India was a country with a very rigid caste-based hierarchal structure where the higher casts enjoyed most of the benefits while the lower casts were looked down upon by the higher casts. The majority of the population was backward socially, economically, educationally, and politically.
The backward classes were classified as the Scheduled castes (SC), Scheduled tribes (ST), and other backward classes. By 1947 India became an independent nation. It was at this point that the Constitution of India was framed and then the framers took forward the interest of the backward classes by having Article 46 in the constitution.
“Article 46 stated that the state shall promote with special care the educational and economic interest of the weaker section of the people, also protecting them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.”
Article 46 was complemented by the inclusion of many other articles for the empowerment of the backward classes. Since they were the oppressed classes this was thought to be the best mechanism to correct the mistake that was being practiced for many hundreds of years.
- Mandal Commission
In exercise of the powers conferred by Article 340 of the Constitution, the President appointed a backward class commission in December 1978 under the chairmanship of B. P. Mandal. The commission was formed to determine the criteria for defining India’s “socially and educationally backward classes” and to recommend steps to be taken for the advancement of those classes. The Mandal Commission concluded that India’s population consisted of approximately 52 percent OBCs, therefore 27% of government jobs should be reserved for them. The commission has developed eleven indicators of social, educational, and economic backwardness.
Apart from identifying backward classes among Hindus, the Commission has also identified backward classes among non-Hindus (e.g., Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, and Buddhists. It has generated an all-India other backward classes (OBC) list of 3,743 castes and a more underprivileged “depressed backward classes” list of 2,108 castes.
- The objective of reservation has been to develop the Dalits. Development is a difficult term to be defined with a fixed set of parameters.
- The purpose of reservation in India
The two main aims to provide reservation as per the Consitution of India are:
- Advancement of Scheduled Castes (SC) and the Scheduled Tribes (ST) OR any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens (Eg: OBC) OR economically weaker sections (EWS) – Article 15 (4), Article 15 (5), and Article 15 (6),
- Adequate representation of any backward class of citizens OR economically weaker sections (EWS) in the services under the State. – Article 16 (4) and Article 16 (6)
- Impact of the Reservation Policy on Employment
Reservation has had a positive impact in bringing the Dalits into public sector employment and education, which in turn would develop them. Although the accessible share of the Dalits in Group D and Group C is close to the mark, it falls short in Group B and Group A. The growth of Dalits in the public services has had multiple positive effects on the social situation. Even in the elite All India Service, their shares are being filled. The reservation policy has not been able to provide equal opportunities within each group, which has led to a situation where all the beneficiaries have not been benefitted, since there are many sub-castes within a caste. It is essential to look into the question of whether, despite policies such as reservation, the Dalits have been able to develop economically and socially.
- In Indra Sawhney vs Union Of India, 1992, the Supreme Court of India capped caste-based reservation, ruling that “no provision of reservation or preference can be so vigorously pursued as to destroy the very concept of equality”.
“Since this Court has consistently held that the reservation under Articles 15(4) and 16(4) should not exceed 50% and the States and the Union have by and large accepted this as correct it should be held as constitutional prohibition and any reservation beyond 50% would liable to be struck ” While introducing the bill for Economic Reservation in 2019, Arun Jaitley (Finance Minister) contended that the 50% cap on reservations imposed by the Supreme Court was only for caste-based reservations, and the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) reservation won’t be impacted by it.
Critical View on Reservation policy and Conclusion
- Now we have seen that the government had kept various welfare schemes for the SC and ST in India. If we take few examples then reservations in educational systems, land allotments for residents( free of cost), agricultural land allotted free of cost for farming, etc.
- I believe that there should be reservations in the educational system of India. Due to which they can also get good and higher education, but at the time of the jobs/ public service there should be n reservation. A person has got almost 22 to 25 years benefit of reservation policy and had completed his studies. Now he should stand on his own feet and should face the competition in the market. They have got all the things which a person born in other cast has got by now.
- If the government still wants to keep reservation policy then now it should not be based on caste or class, it should be based on the annual income of the person. If the person is earning less then he requires more money for his family and children and this thing he can get only by a job or in public service. By this means only such persons can provide good education to their children.
- Judiciary has played a great role in the reservation policy. A great example of this is N Nagarajan’s case, Ashok Kumar Thakor, and Indira Shawnay’s case. In these cases, the supreme court has given passing reference to the reservation on the SC & ST in jobs. But Supreme court has said that reservation should not increase by 50% in any condition but in most North Eastern states this reservation is increased to 85% and still, they have started a move to increase it to the 95% and the court is not taking any steps against it. In this way, we can see that the judiciary is also playing a role in the increase of reservation for SC & ST.