During the British reign, it was proposed that the Scheduled Castes be treated as a separate community and granted separate reservation under the Government of India Act 1935. But the historic fast of Gandhiji prevented it. After independence, the Constituent Assembly formed the Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights and Minorities headed by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The committee recommended special privilege to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for a limited period. The privilege was meant for the upliftment of the lower castes, but it has become a gross abuse in the hands of self-centered politicians. The special provisions were primarily for a limited period of ten years from the date of taking effect of the Constitution on January 26, 1960. There is no provision of a fixed period for the continuation of this privilege. The ten years’ period of constitutional safeguards continued to be extended each time by ten years, before the period of earlier ten years expired. The very concept of reservation is against the essence of the Preamble to the Constitution of India, which promises equality of status and opportunity. Once a concession or any kind of privilege is extended to a particular class it is impossible for any Government to withdraw it in a democracy where voting decides the fate of any party.

Indian democracy is called by some thinkers as monocracy, where the illiterate mob decides the fate of the political parties. The privilege of reservation once given is extended every time as the withdrawal of this privilege means definite ousting of the ruling party from power in the next election. The Opposition party or other regional parties can promise to grant the privilege if voted to power. This issue of reservation has become a political concession to garner votes.

In 1992, the Supreme Court ruled that reservation quotas cannot be applied in promotions of Government employees beyond 1997, but Parliament, through the 86th Amendment Bill, restored the scheme of reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in promotions, too. The government has further given reservation to the Other Backward Gasses (OBCs). Former Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee pointed out that “In an unequal society where the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward classes are still suffering from historical disabilities, what they want is social justice and empowerment and not mere welfare”.

While providing privileges in the Constitution for a limited period of ten years, it was felt that the feeling of casteism would vanish. But even j after 59 years of independence, reservation based on birth has catalyzed the widening gap, caste differences and hatred among different castes. Fifty-nine years of reservations have enabled these Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to occupy many of the higher posts in Government offices and institutions. With the help of legislative support to reservation, ‘ the not so eligible’ have climbed to the high posts and the better qualified with high marks are just facing the injustice being done to them for no fault of theirs.

Recently, HRD Minister Mr. Arjun Singh declared the proposal for 27% reservation for OBCs in the field of Management, Medical Science and Information Technology. This triggered big strikes in Government hospitals and colleges. Both types of road shows were observed-in favour of reservation and against it. But there has been no change in the Government’s decision. “Ahmedabad may soon get a new Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), to absorb the increased seats of OBC students”, says The Hindu.

“Reservation is against the fundamental principles of humanity, it is against the dictates of reason that a man should by reason of birth be denied or given extra privileges”, said Mahatma Gandhi.

Reservation based on birth has resulted in benefits to already benefited families again and again. Once a person of a reserved caste gets benefit his social status becomes high now again his family members are getting the benefit thus depriving the other needy people of his own caste.

The existing quota system deprives the eligible of the opportunities they rightly deserve. Every other day, one caste or the other is struggling to be labelled “Other Backward Classes.” The quota system, in reality, has become a huge political enterprise.

In deciding which groups to include on the list, the commission considers factors such as literacy rate, the prevalence of child marriage and more obscure benchmarks such as whether widows are permitted to remarry (because upper caste widows typically do not marry). India’s Muslim minority, for example, is outside the caste system and therefore, has been largely left out of quota policies. Still other groups have been overlooked because, “they are so backward, they have no knowledge of the system”, said Mr. Ram Surat Singh, a retired judge who chaired the commission.

In the mid-1990s, for example, Rajasthan’s Jats applied for their inclusion in the Other Backward Classes list. In 1997, the commission recommended to Parliament that the Rajasthan Jats be added to the list. “The Jats got the reservation because of their agitation and political power”, said Mr. CP. Joshi, a Cabinet Minister in the State’s Congress Party Government, which proposed a 14 percent quota for upper caste poor in government jobs. All parties are fighting and using the reservation as a tool for their political survival.

“The future, we have been told, is urban, and that the cities of the future will be largely populated by the poor. Even if steps are taken today, this reality will not change”, says The Hindu.

The Union Government has set the ball rolling for yet another controversy on the concept of quotas, by setting up a Group of Minister to study the possibilities of a Constitution Amendment Bill to provide for job reservation to the forward castes on economic ground. The former Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee’s commitment to a constitutional amendment at a public meeting in Rajasthan came in response to a resolution orchestrated by the then Rajasthan Chief Minister, Mr. Ashok Gehlot recommending statutory changes to reserve 14 percent of Government jobs for the poor among the forward castes.

A proposal to include the poor among the forward castes in the reservation bracket was made by the Congress party in the context of implementing the Mandal Commission recommendation. However, a Constitutional Amendment is not as simple as promised by Mr. Vajpayee. Several youth lost their lives in their protests against the recommendations of Mandal Commission.

Reservation in Government jobs opposed many times by other classes, are not justifiable after 59 years of independence. It is a bitter truth, that reservation has resulted in mediocrity and sacrificed quality. Reservation means jobs to the inefficient and the incompetent at the cost of other competent and more efficient persons. As far as private sector is concerned, it is purely a commercial concern, set up to earn profits or investible surplus to earn more profits. The objective of private sector to earn profit can’t be achieved if it is forced to be run by less competent people. Success in competition requires highly skilled, most competent, most dedicated and result oriented working class, not the people who have been propped up with the pillar of reservation.

In Gram Panchayat, Panchayat Samith and Zila Pari shad, the seats of Sarpanch, Sabhapati and President are reserved for open and backward categories in routine for all candidates. It has been observed that a lady Saipanch/Sabhapati/President from backward class is illiterate and all pecuniary work is handled by educated members of the committee. Also, some MPs and MLAs from reserved seats are illiterate. This is harmful for the progress of those areas from where they are elected. Therefore, it is necessary to have some qualification based on education to be compulsory in elections, if there is reservation already provided in education.

All our social and religious reformers have tried to break down casteism. It is regrettable that we have not been able to treat all men on equal footing even today. In modern world, there is no place for caste or racial discrimination. What matters is the capability of a person and his contribution to the society. By giving reservations to SCs, STs and OBCs, we are inflicting handicaps on those who are ‘more advantageously placed’ due to their birth in a particular caste. This type of reservation policy will be responsible for dividing society on caste lines.

This is the demand of time that the present policy of reservation in public sector should be reviewed without considering its political repercussion, for the real good of the general public. Reservation of all kinds must be abolished; if found essential, it should not be based on caste, creed or birth, but on the financial as well as economic status and benefit should reach the grassroots level, to the really needy ones.

Reservation in education, reservation in service, no examination fees for SCs and STs, reservation in elections, reservation.., how long will this go? There must be some alternative to this and that is education and employment for all. Education must be compulsory and should reach people from all castes. All people below poverty level must get employment irrespective of their castes and that alone can engender true prospects for our nation’s all-round development.