I have seen many cases where a student ABC (belonging to the General category) scores high marks in a screening test but is deprived of his seat as another student XYZ (belonging to a reserved category) is given the seat in spite of scoring lower marks than ABC, just because he has the reservation advantage. ABC scored more than XYZ and is more intelligent as per the screening exam results. Yet, his score holds no value as he belongs to the General category.
The present scenario: A brief insight
India has been a land of diverse people ever since the ages. Not all people are alike. Different people carried out different occupations and based on that, Indians were divided long back into four main castes- Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras in a descending order of status. With the independence of India in 1947, a great relief came to the lower castes with the caste system being abolished by the Constitution of India.
To bridge the gap between the high castes and the low castes, India adopted a reservation policy. Reservation in India refers to the process in which a certain amount of seats or vacancies are reserved or kept aside for the backward or under-represented communities, generally defined by their caste or tribe. The roots of reservation in independent India can be traced back to 1982, when the constitution first specified a certain amount of seats or vacancies to be kept aside specially for the backward communities.
The present caste-based reservation system of the Union Government of India has the following castes in order of increasing reservation criteria, among which the General category (GEN) has no reservation:
- General Category (GEN).
- Scheduled Castes (SC), having a reservation of 7.5% seats.
- Scheduled Tribes (ST), having a reservation of 15% seats.
- Other Backward Classes (OBC), having a reservation of 27% seats.
The total percentage of reservations amounts to 49.5% of the total number of seats or vacancies available in educational institutions and government jobs. The General category is left with the remaining 50.5% of the seats, where the individuals belonging to SC, ST and OBC can also compete.
The reservation policy has been gaining ground in due course of time, but is it able to fulfill its purpose? Is it really a harbinger of equality? I don’t think so.
A new reservation policy
All men are born alike with equal amount of intellect. Put into use efficiently and effectively, the human brain can do wonders, irrespective of it belonging to the person of a high or low caste. The question that often comes to my mind when I see the detrimental effects of the current reservation system of India is that why should a resurging country like India with ample amount of human resource stick to a policy which deters its developmental process by compromising merit with caste?
Can a new reservation policy be framed which is void of the present four castes and includes new categories purely based on economic grounds?
I visualise a policy which has categories dividing people on their economic status. The people with maximum income level form the category which has absolutely no reservation at all and the people with subsequently lower income levels form the subsequent categories offering an ascending order of reservation percentage in educational institutions and government jobs. The people with the lowest income level will get to receive optimum benefits from this policy.
Let us consider the case of the student. A poor student realises the value of money much more than a rich student. The rich student has always lived his life among luxuries and he might have never realised how a penny is earned by his father. Whereas a poor student has seen the struggle of his father- how he has worked hard every day to support his family, how he has toiled hard to provide education to his children and how hard it is to earn just one penny. The poor student will definitely understand the responsibility he has for his family. He will study hard so that he gets to earn soon and support his poor family that has high expectations from him. But a rich student may not think or feel the same. He might not understand the value of money like the poor student and may derail with his education and career objective once he is away from his home. In this regard, the poor student outshines the rich student and gradually becomes a valuable human resource for the society and nation.
The idea of a policy like this came into my mind when I started observing and studying the consequences of the current reservation policy. The current policy offers reservation based on caste, but is it being fair? Merit is being compromised with caste and class. I have seen many cases where a student ABC (belonging to the General category) scores high marks in a screening test but is deprived of his seat as another student XYZ (belonging to a reserved category) is given the seat in spite of scoring lower marks than ABC, just because he has the reservation advantage. ABC scored more than XYZ and is more intelligent as per the screening exam results. Yet, his score holds no value as he belongs to the General category.
The current reservation policy was adopted to maintain equality among the different classes of people. But is not that all General category people are very rich and well off, or all the people belonging to the reserved categories are economically backward. I have seen people belonging to the General category performing odd jobs and on the streets and I have also seen people belonging to reserved categories living in centrally air-conditioned houses and travelling in air-conditioned personal cars. If equality is to be maintained, can the government not develop new policies that help in the upliftment of the backward classes in any other manner rather than compromising the merit of its human resource?
I feel that the present reservation policy is vehemently leading to the decline of able and efficient human resource. Quality is at stake. This is not the way to bring equality among people. Awareness and education are the key factors for the growth of any nation. Awareness regarding social equality needs to be provided via mass media. Education must be made free of reservation based on caste or class. Why compromise merit with caste? Actually, in my opinion, reservations should not exist at all. Yet, if it is very necessary for them to exist, merit may be compromised with economic grounds to a certain minimal extent. The comparison between ‘poor and meritorious’ and ‘rich and meritorious’ will not make a huge difference as the word ‘meritorious’ is associated with both. A moderate compromise like this will just help to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, and help to improve the present scenario where the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer, thereby eliminating poverty- the greatest hindrance of any developing country.
© Barnadhya Rwitam Sharma
*Images Courtesy: http://www.google.com