By Vaishanvi K
The reservation policy is an affirmation action implemented in India for the upliftment of historically backward groups of the society. The policy of reservation was a measure for the emancipation of the socially and economically backward people of the nation known as Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), and the hugely debated Other Backward Classes (OBC).
It was conceived and advocated not as merely a tool for allocation of few seats or a percentage based quota, which it was in fact, but a mission to evolve a strong and powerful nation based on social harmony wherein every citizen of the nation, irrespective of caste, creed, religion, sex, etc. could have an open, impartial and abundant opportunity. The policy is often explained as positive or protective or compensatory discrimination in favor of the backward classes for the purpose of mitigating inequalities and ensuring justice.
This policy aims to provide educational, employment, political, and economic advantages for these groups to help incorporate them into mainstream society. These rights have been given constitutional validity through article 15(4), Article 16(4) as well as articles 330,332, and 334.
These policies have been implemented through the Indian constitution by allowing the centre and state governments to reserve seats for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and other backward classes in entrance examinations, job opportunities. These opportunities are usually created by lowering the bar of marks for acceptance or reserving a certain amount of jobs/seats especially for these members of the society.
The idea of a reservation policy has been discussed, debated, and even implemented to whichever extent possible from during the British era and even before and demands for the same were made as early as 1881 but a significant development and change began after the Mandal Commission was established to assess the social and economic status of India and devise a plan for upliftment and progress of the disadvantaged groups. The committee had come up with the idea of giving a 27% reservation to OBC in addition to the 22.5% reserved for scheduled castes and tribes in respect of services and public sector bodies operated by the Union Government and similar policies for admission to institutes of higher education.
The constitutional validity of reservation was rained in the case of Indra Sawhney & Others v. Union of India in which the Supreme Court of India in 1922 upheld reservation for OBCs with exception to the creamy layer’ being excluded from these benefits and ruled that reservations could not exceed 50 percent; anything above which it judged would violate equal access as guaranteed by the Constitution.
The Central Government of India in January 2019 introduced EWS Reservation. 10% quota is provided for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) among General Category candidates in government jobs and educational institutions. This is done by adding clauses for the same in the Indian Constitution under the 103rd Constitution Amendment Act, 2019. Since the 1992 judgment, several states have passed laws breaching the 50% ceiling, including Haryana, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Maharashtra. Reservation policies made by many of these states have either been stayed through court judgments or are facing ongoing legal challenges.
The reservation policy in India has been widely debated upon and faced a lot of opposition from the general category as they now feel marginalized. While some court judgments have upheld the constitutional validity of over 50% of reservations in states while some haven’t and it is the same scenario with some people protest for more reservations while others for the striking down of current ones.
It was excepted that through this policy the backward groups would feel more inclusive and would help strengthen them by de-stigmatizing them but hasn’t achieved what it aimed for as mostly these reservations have been used as loopholes by those who are actually well off. It cannot be denied that these policies have helped the inclusion and upliftment of backward sections but there is much more to be done to ensure that these truly go to those who need them.
Keeping this in view, the nation is to be governed with absolute commitment, positive thinking, judicious planning, optimum effort, harmonizing initiatives, sensitization, and relentless determination, in a perfectly proactive and sensitized inclusive governance, to lead the nation to an era of inclusive development and growth.