My Views

Reservation for OBCs – Possible Solution

Posted in Caste, Insight, Policy, Polity by dullar on April 25, 2007

Validity of reservations for OBC in the higher education has attracted the maximum attention from all sections of society since past many months. Student agitations, doctors protest, executive-judiciary conflict have all been the part of this drama. With government has already amended th constitution and has come up with an act regarding the same, judiciary has acted on the PILs and raised serious doubts over the constitutionality of the reservation for OBCs. It will be better to discuss each and everything separately.

  • Reservations for OBC-validity of concept.

Makers of the constitutions has made various provisions for the positive discrimination and affirmative action under articles 15(4) and 16(4). It is well understood that the makers of constitution at that time carried the will of people. Even Supreme Court do not questions the concept of reservations for the socially and educationally backward.

  • Need of Reservation in Higher Education

Given the fact that there is already a reservations for SCs/STs in the higher educational institutions, then what is the need of extending it to OBC as well. The answer to it pertains to politics rather than the reality and need. Given that in 1992, reservations was brought at the first time in services under Art 16(4), and SC/ST, OBC were given reservations in the central and state public services, it swung the political vote banks in favour or against few political parties. It was a tool to gather the votes of OBC by putting them in the reservation bracket.

But over the last about one and a half decade, the number of jobs in organised public sector has decreased many folds. Even though the total numbers of jobs in public services in 1992 was also not much but it was certainly more than present . Further more the welfare that was aimed by giving reservations in services was only of token value and didnt meant much beyond a political rhetoric.

Present government has once again wanted to play the caste card and tried to lure the middle classes of OBC through extending the reservations to educational institutions because the avenues in public services are very meagre.

If we look at the reality over the reform period the conditions of middle classes, or say OBCs have improved substantially. They have benifited from the overall development of country and at the same time are also contributing to it. Social backwardness doesnt mean much in today’s economy driven society. As far as educational backwardness of OBCs is concerned that can be tackled by government at various levels and reservations in higher educational institutions can also be explored, but in a fair manner. A bottom’s up approach will do the country more good rather than pushing for peace-meal solutions.

  • Who are OBCs?

Latest NSSO report says the OBC are around 40% of the total population. Governement has relied on a very old data of 1931 census. The validity of this census has evoked maximum protest from the different sections of the society. It must be known that the backwardness is decided on the twin principle of social and educational backwardness. Supreme court has also asked government to come up with latest data in order to support its argument of 27% OBC reservation.

  • Question of Creamy Layer.

The governmen’s decision to implement the quota in educational institutions without delineating the creamy layer has been the eye of whole storm. Government’s stand that in educational institutions there is no need of delineating creamy layer has been ludicruous and unqualified. In fact such a thing will make mockery of whole concept of creamy layer. Court has asked the government to come up with latest figures as who and how constitutes the creamy layer.

  • Need for Caste based Census.

It remains ununderstood that why the government is shying away from a cast based census. It argues that such a process will divide the whole society and country on caste lines. Is this argument not funny? Is soceity presently no divided on caste lines? It will be in our wisest interest if will face this disease on our face rather than turning overselves away. Gail Omvedt has tried to put this argument sighting example of US where too a race based census took place. It is of utmost necessity that we diagnose the disease before addressing it.

  • Reservations and Merit

The argument that bringing reserations to institutes of higher education, especially institutes of excellence will make their cutting edge blunt. But this assumes the fact the merit lies in only in certain section of society. If the merit is decided only on the basis of certain all india tests then it will not be hasr to imagine that economically and socially forward sctions of students will out-perform their backward brothers. It is a well known fact that IQ and intelligence is a function of environmental and social factors. Its “nurture” which is more important than “nature”. Reservations is a tool which addresses such issues. If the matter is about the excellence and merit then respective institutions should decide a particular percentage, that students below which will not be entertained even though seats are unfilled. Such a thing is done in IITs. Like they dont let in SC/ST students which do not score above a benchmark level, even though seats remain vacant. Apart from it special coaching can be provided to backward sections of students in order to tackle the examination in a better way.

Final solution lies in the hands of judiciary. CJI has intervened yesterday and allowed an early hearing of the case on May 8th. Given that government is hell bent to get the reservations through the test of equality and justice and people are holding their positions, it will be of utmost importance that how judiciary upholds constitutionality and reasonableness of reservations.

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