Reservation system was embedded in India’s constitution to ensure fair representation of all caste sections in positions of power. At the time of independence, when the socially oppressed classes where just beginning their ascent up the deep spiral of discrimination and untouchability, that had bound them for decades, reservation was indeed a boosting force to ensure better lives for them. But over the past 70 years, economic and social situations have changed and it’s time to do away with current reservation system and develop a better one that suits the economic and institutional conditions of the new era.
Reservation itself is a pre independence policy, kick started by the Government of a India Act (19350, which created the list of scheduled casts and scheduled tribes. The policy was outcome of the Poona pact between Gandhi and Dr Ambedkar, where in Ambedkar withdrew the claim to a separate electorate for untouchables, in return for the promise of guaranteed representation in legislature. Also this was followed up by a promise from Gandhi and the congress, that they would do every measure possible to end untouchability and discrimination. Thus the system of reservation was born out of a pact made on political grounds to ensure fair representation of untouchables in the electoral system and to subdue their cries for a separate electorate. 1935, was a long time ago, when the society was divided on the practices of untouchability and a vast population was denied access to even fundamental rights. The policy was acknowledgement of an era, when caste was a driving force, segregating society and denying equal opportunities to every individual. But our society has come a long way from the pits of a dark age, but even now, we are applying the same system of reservation based on caste in everyday life.
The caste based system of reservation was indeed a need in the time of its creation. In an age where education and occupation was a hierarchical monopoly, reservation was a weapon in the hands of the oppressed to secure their rights. But in the modern India, it’s not caste that creates barriers in a pursuit for a good life, but money. Education is no longer restricted to anysingle caste, jobs are no longer a family hierarchical business. Everyone has the right to secure these facilities, there are no rules restricting certain section or castes. The only factor that decides an individual’s claim to better facilities is his/her financial circumstances. Any member of the SC, ST or OBC category is already empowered by laws to secure any level of education or job opportunities. They are no longer restricted on the basis of their cultural identity. The economical distribution of the society has undergone radical changes in the past decades. It’s no longer segregated on the basis of caste. Yet reservation system is based on caste alone.
How can a candidate coming from a financially poor background, but belonging to general category, in anyway be more empowered than a candidate belonging to reserved caste , but comparatively richer? The world has evolved from the practices of untouchability and discrimination; educational opportunities are distributed on the basis of money alone. Any individual with more money can secure a better education and better life than his counterpart having lesser money. It’s a common and logical fact. Yet our nation practices reservation based on caste, saying that it is a system to ensure equality.
The reservation system needs to radically revamped, changing its foundation from caste to financial resources. The societal landscape has undergone major changes, and the system needs to be consistently evolving to cope with the changes. Reservation is meant as a tool for the weaker sections of a society to stake claim to facilities that are easily accessible to others. But, in the current scenario, the weaker sections are the financially deprived masses that comprise all castes and religious divisions. The undertone of caste needs to be erased from the system and has to be modified to cater for the economically impoverished masses.
Reservation has , over the years amounted to a mere welfare program that hands out free passes and benefits to certain caste based beneficiaries, to compensate for historical wrongdoings of the society. When the practice of reservation started, the question was, should a person be denied his rights, just because he was born into a certain cast? But 80 years later, the question is, should a person receive benefits or have an easier route to success, just because of his caste?
True equality is the equality of opportunity, not the equality of outcome.