Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Thoughts on reservation in India

Yesterday I had a discussion with a friend (Crazy Pippin) about reservations in India for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and whether these actually work. I am sure most of the Indians have experienced the frustration of having to struggle for limited resources. This situation is made worse by the presence of such reservations. It has other far-reaching consequences as well, like less capable people acquiring positions of power and this leads to further inefficiencies in an already inefficient government.

I decided to probe this matter further in order to get a clear understanding of the issue at hand. In this article, I will present a brief historical overview of reservations followed by the consequences of such a provision.

It is well known that backward classes in India have been oppressed for centuries by other castes. This oppression continues to this very day especially in rural areas. Mahatma Gandhi was among the pioneers to set out to resolve this problem. He supported the caste system but was against the oppression by the so called “higher castes”.

Reservations were first introduced in India by the British in 1931 as part of the Puna Pact. This was done on the insistence of Dr. Ambedkar to give the oppressed classes a fair standing in the society. Mahatma Gandhi protested this decision claiming that it was a part of the British “divide and rule” strategy. He insisted that reservations would only exacerbate the problem by segregating hindu society.

Post-independence, Dr Ambedkar became the law minister and chairman of the drafting committee for India’s constitution. Reservations were a part of the constitution when it was released in 1950. However, that was supposed to be temporary and was to last for 10 years.

More than 50 years later the reservations continue to exist and have only become higher with passing years. The politicians, in an attempt to woo more votes from the public, continue to reserve more and more seats for SCs/STs/OBCs. I wonder if they even put in enough thought to the implications of such an action.

These reservations probably benefited some in the early years after independence and pulled some people out of the grips of poverty. But now these are used exceedingly by the lower caste people who have very good incomes. This is an unfair situation not only for people from other castes but also for the poor people of “lower castes”. Some people from the “higher castes” in a fit of desperation even illegally change their identities to those of “lower caste” people just so they can secure a job. It is also evident that people with lower capabilities are reaching positions of higher responsibilities and that is leading to a suboptimal workforce especially in government services.

I think it’s high time the government started taking proactive measures to try to solve the problem and not deceive the public. The reservations are not entirely bad and are sometimes even required for the upliftment of backward/oppressed people. But, reservations should be based on family income and not caste or creed. In addition, scholarships should be provided to poor people with high caliber to study in the best schools.

The ultimate goal should be to uplift the needy so that they don’t need reservations any longer. A key factor to achieving this is to provide good primary and secondary education to every child especially in rural areas. Having had access to schools at par with the best schools, they will have no reason to ask for reservations.

To sum up, reservations are required but not for the people of backward classes, some of whom earn more than most of us, but for the poor of the country. The ultimate aim of such reservations should be the upliftment of the poor and not winning the votebank. Also, these reservations ought to be a temporary aid in order to develop a society where it is no longer required.

An after thought - Thomas Sowell has done extensive research on reservations around the world in his book Black Rednecks And White Liberals .



At 6:35 AM, Anonymous Desh said...


I have a different take on reservations - I am convinced that the way these reservations are used and applied .. they harm MORE than they help. I have written an entire post on this topic -

Do let me know what you think on it..

btw, nice blog this one you have!!


At 10:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I agree with you in this...Its high time govt. should take appropriate action...



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