We all know the influence of caste on Indian society, from education, rights, and jobs to treatment and respect in general. Caste discrimination is something you expect would be rampant in the 19th or probably the 20th century. Yet, even now, Hindu society is plagued by social discrimination and inequity, which must be addressed. We have been fighting for equality for so long and have made genuine progress since then. That’s why hearing stories and incidents of caste discrimination is very surreal, unbelievable, and believable at the same time because it is something we have been hearing for so long. The question is whether the reserve is the proper way to go about it. 

Important Terminology

Closeup shot of the word definition in a dictionary. Page curves and has a vignetting or edge burn effect where the corners are darker. Focus is on the word definition.

First of all, to avoid confusion and misinterpretation, let us break down certain terms:

Reverse Discrimination: It is the same as positive discrimination. It refers to when a certain rule is made aiming to diminish discrimination or injustice towards a particular community and unknowingly negatively affects the other (sometimes privileged) communities. In this case, it refers to how reservations for the underprivileged have affected the opportunities for education and jobs for others outside the bracket. 

Class: Also known as social class, class is a group of persons in a culture having the same socioeconomic position. It is often confused with caste, whereas both are different concepts. 

Caste: In Hindu civilization, a caste is one of the traditional social strata into which individuals are separated. Caste is a social class structure that divides people in a society into separate social classes. The original divide was based on occupation, and nothing in Manusmriti implies that cross-caste mobility could not occur if one’s vocation changed. The stratification of Hindu society is a later occurrence, the major reason of which is the severe form of Brahminical Hinduism into which India plunged, and against which Prince Siddhartha revolted, becoming Buddha the Enlightened One and giving us a new religion, Buddhism. After Adi Sankara modernized Hinduism, that religion receded; however, the changes did not go far enough to abolish the worst types of caste oppression. 

ST and SC: The Scheduled Castes (SC) and Tribes (ST) are legally defined groupings of individuals who are among India’s most disadvantaged socioeconomic categories. The phrases are recognized under the Indian Constitution, and the groupings are assigned to one of the categories.

OBC: Other Backward Class (OBC) is a term used by the Indian Government to categorize castes that are educationally or socially disadvantaged.

Introduction to Reservation

 

Hand tangled in black and yellow barrier tape. reservation

In India, there are mandatory reservations in political parties, the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha, educational institutions, and workplaces. These were established after a series of changes and amendments made to the Indian Constitution. 

India is committed to the principles of social, economic, and political justice, as well as equality of position and opportunity; it is the Government’s primary responsibility to provide this for all Indian citizens. That is stated in the Constitution’s Preamble. Article 38 requires the State to ensure a just social order for the promotion of people’s welfare, to minimize income inequalities, and to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities, and opportunities, not only among individuals but also among groups of people living in different areas or engaged in different vocations. Article 39 goes into additional information about how this may be accomplished. 

Article 38 contains the mandate to reduce or abolish caste or class-based inequities, to provide every profession, not just dignity but also equality of status, and to erase regional differences caused by geography, topography, remoteness, or any other reasons that have kept the region backward. This stems from the special consideration given to backward, isolated, and undeveloped areas in the report of the quinquennial Finance Commission, as well as the unique status accorded to backward people. 

Selective focus on flag, Indian constitution or Bharatiya Savidhana preamble old scattered text paper placed on Indian flag - Concept of Freedom, Nationality and patriotism

All of this is done to promote the equality mentioned in the Preamble. In this context, this is a tremendous message from the Constitution to those who rule us because the whole blueprint of the Welfare State is included in the wording of Articles 38 and 39. Unfortunately, Articles 38 and 39 are largely ignored since they are part of the Directive Principles of State Policy, which many regard as advising rather than required. 

Article 15 specifically forbids discrimination in any manner. However, Article 16 states that if any backward class of people is not sufficiently represented in the State’s services, the State may make special reservations for appointments or posts to remedy the imbalance. The key phrases here are “backward class of citizens,” not “backward castes.” As will be explored later in this work, this distinction is critical.

Part XVI of the Constitution goes much farther, establishing unique protections for specific classifications. This Part’s title is rather deceptive because, in addition to class-based reservation, it also allows for ethnicity-based reservation and caste-based reservation. Articles 330 and 332 allow for the reservation of seats in the House of the People of Parliament and the Legislative Assemblies of States for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Article 331 allows for Anglo-Indian reservations in the House of the People, while Article 333 allows for equivalent reservations in the Legislative Assemblies. According to Article 334, such reservations were valid for fifty years from the date of the Constitution’s adoption, which indicates that the reserve should have expired in the year 2000.

Unfortunately, constitutional changes have periodically prolonged the duration of special representation, and it now looks that they have become a more or less permanent component of the Constitution. This is also true of Article 335, which states that “the claims of members of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes shall be taken into account consistently with the maintenance of administrative efficiency in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State.” Unfortunately, the terms “consistently with the maintenance of administrative efficiency” have only been employed in the case of the Armed Forces, who have resolutely refused to tolerate any reservation in recruiting at any level. For the remainder, reservations have not only become nearly permanent but their scope has been enlarged from time to time as populism has become the governing element in politics.

india reservation law making

Returning to Article 16, there was no reservation in Government service for anybody other than scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Unfortunately, the V.P. Singh administration opted to bury the Mandal Commission Report and implement its recommendations on the quota for so-called ‘Other Backward Classes.’

 The Mandal Commission attempted to conflate class and caste by grouping all persons of a certain sub-caste into a category called Other Backward Classes (OBC). As a result, all Gujars, Yadavs, and Ahirs, each of which is a sub-caste in Hindu society, were grouped together as OBCs. Even among the Yadavs, there are diverse classes, with some being highly educated and well-placed, others practicing traditional agricultural and pastoral professions, and yet others ignorant, backward, and unable to find lucrative employment. However, all Yadavs are now OBC, and while the Government attempted to adopt a creamy layer idea in the topic of reservation extension, the reality remains that a whole sub-caste was changed into a class and acquired backdoor admission into public employment under Article 16.

This is an example of obvious exploitation of the Constitution’s phrasing to extend patronage to entire sub-castes of individuals in order to obtain their votes. The situation is that up to half of all posts in Government service are reserved in some way on the basis of caste, caste masquerading as a class, or class per se, and an attempt is being made to provide reservation on the basis of religion, either directly as in Andhra Pradesh or through OBC reservation. Both of these are flagrant violations of the Constitution, but none of our officials are willing to admit it openly for fear of losing their positions. The terms of Article 335, “consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration,” are conveniently ignored in all of this. 

The Case of Reverse Discrimination

Reservation in education and employment is equality before law, Reservation system in india is to provided to give equal opportunity to the lower class pepole.

Reservation became a part of Government policy in the Madras Presidency in 1923, and gradually the upper castes, particularly the Brahmins, not only faced reduced opportunities for Government employment but their children were denied education due to the reservation of seats in educational institutions. Things got so bad under the DMK government that just roughly 8% of the seats in Tamil Nadu’s higher education institutions were accessible to Brahmins. 

Because the community has always prided itself in knowledge and learning, the Brahmins decided that their generation would sacrifice itself so that their children could be educated, and as a result, large numbers of Tamil Brahmin children migrated to universities across the globe to pursue higher education. Similarly, Tamil Brahmins who were refused work in Tamil Nadu fled to wherever opportunities were available, and they, like Malayalees, constituted the backbone of every administration in this country.

In terms of youth, so many have relocated to Silicon Valley in the United States that if Tamil Brahmins were to leave, the whole computer sector in that nation would most likely collapse. Without being judgmental or objectively attempting to analyze the loss to Tamil Nadu as a result of the out-migration of many of its best youngsters, one can confidently assert that Silicon Valley’s benefit is at the expense of Tamil Nadu. This is one instance when reservations have turned into affirmative discrimination against a specific caste, which has clearly not benefited the state. This is an apt example of the domino effect reservation has had in reverse discrimination. 

jee cutoff trends
Source: Shiksha.com

A more recent example would be the entrance exams cutoffs. The exponential difference in the cutoffs shown above only undermines the capabilities of students from all sectors. However, the cutoffs are getting closer as every year progresses.

The categorization inadvertently solidifies the inequality and segregation of society. While reservations were introduced because the nation sought equality, they weren’t able to achieve what they aimed for. But, while we enjoy the fruits of our other privileges, it is easy to criticize the flaws of the system. Even if I were a victim of caste discrimination and inequality, I would be fueled with rage. 

A deserving person is a deserving person, irrespective of caste, color, or gender. We should focus on having a more fair system. And it will take time for India to abolish the linings of casteism. Every person should have the right to receive equal education and opportunities, to make the standard of competition fair and just. It would be a shame if the country lost talent because of discrimination, poor nutrition, lack of infrastructure, or refusal to apply (irrespective of caste for whatever reason). The basis of a successful life should only be merit.

Written by: Samiksha

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