Is it right to do away with caste -based reservation in India ? Is it the right time to do so?
This has been the most raging yet profoundly unanswered debate .There has not been a single comprehensive study in this regard and many shy away from this debate.In this regard , we at UPSCTREE tried to find out all that is there with regards to this debate and added our views after analyzing thoroughly the various reports that exists for this.
The Indian Caste based reservation system and the arguments related to it have been the subject of electoral promises, books, national debates, forum discussions and riots.
Ambedkar spent a long time trying to figure out the best way to overcome centuries of social discrimination. He determined that until there was equitable representation of people in all positions of influence, including policy making, government service and enterprise, any efforts made by others on their behalf would either be half-hearted or executed with a ‘benefactor’ mentality.
The idea behind reservations was therefore empowerment, not charity. There are other programs that focus on education and health. Reservation isn’t one of them. This is why its effects starts with education, which Ambedkar felt was crucial to enable representation in positions of influence.
So reservation effectively creates a ‘protected class’ that competes within itself until it reaches a stage where it can compete with the rest of the country. Meanwhile, as their numbers grow in positions of influence (not just government, but doctors, lawyers, professors, executives, etc.) the caste prejudice will wither away.
Reservation system in India
It provides equality in opportunity– The right to equality as enshrined under article 14-19 of the fundamental rights of the constitution provides for certain provisions which enables the discriminated and underprivileged sections of the society to get a level playing field to compete with the mainstream society.Hence it is often considered as positive discrimination or affirmative action.
Economic empowerment – By enabling access to employment
Social empowerment– With increasing level of income, urbanization etc. the so called “backward classes” are able to shed off their caste identity to great extent.
Political empowerment- Ability to climb the ladder by becoming popular representatives and active members in decision making processes which not only helps in their upward mobilization of individuals but also empowers the group as whole.
Reports like Sachar Committee point out that there exist subgroups within the homogenous groups, who remain backward. Caste Based Reservation Policy gives an opportunity to the Indian polity to allow advancement of the subgroups.
Further, reservation policies for Other Backward Classes are subject to creamy layer limitations; thus there already exists a filtering mechanism to ensure that the benefits of reservations do not pass to the undeserving ones.
To unleash the Indian potential and wake up the sleeping giant it is necessary to empower all sections of society and provide a helping wherever it is needed.
The reservation policy was envisaged as a measure to impart equality of opportunity, but it has instead led to entrenchment of caste system. Many castes today, strive to get recognized as backward caste, to get benefits of the reservation policy; a phenomenon which has been referred to as ‘Race to Bottom’.
Identity politics– Political mobilization on the basis of caste.
The advanced sections with in , take the benefit and defeat the very purpose of reservation. The real needy are always found in want of support and the supports are cornered by the advanced few within the same caste/tribe.
Reservation over generations – Reservation is to push a particular a generation, so that the next generation can develop themselves without reservation. But in practice, reservation transcends the generations and defeats its very purpose. After all, there is no rationale behind providing reservation to the children of well-to-do individuals.
Introduces bad politics: One of the prime reasons why such a system is not fully eradicated yet because every politician plays safe uses it as a trump card for collective vote from a community.
Creates division: This preferential system creates another sort of divide amongst the masses, creates lobbies and partitions with respective agendas and eventually a nation cannot stand as a whole where every section and individual are driven by sectarian means.
Introduces handicap: When one gets advantage of it, the meritocracy is questioned without logic and leads to rift in workplaces and institutions.
Hindrance to self-respect: This wouldn’t need emphasizing .People with merit often face this challenge as they are preconceived as people without ability. This kills the self respect of merited individual.
Further, Constitution makers envisaged reservation policy as a temporary measure to enable the weaker sections to come to a certain benchmark of advancement, from where they could compete in equal capacity. But, the present scenario is such that Indian polity cannot be even envisaged without these reservation policies. There are sections who actually need it but yet to get it and there are sections who are fighting for it even though they really don’t need it.
Lack of Frequent Measurement and Re-calibration had only benefitted the already well off masses of the reserved class. There have been no systematic studies to show how the present policies are working. Further, there have been no political debates on effectiveness of reservation policy.
Increasing demand of the people to be included in the reserved category which sometimes leads to widespread violence and bloodshed.
It divides the society within.
Considering the above argument though it seems true that India should do away with the reservation on the basis of caste system but whether it is the right time to do so is another debate because:-
Although the reservation system is led to economic empowerment but it has not resulted in social empowerment. Until a socially equitable society is not created, a system of positive discrimination cannot be abolished.There is a large section of the society which do not have access to basic education and a standard employment,so abolishing this system now will put them in perpetual penury and misery.
So to dilute the caste based identity and foster social empowerment, certain steps need to be taken by both the government and the individual.Few steps can be taken in this direction like-
Creamy layer should be introduced in all reservation methods.
Every citizen should be identified on the basis of humanity not on the basis of caste and credited on the basis of caliber not the on the basis of birth.
The next generation, that is the progeny of the candidate who has already used the reservation,cannot use the quota again, unless his father’s income is less than a stipulated amount as per the economic status and computations of the time.
A systematic study and proper alignment is required and the reservation should be linked to economic status as well.
Economic security and a good education is the only way to bring equality in all social segments in the society.
So once all the citizens of the country get the minimum opportunity to maximize their potential, then it will be judicious do away with the reservation system as a whole or modify it to suit the need of the time .It will then no more identify people on the basis of caste and the“race to the bottom” phenomenon will be stopped.
So in conclusion ,even though it is desirable to do away with reservation system , it is not the right time to do so due to various social and economic compulsions.Reservation system must not be looked upon as discriminatory , instead it should be viewed as affirmative action.The real necessity is to monitor its progress and its impact in real time to ward off any undue advantage and modify it according to need.To put it rather simply – it should be given to those who really need it.Another aspect is that , as it is intricately linked to caste , it perpetuates the vicious circle of caste, if we really want a caste less society then it should be linked to social and economic status rather than blindly relying on caste as a sign of “backwardness” .It hampers the the very social status of the people for whom it was created , by tagging people as “backward” according to their birth.Caste is not an indicator of “backwardness” and the reservation policy should designed as such.Moreover, as far as caste system is concerned – the realistic view is that caste system is here to stay (if we learn anything form history) . The necessity is thus not to fight with caste system but to fight casteism – that is discrimination on the basis of caste.Let people have their caste but casteism should be fought with vigor and strength.
Gandhiji , being a realist , very well knew that it is not possible to remove caste system as a whole but what can be done is to do away with casteism.If there is no discrimination based on caste – the very essence of caste will wither away.It is similar to religion, people will always have it and if there is anything that can be done to better the society , then it is not to do away with religion as whole but to reform it from within.This was the essence of the great reformers like Raja Rammohan Ray, who wanted to reform things from within. Think any system as a man.If a man has a disease , find a solution to the disease , don’t throw away the man.Similarly , as far as any system is concerned , find the solution to reform it rather than to just abandon it – which is , in all its reality a harder thing to do and not a realizable goal, at least in limited lifespan of a man.