Affirmative action policies have been a matter of intense debate. India has one of the largest programs for affirmative action in the form of reservations across educational institutions and government jobs for its socially disadvantaged groups – the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) and the Other Backward Classes (OBC). Further, it has various policies aimed at positive discrimination for women.
Arguments against –
- ‘Affirmative action policies’ go against the principle of equality.
- It overrules merit as the number 1 criteria.
- Issues with targeting – Its benefits have been cornered by a few elites among these groups.
- These policies have prevented assimilation.
Arguments for –
1. It doesn’t violate the principle of equality before the law which states that unequal can’t be treated equally.
2. The reasons for Affirmative action policies are to rectify systematic discrimination and institutionalized inequality.
3. The framers of the constitution have provided such policies not on the grounds of religion or caste but on factors of social, political and economic marginalization.
It is a well-known fact that Affirmative Action has helped in the empowerment of these groups.
1. Many individuals from these backward classes have achieved great heights because of reservations. Eg. Speaker Mira Kumar, our Current President R. Kovind to name a few are all aided by the reservation policy in their initial career.
2. They have become more aware of their rights and are now more assertive wrt their demands from the government. Eg. The Patidar.
3. This has, in turn, strengthened our democracy. Many regional parties represent their interests. They have emerged as strong pressure groups. Eg. The Bahujan Samaj Party.
Despite the success stories, it cannot be denied that there is indeed a targeting problem. Improper certification process and lack of scrutiny. At the same time, the lack of creamy layer among SC/ST prevents these benefits to reach the ones that are actually marginalized.