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Decoding Reservation in India: Is it a Constitutional Flaw or Unnecessary Favor?

The idea of 'reservation' has generated contradictory views from teachers and students all around the world

November 12, 2016: The word ‘reservation’ came up with the idea of representative government, where for the first time numbers mattered. The inequality of Indian society has solidified the need for numeric representation. The caste based representation, no doubt created a more confident lower class mass with their greater involvement in the public sphere. Reservation in education has evolved as a major challenge for lakhs of students. Far from providing an equal opportunity it has an electoral agenda. Education has been politicized based on reservation.

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However, the backward class proportion is still underrepresented. Article 15 (1) of the Constitution says, “State shall not discriminate any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them”, it also provides for compensatory or protective discrimination in favor of certain sections of the disadvantaged people. Article 15(4) of the constitution stipulates that notwithstanding the provision stated above, the state can make “special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes”. Thus constitution itself provides contradictory clause.

The idea of ‘reservation’ has generated contradictory views from teachers and students all around the world. ‘Caste should no longer be the eligibility criteria for reservation, rather income should be’ said HemangoAkshayHiwale, an M.phill aspirant in Jamia Millia Islamia University. Prakash, another student of same university claims reservation as a ‘good thing but in present scenario in India need to be reformed.’

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In August 1999, the Supreme Court ruled that for admissions at super-specialty level in medicine and engineering faculties, no special provisions like SCs, STs, BCs were permissible. Even among the quotas there are also sub-quotas. For example, in Andhra Pradesh, 15% of the seats in each course of study reserved for Scheduled Castes are in turn allotted, in proportion to their population, to four categories of SCs classified as A, B , C and D.

This affirmative step has so far brought with it social justice. US Carnegie Mellon University, published a study in American Economic Review, which shows that reservations do place those who do not qualify for affirmative action at a disadvantage, 53,374 scheduled caste, scheduled tribe, other backward classes and general category students are at a loss.

Reservation in the past decades has increased the numbers of scheduled castes and scheduled tribe families with highly educated members, who can encourage and provide support for younger family members to continue their education. Thus, reservation in education as of now is more of a luxury scheme for these classes as the benefit is only confined to a limited population, whether they need it or not. The real needy ones are at a loss to whom the information or the financial access is debarred.

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Instead of favoring reservation, the government should increase the number of universities and government jobs for the benefit of its people. Nationalization of education can also be a solution to this issue. When the discrepancies within the universities are omitted; i.e. equal access to education without compromising the quality of education the disadvantaged students in remote areas will get justice. The proliferation of universities in villages with good teachers can also be an alternative.

Reservation should not be treated as a vote bank or an emotional quotient but a practical measure to help the lower section of the society. It should be kept in mind that the extended favor to the marginalized section might create an insufficiency for the other classes. With the critical Indian class structure, it should be kept in mind that any reform of upliftment will be judiciously measured before its implementation.

by Saptaparni Goon of NewsGram. Twitter: @saptaparni_goon

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