“Originally envisaged as a temporary tool to uplift India’s most marginalised communities — Dalits and tribals — and create a level playing field, reservations slowly has become an instrument of displaying and seeking political power.” Do you agree? (250 Words)

Mentors Comment:
The answer must analyse how the mandate of reservation has changed overtime and whether the aspects of the mandates are justified or not.
Start with brief background of the context of the question.
Students must weigh the pros and cons of reservation polices, first explain how reservation process and intent in terms of the target community to aim for social justice has changed /transformed over time.
One must explain both pros and cons and provide for a balanced opinion.
Conclude with what needs to be done and what should be the way forward.


Reservation in India is the process of facilitating a person in education, scholarship, jobs, and in promotions who has category certificates. Reservation is a form of quota-based affirmative action. In a significant judgment, the Bombay High Court has upheld the reservation given to the Maratha community. It has brought down the quantum of reservation from 16%, as determined by the state assembly, to 12-13%.

Original need for reservations:

Reservation in India is the process of facilitating people in education, scholarship, jobs etc that were faced historical injustice.
Reservation is governed by constitutional laws, statutory laws, and local rules and regulations.
The system of reservation in India comprises a series of measures, such as reserving access to seats in the various legislatures, to government jobs, and to enrolment in higher educational institutions.
The reservation is undertaken to address the historic oppression, inequality and discrimination faced by those communities and to give these communities a place. It is intended to realise the promise of equality enshrined in the Constitution.
Reservation helps in level playing field because we cannot expect groups who are historically deprived of education, skills, and economic mobility to suddenly start competing with those who had access to these means for centuries
Though Meritocracy is an important aspect, it has no meaning without equality
The primary objective of the reservation system in India is to enhance the social and educational status of underprivileged communities and thus improve their lives.

Need to re-examine reservation policy:

Unlike in the late Sixties and again in the late Eighties, when the reservation discourse originated in a deep sense of unfairness of the social system, today’s reservation discourse draws its strength from unfair development policies.
Reservation is increasingly seen as a remedy for the adverse effects of ill-thought out development policies.
Reservation is also called ‘Discrimination in Reverse’ or Reverse Discrimination. This terminology connotes that reservation, which works as a protection to the reserved categories i.e. scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes, acts as a reverse discrimination against the upper castes.
For political parties reservation discourse is convenient because it allows them to keep subscribing to the consensus over economic policies, avoiding a critical approach to the root causes of the problem.
The reservation system has just become a tool for politicians to gain vote banks.
Many in the above communities are politically and economically strong enough and placing the whole community under the reservation system will be unethical.
The Supreme Court has ruled multiple times against exceeding its 1992 formula of a maximum of 50% reservation (Indira Sawhney v. Union of India).
It also defined that a backward class cannot be determined only and exclusively with reference to economic criterion.
It will lead to neglect of merit and it may cause social unrest as it was at the time of Mandal commission
Thus, the quota for the economically poor among the upper castes has been seen essentially as poverty alleviation move dressed up as reservation.
The policy has transformed from a policy meant to provide a level playing field for those suffering from historical discrimination and those who are weaker sections of the society to a policy meant as a dole for those sections of society who are poor and lack jobs.

Way forward:

The government will have to expand the economic aspect and create fresh opportunities so that people, especially young people, who leave agriculture are absorbed in non-farm sectors.
It is time that India made a critical assessment of its affirmative action programmes.
The government should consider the economic, political and social well being of the community and make a balanced decision.
Problems of these castes should be addressed through government schemes and programmes.
Progressive steps should be taken to ensure that poorer section among the backward communities get the benefit of reservation system.
The policy of reservation should be gradually phased out after it serves its purpose.

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