Advantages & Disadvantages of Reservation System and Amendments in The Constitution

Updated November 10, 2022

Reservation system as statutory provisions in India is not quite a new thing. However, the debate of Disadvantages of Reservation vs Advantages of reservation is a popular pastime among the Indian intellectuals of today. But, let me put it up correct way that reservation is a constitutional provision aiming to to uplift the social and educational status of backward communities in India.

Usually, under the reservation system, a certain percentage of seats is reserved for backward communities in government jobs and academic institutions. Although, the reservation system play crucial in uplifting socially and educationally backward communities, it also contributes to a larger extent in degrading the quality of candidates. Degrading in the sense, that one who needs lesser merit, toils lesser which automatically undermines the quality of the candidate.

So, reservations has both good and bad aspects i.e., on one hand, it allows in increasing the number of people from backward sections in various decision-making while on another hand it makes meritocracy meaningless. Apparently, the major loophole in the reservation systems is that it failed in meeting its true objective of uplifting who are in need. Fact is that, not every one deserving but a very concentrated number of people of the backward community or dominant class in the backward community are beneficiaries of it.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Reservation Provisions

Yes, like every constitutional tool for the benefit of deserving people, provisions of reservation seems to be hijacked. The reservation system initially envisioned as a great tool to uplift socio-economic level of the people appears to have been mis-used at times too. Let’s have both sides of the coin one by one:

Advantages of Reservation

(i). It helps people from backward sections to get access in various decision making i.e., Increase in representation from different sections of society.
(ii). It has helped some people from unprivileged sections to achieve higher posts or services in the public sector as well as in some private institutions.
(iii). Whenever people from backward community face breaching of their human right, reservation encourage them to fight for their justice.

(iv). Meritocracy is meaningless without equality. When we talk about merit, every people should be brought at the same level from social and educational status perspective. And, reservation is a key to meet the objective of bringing social and educational equality in society.
(v). Reservation has slowed down the process of forward becoming richer and backward becoming poorer

Disadvantages of Reservation

(i). It is like caste-based discrimination which resulted in a barrier for inter-caste marriages.
(ii). It makes meritocracy meaningless and contributes a lot to the degradation of the quality of students and workers enrolled in different institutions.
(iii). Everyone likes to have a casteism-free society but It propagates the notion of a caste-based society instead of eliminating it.

(iv). Poor people from upper castes don’t have any social or economic advantage over rich people from backward castes. If this prevails, it may result in the formation of another backward caste of people belonging from poor people of the upper caste.
(v). Not every people but largely dominant class in backward castes are beneficiaries of reservation. The marginalized section still remains marginalized.

Which Article of the Indian Constitution Makes for Reservation

Described in Articles 15 and 16 of the Indian Constitution, it allows the Government of India to set quotas to ensure the proper representation of any “socially and educationally backward class citizens” in public. It aims to realize the promise of equality described in the Constitution of India.

Amendments in Constitution for Reservation System

It would be quite relevant to make note of certain constitutional amendments that have taken forward the idea of uplifting the marginalized. Important ones are below:

Ninety-fifth Amendment of the Constitution of India

The Ninety-fifth Amendment of the Indian Constitution, officially known as The Constitution Act 2009. The amendment was made to extend the period of reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and representation of the Anglo-Indians in the Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Assemblies for another ten years (up to 26 January 2020).

Article 334 of the Constitution had originally required the reservation of elected seats to cease in 1960, but this was extended to 1970 by the 8th Amendment. The period of reservation was extended to 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2010 by the 23rd, 45th, 62nd, and 79th Amendments respectively. The 95th Amendment extended the period of the reservation to 2020. The period of reservation was further extended to 2030 by the 104th Amendment.

Introduction of Mandal Commission

On 1st January 1979 by the government of the Janata Party under prime minister Morarji Desai, the Mandal Commission or SEBC (the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Commission) was established to identify the socially or educationally backward classes of India. Late B.P. Mandal an Indian parliamentarian headed this commission to determine backwardness by using 11 social, economic, and educational indicators.

In 1980, on the basis of these indicators, 52% of the Indian population was found as OBC’s, and the commission’s report recommended that members of Other Backward Classes (OBC) be granted reservations to 27% of jobs under the Central government and public sector undertakings, thus making the total number of reservations for SC, ST and OBC to 49%.

One Hundred and Third Amendment of the Constitution of India

The One Hundred and Third Amendment of the Constitution of India, officially known as the Constitution Act 2019. The amendment was made to introduce a 10% reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) of society for admission to Central Government-run educational institutions and private educational institutions (except for minority educational institutions), and for employment in Central Government jobs. Such reservations are not mandatory in State Government-run educational institutions or State Government jobs under this amendment but some states have chosen to implement it.

Currently, a person with an annual gross household income of up to ₹8 lakh can only avail of the quota. Families that own a house over 1,000 square feet, over 5 acres of agricultural land, a plot of over 100-yards in a municipal area, or over a 200-yards plot in a non-municipal area are not eligible for this reservation. Persons belonging to communities such as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and the “creamy layer” of OBC’s are also not eligible to avail of this quota because they already have the reservation.

The Way Forward

Caste-based reservation system in a government institution and jobs is not an actual solution to bring social equality or to provide social and educational justice to unprivileged society.

It should be rather economy based so that every person from any community who is financially weak could be the beneficiary of reservation and uplift their social and educational status.

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