Monday, March 4, 2024

Is there a need to review our reservation system?

Written By Darshan M (Grade 11)


The reservation policy is an age-old policy being rehearsed in India. Its origin has its roots scattered from the ancient times when the practice of ‘untouchability’, caste system, and Varna system was dominant in the society. In ancient times, the Hindu society was divided on the base of Varna, Jatis, or classes and they were as follows in the descending order of their social scale- the Brahmans, the Kshatriyas, the Vaisyas, and the Shudras. There was another class of people or rather no class people known as “untouchables” or “avarna” that had no class. These untouchables were considered to be impure to society and were barred from the social system. They had to live outside the village and had no social rights. In some corridors of the country similar to Southern India, if indeed their shadow was casted on the upper-class people also it was considered that the person was impure. There were strict restrictions on them for social gatherings and social life and if they violated any social norm, they were oppressively penalized and in some cases were indeed killed.

The division of society on the morals of chastity and contamination was a veritably cruel system, and it had adverse goods on the development and growth of these lower-class people where the skill and labor of an individual were honored simply on the grounds of him being a member of a lower caste. The current caste system was a major reason for the arrival and advancement of the Reservation Policy in India. The idea of giving reservations to a certain class of people began because of the current atrocities being done to a certain class of people. To give them an equal occasion, an equal status in society, to bring them to par with other sections of society, and also to bring development in the lower strata of society, were the reasons for the Reservation Policy in India.

The legal origin of the Reservation Policy in India began with the lying down of the Government of India Act, of 1919 which came during the turbulent period of World War I. During this period, the British were more focused on Europe rather than on India yet they passed important significant legislation that aimed at the development of the Indian Territory. This Act of 1919 not only introduced several reforms for the Indian Governmental institutions but also addressed numerous issues of minorities including the conformation of collaborative electorates. The system was blamed forcefully by Montague-Chelmsford as a system that could interfere with the tone-development policy because Muslims formerly had a collaborative electorate through the Minto- Morley reform of 1909 and, thus, they set up it unfeasible to take away the separate electorates of Muslims.

After the Act of 1919, the controversial Simon Commission came up in 1927 to check the Montague- Chelmsford reforms. After traveling the entire Indian businesses, their representatives proposed separate electorates and reserving seats for depressed classes and demand for the wider ballot was there as the economic, educational, and social position of these depressed classes didn’t allow them to bounce duly. To stamp and check the report of the Simon Commission and the reforms proposed by them and how to incorporate them into the new Constitution, a Round Table Conference was convened in London in 1931. There were numerous Indian delegates from different interest groups. The conference was chaired by Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald. There were demands for a separate electorate from Ambedkar but Mahatma Gandhi explosively opposed the appeal for a separate electorate for depressed classes and because of this strong opposition from Mahatma Gandhi and Congress the issue of minorities remained undetermined in the Conference.

After this, the Communal Award and the Poona Pact of 1932 came into force wherein Prime Minister Macdonald declared the collaborative award where the separate representations were to be handed to Muslims, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo- Indians, Europeans, and Dalits were assigned several seats that were to be filled by election from special constituencies in which voters belonging to the depressed classes could only cast their vote. The award was reviewed by Mahatma Gandhi but was explosively supported by Dr. BR Ambedkar and other minority groups. As a result, of the hunger strike by Mahatma Gandhi and wide rebellion against the award, the Poona Pact of 1932 came into being which brought in a single general electorate for each of the seats of British India and new Central Houses. The stamping of the provisions of the Poona Pact, 1932 was done in The Government of India Act of 1935 where reservation of seats for depressed classes was distributed. This was the script before the independence of India.   

Reservation Policy in India is a process of reserving a certain chance of seats for a certain class similar to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Backward Classes, etc. in Government educational institutions, government jobs, etc. Post- Independence the idea changed and the reservation policy indeed gained more instigation than in the pre-independence period. The Constituent assembly chaired by Dr.B.R Ambedkar framed the reservation policy and numerous papers in the Indian Constitution were devoted to the same.

Article 15(4) – Special Provision for Advancement of Backward Classes – is an exception to clauses 1 and 2 of article 15, and it was added by the Constitution (1st Amendment) Act, 1951, as a result of the decision in the State of Madras VS Champakam Dorairajan. In this case, the Madras Government had reserved seats in State Medical and Engineering institutes for different communities in different proportions grounded on religion, caste, and race. The state defended the law on the ground that it was legislated to promote social justice for all sections of the people as stated by Article 46 of the Directive Principles of State Policy.

The Supreme Court held the law void because it classified scholars grounded on caste and religion irrespective of merit. To modify the effect of the opinions, article 15 was amended by the Constitution (1st Amendment) Act, 1951. Under this clause, the state is empowered to make provisions for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or the SC and ST. After the amendment, it came possible for the state to put up a Harijan Colony to advance the interest of the backward classes. The demarcation faced by these marginalized groups was reflective of the constant oppression faced by them, dealt out by those considered to be of an advanced class. The makers of the Constitution felt that these classes demanded to be a part of the law-making procedure, and special privileges had to be granted to them to incorporate them into the process. This objectification was meant as a bouleversement process for said backward classes to alleviate utmost of the oppression faced by them during the casteist period. This was done by granting them equal rights, openings, and special reservations to ensure their participation in the legal frame of the country.

To claw further into the social and artistic background of order and reservation, we’ve to establish the Varna system in the Hindu religion, conforming of the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas, and the Vaishyas first. A fourth side by the name of Shudras also developed who was as cleansers, meant to serve the three advanced” sets. Piecemeal from these four sets, people who weren’t classified under the Varna system were regarded as Dalits or untouchables. Their actuality and touch were believed to contaminate everything near them. They were relegated to perform tasks that were considered impure similar to cremation, etc. This created a material reservation in the Indian society and culture to save these communities from further oppression and to promote their development and education, therefore leading to the confirmation of the reservation system.   While the reservation has been an integral part of the Indian legal system for a long time, in recent times, its necessity has come under scrutiny.

While people aren’t against the idea of reservation, it’s the frequency of caste-grounded reservations that stirs up contestation. It’s frequently argued that after further than 70 times of enjoying reservation, the backward classes have been empowered, both economically and socially, to a large extent. Similarly, the reservation of seats isn’t a necessity for them, and similar seats should rather be reserved for economically weaker sections of people. Their argument is further strengthened due to the actuality of the delicate system, in which indeed well-out members of backward classes are entitled to the same quantum of reticent seats that other members of their class hold. The reservation policy in India was espoused with a reason to hoist certain castes who were pacified to atrocities, and social and profitable backwardness due to the current dominance of the caste system in the Indian Society. Moment, the reservation system has just become a tool for politicians to gain vote banks. The agitation from the Patels of Gujarat to include them in the order of OBC was shocking for the entire nation, as the people who were agitating to get reservations in the state of Gujarat were in no way socially and economically backward. 

In the State of Tamil Nadu, the reservation system proved to be an annihilation for the society wherein the Brahmans had veritably cleverly churned themselves down in the league of the backward crusade and had gained tremendously from the reservation system. For these possible reasons, the Creamy Layer has been barred from the list of slated caste, slated lines, and OBC after the Mandal Case. The political Indulgence in the process of reservation has simply reduced from a noble idea to a strategy to increase the vote bank. Also, a lot of review has been made on the criteria of reservations. It’s also important that the substance of the idea of the relinquishment of reservation policy should be maintained, and the factual backward classes who are in real need aren’t denied access to education, job openings, etc., and are advantaged. The Reservation system isn’t a poverty relief program but an instrument to bring equality.


Featured Image Courtesy – Medium



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