Abolish Cast Based Reservation in India

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  • What is caste based reservation in India:

In India, based on caste, religion, and gender, a percentage of seats are reserved for religious minorities, Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) in educational institutions, government jobs, and the legislature. The reservation system was introduced when India got independence from Britain. Even before the Independence, numerous attempts were made by the British government as well as the Princely States, rulers, to give more opportunities to the suppressed communities. Has the reservation helped in the upliftment of the suppressed classes? Why was it introduced? Do we still need this system of Caste based reservations in India? Let’s look at the background.

  • Caste based reservations: Its genesis and background in India.

According to the Dharma Shastras in Hinduism, the society can be divided into four categories based on the birth and occupation of the family, a person is born into.

There were other backward classes, that do not fall in any of the above-mentioned categories. They are the Dalits and other Scheduled Tribes of today. The population was divided on the basis of their occupation and a child born into a family was only allowed to follow the same occupation of their parents. This made the Upper Castes act superior to the backward or vulnerable section of the society. They further devised rules to be followed. This existed before the establishment of British Raj in India. The British Government attempted to change this system.

In 16 August 1932, the British government under the Prime Ministership of Ramsay Macdonald introduced Communal Award, which granted separate electorates to Forward Caste, Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, Muslims, Buddhists, Indian Christians, Sikhs, Anglo-Indians, Europeans and the Depressed Classes. Separate Electorate offers a separate seat in the legislative assembly, in which only the members of a particular community could elect their representative, who is also a member of their community. Many leaders including Mahatma Gandhi opposed this, fearing that this would further divide the society on the basis of caste and religion. He also feared whether this would make the untouchables, always untouchables and can never come out of that title. However, B.R. Ambedkar was one among many who supported separate electorates. He opined that it would give more opportunities for the untouchables and other backward classes.

To not implement this, Gandhiji went to the extent of fasting until death. Finally, after much debates and discussions, the Poona Pact was signed in 1932. It allowed each community to have a representative, elected by the general voters, not only by the members of that particular community. This offered 15% and 7.5% (total of 22.5%) of reserved seats for SC and ST students, respectively. It was later raised to 49.5% by including an additional 27% for OBCs. It is the same for government jobs.

  • Why were the caste based reservations introduced in India?

It has been 70 years since India got Independence from the British government. The situations and circumstances that prevailed during the drafting of the constitution were entirely different from now. Until then, the lower castes and other backward communities were suppressed by the higher castes. They weren’t allowed to enter temples or pursue education. There have been cases where women of a particular community weren’t allowed to wear clothes to cover the upper part of their body. One such example is Temple Entry Proclamation of 1936 in Travancore Province. People belonging to the lower castes weren’t allowed to enter temples or even walk in its neighbourhood. This Proclamation gained them the right to enter temples.

By giving reservations, the members of the Constituent Assembly wanted to bring changes in the way they were treated in the society so that they can avail equal opportunities like the upper castes. It was introduced as a process to bring equality gradually. From that, till now, most of the scenarios have changed. We see many young citizens excelling in various fields, who belong to Dalit and other backward classes (like Kalpana Saroj, Ilaiyaraja, and so on..) 

  • How far are caste based reservations viable in the current scenario?

Let’s consider a situation. Two students, each belonging to SC and FC (Forward Castes) give their JEE exams. The student belonging to SC scores 49 and student belonging to FC scores 70. The first student enters a good institution, wherein the second student couldn’t.

Is it fair to enroll a student based on his/her caste? If caste decides the future of a student, why do we ask every student to dream equally? The constitution talks about giving equal opportunities. But is this happening?

  • Caste based reservations: How better could we amend it?

The current reservation system can be given few amendments according to the current scenario.

Considering the economic status of a student. A criteria which divides students below and above certain annual income.
However, the reservation must not be for the seats. It can be given the in the education fees, a concession for students who can’t afford.

A category in the application form that asks for the generation they belong to, and a sub-question to understand whether they are the first or second generation to pursue an education in their entire family.
Documents to support their answers should also be attached. (Educational Qualifications of their parents. A copy of their certificates).

A board should be formed for this. They should cross-check the details provided by the applicant. If we check the income and the occupation of their parent, it can give few answers. Also, the board should have access to a database that contains all the details about every single citizen of India. For which, a proper survey solely for this has to be taken.

My opinion: 

It's bad. The current reservation system is primitive and devoid of thoughtfulness. It's a system of doling out free passes for life. I abhor this reservation system.

There should be no justification for employing and promoting people who don't meet the standards of the organization. This costs the country billions of dollars in opportunity costs.

On the other hand, once talent or past performance seems compelling, there should be no reason to not employ a person in an organization (read zero discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, religion etc.).

I can rant about folks getting better education and better jobs (undeservingly) because of caste based reservation, but I'm sure there is and will be more content addressing that so I'm notgoing there.

We must acknowledge that not everyone in the country gets equal opportunity, not everyone gets quality (or even acceptable quality) education. Mostly, the constraints are financial, some are social. You'd agree that someone who comes from a less privileged school where often the teachers don't show up in class to teach, or don't give a damn about teaching otherwise, to compete equally with someone who's been to a good school and has been going to JEE (or other entrance exams) prep classes from the age 12 or so. Our biggest concern should be to make the competition fair.

So how do we go about it? Here’s an idea (which can always be improved upon)

Announce that reservation system is getting abolished in 15 years from now.
Enable families with less than INR 2 lac annual income (ensure strict income assessment) to apply for a child education allowance of INR 500 per month. You get only INR 500 irrespective of the number of children in family. (The number should get adjusted with inflation)
Establish a feedback mechanism for all government funded schools. Get quarterly feedback from parents and students whether the teachers show up in schools and whether the children are learning things or not. Fire the poor performing teachers if the feedback is below acceptable level for two quarters in a year. The salaries are decent and there's no reason to compromise on the quality of education imparted by them.
At the time of entrance exams, waive the application fees for economically weaker students.
If the student qualifies for a government funded university, ensure hassle free disbursement of loans (at less than market rate) to cover tuition and living expenses, as budgeted by the university.
Ensure students pay back loans so that this program can continue. All the tracking can be made incredibly simpler if the Aadhar card system is robust and full implementation kicks in sooner.
Empower the next generation, remove their bottlenecks, don't dole out free passes to anyone. That's disastrous

  • A better solution :

Some background story———— In India farming is considered as a taboo for educated people. Everyone feels that he has wasted his parents money by studying in good colleges only to become a farmer. Now this has led to the number of farmers reducing every year. Also, in other countries educated people do farming and thus increase productivity and lower the chances of crop failure.

Now back to India,

We should introduce new fields of education like agro-expertise engineering, biofuel engineering etc. Now, condition for reservation—-

If you are not using reservation right-you can get seat in any field like CS, Electrical, Civil etc.

But if you are using reservation you can only get fields like agro-expertise engineering, biofuel engineering etc.

Now, why is this reservation system better.

Lets say A is the son of a poor farmer living in a village in a small hut. He studies Agro-expertise and becomes the Farmer adviser of his own village. Now A lives in a good house earning 30–40k per month. Now for A this is a great leap towards better future.(From 6–7k per month to 40k). A is happy.

But here’s the major catch. A SC or ST living in Mumbai travelling in BMW or any middle class SC or ST with proper education will either have to sacrifice reservation or will have to move downwards. Thus a family earning 50–100k per month will not send his child to become a farmer’s adviser in some village. And the ones with income in lakhs will definitely not.

Now, isn’t this what we wanted, poor lower caste getting reservation rich lower caste people are not.

If this happens I am sure no one will be against reservation anymore. Only those who deserve reservation will get reservation and India will get jobs that help farmers increase productivity,

India benefits, poor lower caste benefits, fair competition in exam, farmers benefits.