Monday 31 August 2015

Reservation | Problems, Solutions

A Brief History of Reservation:
  • The idea of quotas, reservation, or preferential treatment for the socially disadvantaged, is very old in India. 
    • It is frequently believed that the US pioneered affirmative action in the 1960s; in fact, India had recognised social disadvantage much earlier.
  • Efforts to provide for representation to “non-Brahmin” castes predates the Mandal report; in some cases, even India’s independence.
    • Broader rules came with 1993 Mandal Commission Case
    • States experience (especially in southern and western India) dates to the 1800s, and involves social movements, princely states and the Raj.
      • Tamil Nadu, 
        • Caste movements
        • Reservation since 1831 — when, under pressure, the Raj initiated the idea of quotas. 
        • Social justice movement against the repression of non-Brahmin castes peaked between 1910 and 1920 and, by 1921, reservation for BCs (backward castes), SCs and STs was initiated. In the 1930s, pressure for reserving more for the BCs increased, and governments responded. By 1990, there was 30% reservation for BCs, 20% for MBCs, and 18% and 1% for SCs and STs respectively.
      • Mysore state and princely states of Travancore and Kochi took note of popular support for the idea of reserving places in education, and the pressure from the backward communities and Dalits ensured they acted on it.
        • In 1919, the king of Mysore formed a committee headed by a judge to study the feasibility of reservations, and a plan was under way. In Kerala too, reservation for Ezhavas, Muslims, Other Backward Hindus, Latin Catholic and Anglo-Indians, and backward Christians were in effect for years before independence.
      • The state of Kolhapur introduced reservations in 1902 — for backward castes in education.
    • Ideas about reservation in independent India were shaped significantly by the so-called Poona Pact between B R Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi had vehemently opposed as divisive the communal award of August 1932, which separated Dalits (then called the “untouchables”) from Hindus, while Ambedkar was for it.
      • Gandhi went on a fast in jail, but eventually, though initially reluctantly, agreed to a compromise with Ambedkar in September 1932, under which a higher number of seats was promised for Dalits under the Hindu umbrella.
    • The Constituent Assembly for independent India’s Constitution carried forward the commitment to reservations for Scheduled Castes and Tribes as part of this promise — and quotas for SCs and STs is, therefore, the only explicit reservation that was written in.
      • According to some scholars, when some SC members of the Drafting Committee, apprehensive about the stance Sardar Patel (who was known to oppose reservations) might adopt, approached Ambedkar, he asked them to speak to Gandhi — and to remind the Mahatma of the commitment to Hindus at the bottom of the heap. And that is what ensured SC/ST reservations found a place in the Constitution.
      • Later, a debate ensued on this, as a Government Order in 1950 excluded converts (except four Sikh Dalit caste groups) from this reservation.
      • Slowly, by the 1990s, Sikh and Buddhist castes were included, but Christian and Muslim Dalits remain excluded.
    • Among North Indian states, Bihar adopted reservation for backward castes in 1978, when the socialist leader Karpoori Thakur was at the helm. He implemented the report of the Mungeri Lal panel, which was set up in 1971. Like Mandal, which came in later, this report said backward castes irrespective of faith needed reservation.
  • The Mandal Commission presented its report in 1980, but was dusted up by the National Front Prime Minister V P Singh for implementation in 1990.

  • Reservation was for 10 years but now has become permanent indirectly. 
  • Vote bank politis + needy arent getting it
  • Creamy layer using the benfits
  • It is not the poorest but frequently the non-poor, middle income groups of SC/ST/OBC who are seen to be the beneficiaries of reservations. 
  • The tool of reservation has failed miserably in removing caste differences and has promoted the caste divide and caste conflicts.  
Its not WHY / WHETHER but he HOW that deserves more attention.---> One, the criteria for allocation of benefits; and two, the nature of the allocated benefits.
  • The radical rethinking on reservation should aim at 
    • Completely exclude creamy layer
    • Give capability to deprive than just admission
  • Social and economic backwardness should be the criterion. 
  • Otherwise, the frustration of the youth is not likely to be contained. 
    • e.g. in Gujarat :
      • On the one hand, large-scale in-migration of unskilled and low-skilled workers is observed in a wide range of sectors such as agriculture, construction, brick kilns, power looms, small engineering, garments etc. At the other end, the posts of highly-skilled professionals in the fast-growing, technology sector have also been largely filled by professionals and high-skilled workers from outside the State. 
      • A significant number of the educated youth in the State does not find suitable employment in the State because 
        • i. the growth of the modern sector has been highly capital intensive, where jobs generated are relatively few and local youth frequently do not qualify and 
        • ii. other employment opportunities for the educated youth are fewer and not remunerative. 
  • Families of public officials of a certain rank — IAS, IPS, other Central and State civil services, present or former MLAs, MPs, other senior politicians — certain high income professionals like physicians, chartered accountants, managers above a certain rank in the private sector, and businessmen and others above a certain income should be dis-reserved. 
    • In other words, once they have received a significant advantage of reservations, they should be able to ensure opportunities for their children and vacate the space for the truly disadvantaged children in their own caste groups.
  • No child with ability and desire should ever be denied opportunities for higher education on account of poverty or birth. Scholarships, free tuition, soft loans and other mechanisms must be strengthened, so that a bright child can reach for the stars irrespective of his or her family’s social or economic status.  
  • We have to address the anger and aspirations of poor families among unreserved communities. 
  • moving away from a group-membership-only criterion of allocation to a group-membership-plus or an indirect allocation method. - evidence-based group-membership-plus
    • Based on serious sociological evidence, they argued that group membership (caste, community, sex) should become but one factor in assessing a person’s eligibility for affirmative action, along with 
      • family background (managerial, professional, clerical, non-income-tax-paying) and the 
      • type of school a person went to (government or private, English or vernacular medium, residential, etc). 
  • NOT economic criteria based reservation - Income-based proposals deny the fact that disadvantage is not simply material, but also social, cultural and political.
The function of reservation is to empower beneficiaries so that later generations begin to compete successfully in the general category. Thus, when candidates eligible for reservation begin to enter the general category, it is a sign that reservation is working. When the general category begins to reflect the caste composition of society, it will be time to abolish reservation. 
It is time we address the challenge of reservations honestly, fairly and innovatively by creating opportunities for all disadvantaged children. Along with improving school education outcomes, a more rational model of reservation based on equity and common sense must be envisaged

Background: (for essay)
 All societies face serious challenges on account of discrimination and institutionalised inequality. The United States has its African-Americans and American Indians, Europe has its Gypsies, Australia has its Aborigines, and China has its non-Han minorities. But nowhere in the world are inequality by birth and moral neutrality to such discrimination so institutionalised as in Indian society. Centuries of artificial division of society into hundreds of castes, the denial of education for all but a few “upper” castes, an unbreakable linkage between caste and occupation, institutionalised untouchability and absurd notions of “impurity”, the long-entrenched tradition of endogamous marriages within a sub-caste, and serious prejudice against mixed marriages are all that have made the Indian caste system the most heinous, oppressive and intractable form of discrimination and inequality by birth.


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