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Essay on “Should there be Reservations?” Complete Essay for Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

Should there be Reservations?

To whatever extent a society may claim itself to be democratic the truth is that the fundamental principle of democracy, namely, equality of all citizens in the society remains an ideal. In the modern era, in which democracy has come to be considered the be all and end-all of all political systems, societies continue to be plagued by inequalities rooted in race, class, creed, caste, religion and sex.

If in the United States it is racial discrimination that is giving rise to social conflicts, the bane of our society has mainly assumed the garb of class and caste inequalities. These are deeply rooted in the Indian society. Caste based distinctions continue to flourish through the centuries and have become deeply entrenched in the Indian psyche. It was to put an end to caste prejudices and their repercussions in an independent India that framers of our Constitution sought to award ‘temporary’ concessions to the backward castes who have for centuries been a victim of the cruel injustices of the upper castes. Once the reservations brought in a determined effort to eliminate the backwardness of and the bias against the lower castes, the concessions were to ceases. But after more than 60 years of independence, their dream remains a dream.

Instead of taking a backseat, caste issues rule the political scenario of modern India. Though the metropolitan societies all caught up in the wave of modernisation may not readily acknowledge caste concerns, the fact is that class and caste-based vote banks are the backbones of political parties and every new government that comes to rule. In rural India, the ‘essential’ India, caste and class factors play a crucial role in society. These factors have only become more pronounced with the hue and cry over reservations. So how do reservations propose to bring about class and caste equality in a society that has been dominated by inequalities for so long? Are reservations justified? Are they the right answer to curing the society of ills arising from caste divisions? Are they the path to true reform?

Reservation of seats in educational and professional institutions and of jobs in government services is to a certain extent permitted by our Constitution itself in order to improve the status of the suppressed masses. Earlier, job reservation for only Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) was a specific constitutional obligation. Article 15 Indian Constitution makes a specific provision for advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the SCs and the STs, Now, after the 93 Amendment, other socially and educationally backward classes could also benefit from reservations if the state chooses to make a law to the effect. Article 16(4) permits the state to make “any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward classes of citizens, which in the opinion of the state is not adequately represented in the services under the state.”

But ‘caste’ cannot be a ground of discrimination. This is made clear in Article 15(b) that prohibits discrimination on grounds of caste and place of birth. Also, Article 16 provides for equality of opportunity to all citizens in respect of any office or any other employment under the state. Thus. reservation is for backward ‘classes’ not ‘castes’. It is clear that poverty is not the basic criterion for reservation as only socially and educationally backward classes have been taken into consideration. But clearly ambiguities have arisen. Moreover, the recommendations of the Mandel Commission, set up to identify the backward classes, based on which reservations were provided to other backward classes of society—are flawed in certain respects. First and foremost, it is to be noted that the caste and class differentiation apparent in the Constitution has been based on the Western definitions of the terms ‘caste’ and ‘class’. They are seen as different forms of social divisions whereas. in reality, in the multi-layered Indian society ‘caste’ and ‘class’ are inseparable. The upper castes. by way of owning a superior status. comprise the majority in the upper class and the lower castes form a large bulk of the population belonging to the lower class. Defining the word ‘backward’ itself has proved a problem. Coming to the Mandal Commission’s recommendations, not only have they not taken the economic criterion into account but also failed to list many castes/ communities coming under the socially and educationally backward classes. The classes were identified by fixing the ‘upper’ and not the ‘lower’ limit of backwardness.

Some of the classes noted as backward have witnessed progress through the decades. This would happen in the future as well. Once a backward class achieves some kind of progress, it would not require protection any more. But it is not known whether any classes (castes) have been deleted from the list of backward classes after review. Often, the powerful and articulate sections within an identified backward class may end up reaping the benefits of reservations so, that the needy continue to suffer. The Mandal Commission’s recommendations failed to provide any system of elimination for disqualifying the affluent upper crust from accumulating the benefits of reservations. Thus, the reservation issue stirred up a controversy once it was revived by the V.P. Singh Government al, of a sudden in August 1990.

The Supreme Court judgement in November 1992 sought to settle the controversy by fixing a ceiling of 50 per cent for total reservations while excluding the ‘creamy layer’ among the backward class from reservations. Now the problem is of identifying the ‘creamy layer’. No doubt the balanced and well-intended ruling is to help the suppressed classes and castes tortured on religious grounds and forced to suffer sociological discrimination for ages. But can one overlook the fact that the reservations in Their very essence, violate the principle of equity and the necessity of rewarding merit?

With only 50 per cent of seats In- government-run institutions and job vacancies in government services open to general competition where merit would be the sole criterion, the scope to build a successful career or take up a rewarding profession will be limited for the unreserved categories. That is to say, the persons vying under the open category for a seat in particular educational institution or a job may be more knowledgeable and skilled than their counterparts in the reserved categories and hence more deserving. Yet they can compete for only a half of the total seats or posts; in other words, merit would not matter.

However, the ‘reserved’ candidates with high qualifications would be eligible for the ‘open’ category as well in view of their fulfilling the conditions of merit. This, first of all, is a serious injustice. Why should some persons be denied the rewards of hard work, skill and the requisite qualifications just because they belong to the middle or upper strata of society? Even these people are citizens of the country in every respect. The applicant in such case may well ask a valid question: why is ‘he’ being punished for the ‘backwardness’ of some others even though this backwardness may be a result of atrocities perpetrated by his forefathers and ancestors and not himself?

By not recognizing merit, the country will lose out on ‘quality’. To have the best in every field, it is necessary to choose the best those with right knowledge and the necessary skill and talent to participate in the various functions of the state. If a country by its own choice is to possess doctors, engineers and other professionals who do not exactly comprise the best of the stock, then certainly the progress and advancement made will be less than justified by its resources. In a world where different countries are competing among themselves to emerge with the finest in every field, what India needs is the use of the greatest of talent and potential which are surely not lacking.

Reservations have also strengthened the already existing caste divisions within the society. The frustration and anger of the upper castes for being treated unfairly have promoted caste conflicts. It is largely among the youth that bitterness is building up. Many talented young persons are increasingly seeking better opportunities abroad. The ensuing brain-drain is bound to have a detrimental impact upon the country in the near future. The concessions are also furthering vested interests among those in power and the powerful belonging to the upper divisions within the backward classes and castes. So the oppressed within these classes who are meant to be the main beneficiaries of reservations still remain the sufferers. Another disturbing factor regarding reservations is that they may continue for decades at length. For matters of social justice rarely appear to earn due attention in our country.

Despite there being constitutional provisions for job reservations and quotas in government run educational institutions for removing social and educational backwardness, the problem remains. This is a clear indication that the solution lies not in reservations but somewhere else. The socially oppressed lack modern facilities that would help them maintain health and living so that they can take education seriously and derive advantages from it. It is also seen that the backward classes are not generally aware of the importance of education. Even the economically well-off among them tend to ignore it though they can afford it. The need for self-education must be emphasized. Social development programmes that would lessen the daily burden of these people would allow them to spend time on education as well. Thus, the path to true reform is through education, more so at the primary level itself.

Equal educational opportunities would ensure the upward mobility of the socially backward in society. The discriminatory education systems that deny underprivileged children their right to equal opportunities at present must be done away with. The education provided to these children must be such that they can compete with the children of the elite on the same level for seats in universities and professional institutes and later for jobs. Here the private sector has to do its bit and provide free or concessional training facilities.

The urban monopoly over modern education needs to be broken. An acute problem faced by the backward castes is discrimination in ordinary life brought about by the attitude of the upper classes and the higher castes. Here again, it is only education that can encourage people to give up their narrow views and prejudices bred by some traditional norms and practices which run very much against the universal spirit of mankind. Education is not simply learning to read and write, being able to and have satisfactory jobs; but its real essence lies in helping people to live as better humans by respecting each other and learning to treat each other equally. It is high time the ‘true’ meaning of education is taken seriously and brought to the fore.

Special provisions have been made by our Constitution (or the SCs, STs and backward classes who have been victims of oppression and injustice. But will reservation of quotas for them solve the problem? It has not done so in the last few decades. It may not accomplish much in the future except for widening caste divisions and increasing caste conflicts. Reservation has to work for limited period. The solution lies in providing education to all without discrimination. The quality of education imparted must be comparable in the rural and urban areas. Various social problems that deny members of the downtrodden classes educational opportunities arid their resultant benefits must he countered by well planned, development programmes. Importance of media campaigns too cannot be overlooked.


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