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Reservation Issues – Frontline May 14, 2006

Posted by gantech in Reservation Issues.

I am beginning to love this magazine. The "April 22 – May 5" issue had a series of 5 articles on the reservation issue (that was the cover story), each discussing various aspects ranging from the sociological and historical perspective to the Legal issues involved. Too bad I read these too late. But I guess it's OK ! !


Logical step
by P.S. Krishnan

This one discusses The socio-historical and constitutional perspective and imperatives of the proposed Bill

So… the history of reservations.. dates back much before what I actually thought.

The process of reservation in education began in 1902 in the small princely state of Kolhapur, for Backward Classes – covering the present BCs, SCs and other non-Brahmin castes that are not in the post-Constitution lists of BCs.

An important Legal point.. it's not just economic backwardness that the government is targeting at but something else..

The Mandal judgment also held that, for purposes of inclusion in lists of SEdBCs, economic backwardness/poverty is relevant only if and when it arises from social backwardness, and that economic backwardness per se is not a criterion for identification of a class as backward in accordance with the Constitution. In view of this definitive judgment, it is futile and ignorant to argue that Backward Classes should be identified only on the basis of economic criteria or individual poverty. That is not the constitutional scheme. In fact the Supreme Court struck down the clause added by the Congress government in 1991 to the National Front government's order of 1990 providing 10 per cent reservation for the "economically poor".

But that's one point that I fail to understand. If a Dalit is poor and wants to study .. he'll be helped.. but if a Brahmin wants to study.. he won't .. (atleast that's what this picture seems to convey).. I can say with confidence that the temple priests today are not very well off.. infact I myself know people who are miserable and my own father has helped them. So why are they not entitled to reservation.. just because they supressed the "lower castes" so many years ago.. is it necessary to subject them to this treatment..??? I feel they are no different from the people that the government is trying to "rescue" today..

The same old story.. Mandal did suggest much more than just reservation.

The Mandal Commission contained many recommendations in addition to job reservation. It also recommended reservation of seats in educational institutions (apart from recommendations on land reforms, land distribution, tenurial reforms, cottage and small industries, training, economic development, rural development and so on). Reservation of seats in educational institutions had already been implemented long back in the peninsular States, and subsequently by some other States, but not by the Centre.

This was a point which I failed to understand initially.

There is an argument that shows its head whenever there is a proposal to give reservation to SEdBC (and SC and ST). This is that what these communities require is not reservation in higher education but good education from the earliest stages. The argument makes it appear as though the SC, ST and SEdBC categories have no interest in pursuing good education. But the fact of the matter is that these communities are as conscious of the need for and thirsty for good education as any
other community. But it is beyond their reach on account of the role most of them are cast in by their birth.

Another very important point

.. what is now proposed to be done is at the least 12 years late. Nobody should have been taken by surprise, for after the Mandal judgment this was bound to come sooner or later. It is not really a bolt from the blue. All along, the National Commission for BCs, national and State conferences of BCs, and Members of Parliament have been calling for this.

The basic premise is that reservation of jobs without reservation in education is illogical, for the latter is necessary to prepare the ground for the former. Not providing for reservation in any sector/part of education is an admission that the
Government of India does not intend to ensure fulfilment of reservation in jobs in the sector of employment related to the sector of education in which reservation is not provided. There should be no mismatch between the percentages of reservation of jobs and reservation in education.

This article by examining the history of reservation actually pulls the sting out of the protests that accuse politicians of pulling vote banks.This has been in existence since long and many upper caste people at the helm (including Nehru) themselves have felt the need for reservations to bring about a social equality.

An impression is sought to be created by some learned commentators that the SEdBC/OBC/BC groups are not a legitimate constitutional category for reservation or that reservation for them is an after-thought owing its origin entirely to the electoral and personal ambitions of one or the other politician. Neither the history of reservation from the beginning of the 20th century nor the specific provisions of the
Constitution justify these abominable suggestions.

Southern record

A point to be noted.. the southern state's reactions have been much more subdued.. Is it because of our inherent nature or because of the reservation system working for good here and we getting used to it.. I somehow believe in the latter and agree with the authors.

THE controversy over the proposed Bill to introduce reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBC) in educational institutions has been characterised by a number of arguments against the proposal. Broadly, they have been that "reservation militates against merit and excellence" and that it harms "the interests of other communities, especially the economically weaker sections among the
upper castes". There is also the fervent contention that the system of reservations does not actually help the weaker sections among the OBCs and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (S.C. and S.T.) since the benefits are cornered by the affluent among them. The sum total of the arguments is that reservations in institutions of higher, professional education such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) would be nothing short of a sociological disaster.

Ironically, this line of reasoning has been most vehemently advanced from regions that have no real or concrete exposure to reservation in the education sector. This includes the majority of North Indian States. In contrast, in the four South Indian
States as well as in Maharashtra and Gujarat, which have had varying degrees of experience in this regard, the opposition is marginal or absolutely nil. The overwhelming opinion among people in these States, and even in "excellence-pursuing" academic circles, supports the principle and practice of reservation. More important, the system seems to have got so embedded in the education sector in almost all these States that the reaction is notably balanced.


This article has an interesting point which I thought I must bring out…

On August 7, 1990, the then Prime Minister V.P. Singh announced the government's acceptance of the Mandal Report in Parliament, reminding the nation that the Constitution envisaged that socially and educationally backward classes (SEBCs) be identified, their difficulties removed and their conditions improved in terms of
Article 340 (1) read with Article 14(4) as well as Article 16(4) of the Constitution. The government decided to adopt, in the first phase, the castes common to both the Mandal list and lists prepared by a number of States, and introduced 27 per cent reservation for the SEBCs (the constitutional term for OBCs) in services under the Government of India and PSUs.

The reservation policy of 27 per cent for OBCs, V.P. Singh announced, would not be extended to educational institutions, and that it would continue for 10 years at the end of which it would be reviewed, even though the Mandal Commission had
recommended reservation in educational institutions and a 20-year duration for the policy.

Why did V.P. Singh depart from the Mandal report? Was it aimed to stop the snowballing of the popular agitation against his announcement? Or did he think it was more important to consolidate the gains of reservation in public services than introducereservation in educational institutions, which were likely to fuel
students' protests?

An answer to this may perhaps be found in the Mandal report itself: "An essential part of the battle against social backwardness is to be fought in the minds of the backward people. In India, government service has always been looked upon as a symbol of prestige and power. By increasing the representation of OBCs in government services, we give them an immediate feeling of participation in the governance of this country."

With the onset of the era of liberalisation and minimal governance, the erstwhile symbol of prestige and power might have lost its sheen; hence the increased stakes in the seats in professional educational institutions which offer opportunities for a successful career in the private sector.

And finally last but not the least.. There's one point in reservation that I have never understood.. My understanding of reservation is that the government is trying to make the actual numbers in any place equal to the demographic fractions prevailing there.. Fine.. no probs.. but why should the people who have reservations get in through the unreserved category as well.. Aren't you actually blocking people who don't have reservations by this way.. ????



1. ramadan krasniqi - July 28, 2013

Wonderful blog! I found it while browsing on Yahoo News.
Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in
Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Appreciate it

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