife, rivalries and exclusionist attitude. Its moral principles taught self-restraint, self-discipline and rigorous code of conduct. With the time, distance between ‘haves’ and ‘have-not’s’ continuously increased, especially during alien-rule.

Objective of Reservation policy – Immediately after Independence in 1947, during Constituent Assembly Debates, Indian Constitution-framers accepted reservations policy as a means rather than as an end, to bring back the submerged sections of society into mainstream. Ambedkar had advocated reservation for 10 years with the purpose of bringing social harmony in the society and the country. It was intended to be a temporary social subsidy to help the victims of institutionalized inequality, who have suffered social prejudices and historical discrimination in matters of education and employment. The aim was to bring the disadvantaged sections of the society into mainstream. The Constitution framers have dreamt to keep a fine balance between different sections of society and thus lead the nation to prosperity. However, the ideologies that guided the Constitution framers, at the time of Independence, have more or less run out of steam today.

Provision to review in the Constitution – The Constitution of India has made provision for a review of the reservation system after every ten years. Not only this, but envisaged the process/method to end gradually the reservations within intended time-frame, while deciding  to bring to an end the reservations being done for Anglo-Indians and Muslims before independence. However, after every ten years the politicians found it convenient to further extend the period of reservations without ascertaining through comprehensive social audit. Nobody bothered to analyse rationally, whether reservations have achieved the end, they were supposed to achieve? Leaders of all political parties found the quotas-system very convenient . Gradually it has become a powerful tool to create captive and permanent vote banks.

Ambedkar advocated the policy of Reservation for SCs and STs, but only for ten years. He said then that Reservation is not aimed at economic uplift or alleviation of poverty. But it is a provision made for the entry of certain castes, which have so far been outside the administration. Hence the need for their adequate representation in State Services. Adequacy should be judged not by their presence in the lower rung of the services, but their entry into the higher echelons, the corridor of power.

But only for ten years  Dr Ambedkar as a socialist and humanist, who had the long-range interests of untouchables at heart, had developed doubts about advisability of Reservation Policy. Very recently Sumitra Mahajan has commented that Ambedkar himself had said  that reservation is required for only 10 years. Chowdhary Charan Singh, Former Prime Minister of India  had said that, Ambedkar himself declared in a speech sometime before his death that the provision of Reservation in service should not extend beyond 1960/61.Pr. Balraj Madhok had also pointed out that later in life, Ambedkar developed a doubt  about efficacy of this policy. He felt that SC and ST would not be able to stand on their own feet, so long as they depended on the crutches of Reservation.

Dr. Ambedkar realized that, Reservation, had  Encouraged backwardness, inefficiency and lack of competitive merit among them barring a few stray cases. Ambedkar said, I have not been able to fulfil my mission. I wanted to do more for the SC people and to see them as governing class in my life. I could have succeeded, but my own people have deceived me. Whatever I have been able to do, is being enjoyed by the educated people and they are the worst fools. I now want to divert my attention to the uneducated masses, but life seems short. The second worry to my mind is that I wanted that somebody from the SC should come forward and take the responsibilities from me. There, however, seems none to shoulder such a heavy responsibility. All are selfish and quarrel themselves on petty matters.

Therefore, when he launched the Republican Party of India, he incorporated this view in the Manifesto, according to which the party was committed itself to abolish all kinds of Reservations based on caste and birth.


Modern system of employment – Before British came to India, individuals preferred to pursue traditional profession to earn the livelihood. Modern education, industrialization and modernization gave chaned the system of employment. After the independence, the Constitution itself gave all its citizens equal opportunities and freedom to take up  occupation of ones choice. The functional delineation of caste – distinctions has become irrelevant since knowledge is no longer the monopoly of any particular caste (Brahmins).

Under the changed circumstances, there is no justification for Reservation policy to continue with such an insistence. Way back in 1965, Lokur Commission had suggested that the time had come to start the process of dereservation. But, so far it has been postponed.

Caste gaining important place in politics – Reservation Policy has made caste very important in the politics and governance of Nation. The most surprising thing is that though Dalits, SCs and OBCs have emerged as dominant pressure groups in political circles, they are not satisfied with their gains. For getting more, they use the caste card. The most strident assertion of caste comes from these sections of the society.

Rise in inter-castes clashes – Experiences of various states point out that the Reservation policy has added many harmful new dimensions in the national politics. It gave rise to worst form of casteism. Caste related violent incidents have increased tremendously. The majority of clashes are between SCs and OBCs followed by clashes between SCs and forward castes, between forward castes and OBCs and others. The main caste groups involved in clashes and rivalries include Thevars, Nadars, Vanniars (OBC), Adi Dravidas and Pallars (SCs) in Tamil Nadu, Rajput, Brahmins, Bhumihars, Jats (forward castes), Yadavs, gujjars, Kurmis (OBCs), Balmiki, Jatavs, Chamars (SCs) in UP, Kories, Kurmis, Manuals (OBCs), Dalits and Jatavs (SCs in Bihar), Patels, Marathas, Marwaris (Forward Castes), Mali, Kundi Badal (OBCs), Dalit Mahars, Neo Buddhists (SCs) of Maharashtra and Lingayats and Vakkaligas (both forward castes), Kurubas, Nayaks (OBCs) and Dalits of Karnataka.i

After-effects of Reservation policy – The after effects of the policy, in general terms, have been more or less the same in all the regions. Its manifestations are discussed, briefly, below: –

  • Tamil Nadu becomes a classic example of mass-exodus of Brahmins first from Tamil Nadu to other parts of India and then to foreign land, bringing all round prosperity to them, because of their intelligence, enterprise and innovation. In the process, the loss has been that of the nation.
  • In Karnataka, it manifested in insistence of developed castes to remain in OBC list, so that they could avail of the benefits of Reservations.
  • In Andhra, the disillusion of lower castes, because of the failure of Governments policy to provide any relief to the poor masses, gave rise to Naxalite movement.
  • In Maharashtra, despite centurys old Dalit movement, social equality within the state is still an illusion. There Dalits are still living under pathetic condition.
  • Gujarat sets an example of its Reservation policy being deeply influenced by acknowledgement of Gujarat electoral calculus.
  • Bihar and UP have become the land of caste wars and sharpened Dalit-OBC divides. Casteism has entered into all areas of its political and administrative life.
  • In Rajasthan, some castes, even after attaining enough representation in the Government, insist in remaining in the beneficiaries’ list, thus depriving the really needy persons of the other castes from getting the benefit of Reservation.
  • It is only Kerala, which has laid stress on the sustainable development of the down trodden through education, which gave them awareness, vision, confidence and status. Instead of adopting a negative attitude by generating enmity between different sections of society, it took the path of positive growth.

For the sustainable development of the nation, there are some points, on which government, political parties, political leaders, reformers and intelligentsia should pay attention sincerely and honestly, keeping in view the welfare of deprived/marginalized persons/individuals as of the nation –

  • Acute problem of unemployment – Unemployment is one of the acute problems in India ever since its independence. Now it becoming more and more difficult to provide jobs to all youths.     Present day dilemma is that millions of youth are not able to get employment anywhere in the government, private or public sectors. Mr. Narayan Murthy, the founder of IMFOSIS says, “If we want to give jobs to 400-500 million illiterates and 200-250 million semi-ill-literates, we have to go in for low-tech manufacturing that does not require high levels of education. … This is how China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea did it”.
  • Quotas not a solution to solve the problem of unemployment – Jacques Sander has rightly said, “A quota is always something artificial that can only last for a certain period of time.” Over last 15 years, millions of people have moved out of agriculture. Manufacturing and services sector have been so far unable to provide enough jobs for all of them. Enhancing the quality of education, providing enough opportunities to such people to attain income-generating skills and dismantling license raj may help people to get suitable place in job-market.
  • Craze for white-collared jobs –  There has been growing aversion for menial jobs or traditional occupations. Modernity has given freedom to individuals to pursue an occupation of one’s own choice. With it emerged different kinds of problems from the web of modernity. There is cut-throat competition for positions of power. Craze for white-collared jobs has escalated. So long as the spirit of patriotism is not strengthened amongst persons/groups, who are manipulating the schemes of development in self-interest, progress will remain a distant dream.
  • Economic Criteria, not caste should be the basis for Reservations in jobs and admissions in institutions of higher education. Caste-based reservations are repugnant to democracy. They perpetuate and encourage caste-divisions.
  • Merit should not be ignored – The principle of equal opportunities (Art 16) in direct conflict with the principles of redress (Articles 335) directing the authorities to make Reservations for SCT in consistent with the maintenance of efficiency. Keeping a fine balance in the implementation of these two principles It is up-to the honesty and vision of authorities.
  • So long, as “only a few places” were set aside for disadvantaged people (20%), society did not mind it. But now,  76 years after Independence, instead of removing the castes from the list of beneficiaries, which have already come up, more castes are being included in this list, both in the Government of India as well as in provinces.
  • During mid-1970’s and 80’s, many political parties had emerged  iat provincial level, which laid emphasis on sectional interests. They advocated Reservation policy with insistence. It polarized the public opinion and created political instability. No political party could get absolute majority to form a stable government. Era of coalition governments started. In 1990’s, after the implementation of Mandal Commission’ recommendations, About 50% and in some provinces much more than 50% seats were reserved in employment and educational institutions. It has left deep scars in public mind and  generated agitations. Sometimes, these agitations in favour or against reservations formed a shape of national movement, affecting adversely many parts of the country.
  • Lack of political will – Present day politicians have  over looked the national interest for their political expediency and misused these clauses on efficiency and social-justice. Quotas in education and employment have now become almost a permanent feature. 
  • For success self-efforts and hard-work is necessary.
  • Stop giving doles to poor people – For improving the economic and social status of marginalized people, Government is supposed to teach people how to fish. Giving different kinds of doles from time to time is making people totally dependent on authorities.
  • Help only the deserving individuals not on caste but ob economic criteria.
  • The number of reserved seats needs to be reduced.

Throughout, politicians have been propagating that Reservation has been sanctioned by the Constitution and it is their duty to abide it. Series of amendments of the Constitution, in extending the time-frame Reservation for another ten years, appears to be nothing but “Mistake of one time, being repeated several times”. In fact, the whole exercise of extending it is non-researched and is based on hollow grounds. Overall development of the country is not possible, till the political leaders and beneficiary sections of society depend on the crutches of reservation policy. 

Past experiences and results clearly indicate to re-think about Reservation Policy. A rational analysis of ground reality has become long over due. It is better to be late than never attempting it.


i Ministry of Home Affair Report, 1996-97, pp6-7.

October 16, 2018 - Posted by | Reservation/Affirmative action program | , , , , , , ,

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