Policy of Reservation in Educational
Jaffer Ahmad Lone
B.A. LLB (6th Semester)
Vitasta School of Law & Humanities
The decision by the government to increase the quota of seats reserved for the under privileged classes in India’s higher education has added fuel to the already ragging debate over the issue. In central government funded higher education institutions, 22.5% of the available seats are reserved for the students belonging to the Schedule Tribes (St’s) classes and Scheduled Castes (SC’s) classes. If the new 27% reservation for the Other Backward Classes (OBC’s) is added to the existing reservation quota, the total reservation touches almost 50%. Apart from these there are other kinds of reservations such as reservation for physically handicapped, women, children of army personnel, Muslims, Christians, NRIs, state domiciles, forward castes, etc. So technically a student belonging to the general category gets roughly about 30-40% of the pie.
Caste and community profile people
Below poverty line in India based on NSSO 1999-2000
Caste & Community groups Rural Urban
Schedule tribes 45.8 35.6
Schedule castes 35.9 38.3
Other backward classes 27.0 29.5
Muslim upper Castes 26.8 34.2
Hindu upper castes 11.7 09.9
Christian upper castes 09.6 05.4
Upper Caste Sikhs 00.0 04.9
Other upper castes 16.0 02.7
All groups 27.0 23.4
The government of India has justified its decision to increase the reservation quota on the ground that majority of people below the poverty line belong to these under-privileged classes. The disadvantaged groups who have been suppressed by the upper classes from decades require assistance from the government to break the shackles of inequality and deprivation. The idea is to increase their representation in higher education and thus increase their chances of employment. The Indian government is responsible for providing, these sections of the society an equal opportunity to receive high quality education and social justice.
Many studies have shown that affirmative action/schemes are beneficial to the under-privileged/ under represented communities. These schemes offer them an opportunity to prove themselves and grow beyond what was possible before. Such programmes of affirmative action will help bring equality in the society and in the long run is expected to remove caste-discrimination altogether. Reservation creates a level playground for all and in the long run alleviates social deprivation.
One can counter argue that if support has to be provided to the under privileged communities why it is being done on the basis of caste. Critics have suggested that a much better way would be to classify the groups as per their economic status as it is the poorer section of the society who cannot afford quality education. A caste based reservation criteria will not be able to help a farmer’s child from a rural area who is intelligent and has shown high merit in school but belongs to a forward class. Justice must be served to those people too who although from a forward class do not have the monetary capacity to undertake a higher education. The person should get an opportunity to pursue higher studies based on his merits irrespective of his caste, creed and religion.
To balance the effect of the newly introduced OBC reservation the government has increased the total intake in the higher education institutions by 54% thus the number of seats available to the general category students will remain the same as before. But this has created another major problem. The existing educational institutes do not have the capacity to intake such large number of students. There is a lack of facility, infrastructure and availability of resources. The short falls have resulted in a fall in quality education.
Reservation can allow an incomplete person to reach higher level but cannot make him succeed to deliver the results. If a person is unable to secure admission by competing fairly with the others, then he will also be unable to compete in the course of study. The solution is not to impose more reservation but to prepare them to gain admission on their own merits.
The need is to cure the cause of the ailment and not the symptoms. A disadvantaged student will be able to compete with the others on a common ground only if he has merit. And that can be achieved with good quality of schooling. Therefore the objective should be to assist the students to gain knowledge in the primary and secondary school level so as to equip them for the competition. Simply pushing them into the field of higher education unprepared will only cause them to dropout in later stages or remain at the bottom of their academic classes.
Students dropout leads to a large number of reserved seats remaining vacant in the institutes. These seats as directed by the government are not allotted to general category students. This results in wastage of resources and deprivation to other deserving candidates on top of this. There are many people from the backward classes who do not deserve the reservation quota but fake their certificates to avail the facility. In such a scenario, the basic purpose of offering quota to the disadvantaged group stands defeated. In 2009 many IIT seats which were reserved for the minority candidates could not be filled due to the lack of qualified students. Out of the 1,265 seats reserved for scheduled caste students 337, seats were vacant, 458 seats remained vacant, out of the 659 seats reserved for scheduled tribe students and 207 seats remained unfilled out of 251 seats for the physically challenged. Year 2010 also saw a similar scenario when about 100 seats remained vacant after the admission process closed. Because of the caste based reservation genuinely meritorious students of the backward classes, who have received higher education in their own capabilities and have not availed the reservation scheme are looked down upon.
So instead of reservation the Indian government should look into offering free or subsidized education and training along with the provision of scholarship for the deserving students. Uplifting the standard of education at school level will make the foundation stronger, minimize the need for reservations and encourage students to secure admission solely on the basis of their academic achievement.
The reservation in no way consolidates the social fabric of the society but instead weakens it to root. It alienates the targeted groups from the other sections of the society. The reservation system only provides crutches without which one is sure to fall down. It betrays the time tested saying that for a child to be able to stand you must allow him to falls chaining the society and not allowing it to succor high in the sky like it is said for a child to be able to stand, you must allow him to fall. It is time that the strategies are amended to truly accommodate the requirements of the society.