Sunday, 13 January 2019

Caste Based Reservations and Human Development in India

Caste Based Reservations and Human Development in India

The present reservation system in India holds a long history that has been debated several times before and after Independence. In the areas comprising the Presidency and the Princely states south of the Vindhyas the reservations in favor of Backward Classes were introduced long before independence. An agitation grew against the recruitment of non-natives into public service in the princely state of Travancore and it led to the emergence of the demand for reservation of government jobs in 1891. People complained about the qualified native people being overlooked. In the princely state of Kolhapur, Maharashtra reservations were introduced in 1901 by Chatrapati Shahu Maharaj. He being the Maharaja of Kolhapur also introduced reservation in favor of non-Brahmin and backward classes in early 1902, under which he provided free education to everyone and opened several hostels in Kolhapur for easy availability of education to everyone. He raised voice and appealed for a class-free India and the abolition of untouchability and his notification of 1902 led to 50% reservation in services for backward classes in Kolhapur. This is marked as the first official Government Order that provided reservation for depressed classes in India.

1979 showed one of the major changes with the ratification of the Mandal Commission; which aimed at assessing the situation of the socially and educationally backward classes. Without having any exact figures for a sub-caste, this Commission used the 1930 census data and classified 1,257 communities as backward further estimating the OBC population to 52%. The recommendations of the Commission were finally implemented in the Government Jobs in 1990s by Vishwanath Pratap Singh.

Reservation in India is a process of reserving a certain fixed percentage of seats in government institutions for the backward communities primarily defined by caste and tribe. This is basically and a quota-based affirmative action and is governed by constitutional laws, statutory laws and local rules and regulations. Its primary objective lies in enhancing the educational and societal status of underprivileged communities, thereby enabling them to join the mainstream of Indian society.

In Indian Parliament, 84 and 47 out of 543 seats are reserved for SC and ST respectively. This allocation of seats in Lok Sabha is based on the proportion of SC and ST in the concerned states to the total population.

The present caste based reservation system of Union government allocates 15% to SC, 7.5%  to ST, 27% to OBC and 50.5% to general category that is open to all including SC/ST and OBC. Higher education institutions funded by the central government reserve 22.5% of the available seats for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students. An additional 27% is for OBCs and the total percentage for SC and ST has been raised to 48%. Religious minorities have also been benefitted by the reservation, 3.5% of seats are allotted to Muslims and Christians by the Tamil Nadu government, which has altered the OBC reservation from 30% to 23%.

On 22 December 2011, the Government of India announced establishment of a sub-quota of 4.5% for minorities within the existing 27% reservation for OBC. It was reasoned that the Muslim communities granted as OBC are unable to compete with the Hindu OBC communities. This decision was criticized by the court stating that the sub-quota was something carved out only on religious lines and not on any intelligible basis.

Certain state governments also reserve all jobs for those who are domiciled within the jurisdiction of that government. For example, 85% of seats were reserved previously for Chandigarh-domiciles in Punjab Engineering College, which has been altered to 50% now. Some reservations are also made for non-resident Indians in educational institutions. There are reservations in special schools of government undertakings/PSUs for the children of their own employees (ex., Army schools, PSU schools, etc.) Even in places of Worship like Tirumala Venkateswara Temple and Tiruthani Murugan (Balaji) temple, there are established paid pathway reservations. Financial assistance to universities is offered by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to aid in establishment of special cells for SC/STs. These cells help implement reservation policy in student selection and staff recruitment. They also help SC/ST categories in integrating with the university community and in removing the difficulties experienced by them.

The Mandal Commission was protested by the students and the masses. It saw the anguish in form of roads, highways, transportation services, schools and businesses being black the nation, around 150 students endeavored self-immolation.

Reserved category people get relaxations in higher education institutes and government bodies, which leads to admission of people with lower aggregate percentage of marks in academic and competitive exams.

The social and financial status of the reserved category is well supported by the government and has also increased profoundly. The total percentage of reserved category people - (SC, ST, OBC) working in government institutions has increased to about 40% and is also rising. The general category misses opportunity and also has become deprived and miserable due to their place being replaced by reservations.
In spite of the considerable increase in Indian population, no official statistics and policy based on caste has been made by the government.
Several unreserved or general categories and communities too have started demanding reservation for them which is sure to surge in more turmoil and instability in the already troubled reservation hierarchy.

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