Reality of reservations

First, Andhra Pradesh legislature approved four percent reservation for poor Muslims, which was later upheld by the Supreme Court. Then, eight percent reservation for SCs in J&K at district level through ‘Inter-District Recruitment Bill’. Third, and most important, the Rajya Sabha passed the ‘Women’s Reservation Bill’ which accords 30 percent reservation for women in all central as well as state legislatures.
The sole reason put forward by proponents of these legislative acts was that these would negate or stop the discrimination, social disability and social-economic-educational backwardness of these under-privileged groups and communities. They equate these measures with serious, formal, legal, political and ideological efforts to fight the under-development of these unfortunate sections of the society.
But, the social reality reveals a different story. Various studies in the state and at the country-level have revealed that reservations have not fulfilled desired objectives. In other words, reservations have not helped these targeted groups fully or at large.
In actuality, implementation and operationalisation dynamics of these reservations benefited only few individuals and families at the cost of whole communities.
This policy gave rise to “elites” in these groups and communities which attained a status that can even be characterised as ‘exploitative’. It is primarily because the reservation policy continued to benefit select groups and communities generation after generation irrespective of their changed economic, social and educational status. Moreover, the policy of reservation negates social initiative and community efforts towards their total emancipation of these erstwhile disadvantageous groups and communities. Thus this policy seems illogical, irrational, and counter-productive. Is it not injustice to shower benefits permanently on some families at the cost of larger suffering groups and communities.
We may see the following happening in all these cases.
(i) The reservation for Muslims in educational institutions and employment sector in India has not benefited the whole community at large. A few families and groups continue to get reservation benefits and have emerged as ‘elites’. This group has proved highly self-oriented and has not benefited the whole community.
(ii) The reservation for SCs has produced similar results by benefiting the so-called “Harijan elite” at the cost of whole community. These ‘elites’ continue to get reservation benefit at the time of recruitment, promotion and other occasions generation after generation.
The author’s study about Education and Social Mobility among SC children in Jammu revealed that either eligible candidates for various jobs were not available (leading to return back of posts to sponsoring authority or shifting of posts for other undeserving categories) or few families got reservation benefits repeatedly generation after generation.
(iii) The same social situation may emerge in case of the “Women’s Reservation Bill”. Though we don’t support the opponents of the bill, the intentions, objectives, methodology of the proponents raise certain questions. The question is what and who stopped political parties in giving representation to women earlier?
We may conclude by mentioning that though legislative measure is necessary for making it an effective and legitimized instrument of social change, it is not enough and an end in itself. It must necessarily be followed by enough political actions, ideological support, social initiatives and economic measures.


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