- Caste reservation is a quota-based affirmative action of India to uplift the depressed castes and to provide the level playing field.
- Caste discrimination exists in India from a really long time. In the past, certain castes and communities weren’t allowed to do dignified jobs. They were deprived of basic rights and education.
- 1902 – First official government order by Chatrapati Shahu Maharaj to reserve 50% seats to non-brahmin and backward classes.
- 1930 – First caste census took place. It was criticized for strengthening the caste identities. Till now, this is the last caste census. However, the present census includes the Scheduled castes and Scheduled Tribes.
- 1932 – British introduced ‘Communal Award‘, which means separate electorates for Dalit, Muslims, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, Europeans. Dalit representative will be voted by only Dalits, Muslim representative by Muslim voters etc.
- 1932 – Separate electorates for Dalits was severely criticized by Gandhi as he feared the disintegration of Hindu religion. This lead to ‘Poona Pact‘ agreement in between Dr.B.R.Ambedkar and Gandhi, which created a single electorate for Hindus with reserved seats for Dalits in it.
- 1982 – 15% reservation for SCs & 7.5% reservation for STs were implemented in Govt Jobs and Govt aided educational institutions for a period of 5 years, after which review was sought.
- 1991 – Reservation for Economically backward people of Forward castes was implemented.
- 1993 – Reservation for OBCs in Govt jobs was implemented based on Mandal Commission report.
- 1993 – Creamy layer concept was introduced for OBCs on income basis. It means that OBCs, whose family income is more than 1 lakh rupees at that time came under creamy layer and were excluded from reservations.
- 2008 – Reservation for OBCs in Higher educational institutions was implemented based on Mandal Commission report.
- 2008 – Supreme Court ordered to cap the total reservation to 50%
- Though the reservation in Jobs and Educational institutions was initially for five years, it wasn’t reviewed and continued till today.
- There are many protests for and against caste reservation system. Currently, there are major protests from Jats of Haryana, Patidars of Gujarat, Kapus of Andhra Pradesh. These communities are seeking reservation.
In favor of the present reservation system :-
- Many people from backward castes came out of poverty and have a dignified life, with the help of caste reservation system.
- It compensates the social discrimination, backward castes go through. Social discrimination, untouchability exist even today in some parts of India.
- There is no creamy layer concept for SCs and STs.
- There are many poor people in backward castes, who are not utilizing reservation. And there are many people, who are using reservation at many levels and using the reservation benefits for their children too.
- Percentages of reservations are based on 1930 caste census because there is no new caste census.
- Discriminatory towards upper castes.
- Not all upper castes are as powerful and wealthy as before.
- New communities are being added to the reserved categories. And there are demands from many more communities to include them in the reservation quota. This dilutes the very purpose of reservations – bringing the disadvantaged to the mainstream.
- Deepening caste identities.
- Caste reservation system is in conflict with one of the aims of our constitution – caste-less society.
- Showed path to vote bank politics.
What is needed :-
- If good education and abundant job opportunities are available to all, there won’t be any necessity for reservations.
- Violent protests need to be curbed.
- Eligibility criteria should be reviewed.
- Creamy layer for SCs and STs.
What other countries are doing :-
- United States – Special consideration to racial minorities, native Americans, and women.
- Canada – ‘Employment Equity Act’ requires employers to increase the representation of four designated groups – women, people with disabilities, Aboriginal peoples, and visible minorities.
- Russia – Quota system for ethnic minorities and women.
- South Africa – ‘Employment Equity Act’ requires employers to increase the representation of Blacks, Indians, Coloreds and women.
Though there are loopholes, caste reservation system is still relevant today as it’s uplifting many disadvantaged communities. But this needs to be restructured. Our approach should be the way to taking undeserved out of reserved categories and focusing on the deserved rather than adding more and more communities to the reserved categories. By this, reservation percentage will keep on decreasing and one day caste reservations will no longer be there.
Afterwords :- Do you think caste reservation system is still relevant? What should be done to ensure equality? Share your thoughts in the comment section.