This caste or that group; this religion or that community. We have been hearing for years now. Recently the Congress party promised reservation for minorities while campaigning in UP. Mid last year Jayalalithaa government in Tamilnadu ordered the continuation of 69% reservation without excluding creamylayer. Earlier Andhra government’s decision to provide for reservation for minorities had been challenged in the court.
I know that this issue is sensitive. Opinion is sharply divided. You argue for it- you are a progressive, secularist. You argue against it- you are a high caste, ‘merit monger’. Each side is so intransigent that it does not want to listen to the other; it does not want to see the facts. Consequently the quality of debate has deteriorated to just pointless rhetoric.
Any debate on reservation revolves around two aspects viz. a) the historical facts which compelled the introduction of quotas and b) the legal, constitutional provisions and intentions of the framers of the constitution.
There is a broad agreement on historical facts- certain groups/ classes were oppressed, were denied opportunities for many decades; these groups cannot compete with the privileged groups; these groups need to be equipped, trained to face competition; till that time they need to be given preferential treatment.
But the acrimonious debate is over the constitutional provisions. Listening to these arguments, I wonder whether there is any balanced, unbiased and objective opinion on this issue. There are castes and religions which are beneficiaries of the quota system. Then there are castes and groups which are left out but are hopeful of inclusion at a later installment. Finally there are those who have no hope of reaping any benefits from reservation. Each of these groups views the constitutional provisions and court judgments through the prism of convenience.
Not to be left out, jurists, journalists and sociologists jump into the fray and advance by far the most ludicrous theories- to exhibit their intellectual superiority, they read too much into the provisions, see far beyond the obvious.
As a consequence, the commoners who listen to the debates and who read columns in newspapers get confused.
If after all the above, I give my opinion on the issue, I am sure it will add one more dimension to your confusion. Hence let me suggest the following. Let me give a set of simple questions. Google and find answers to them. Avoid TV debates till you find answers.
- What do articles 15, 16, 46 and 335 of the constitution provide? (All the 4 articles together will not be more than 200 words.)
- What are the classes/ groups entitled to reservations under the constitution? What is the difference between castes and classes?
- Which educational institutions are required to provide reservations- Govt. run or Govt. aided or Govt. recognized?
- While there is reservation in appointments, is there reservation in promotions?
- If the reserved seats are not filled in a year, what happens to the unfilled positions?
- Who were Champakam Durairajan, M R Balaji, K C Vasantha Kumar, Indra Sawhney and Ashok Kumar Thakur and how did they influence reservations?
- What is Schedule IX to the constitution and how is it used in connection with reservations?
Believe me. You will reach objective conclusion.