Reservation based on economic status violated constitutional Intention of reservation. Critically analyse.

Mentors Comments:
In a few introductory lines define the new reservation policy for EWS that came into effect recently.
The recent reservation policy brought about by introducing an amendment to the Constitution intends to reserve 10% of the total seats in higher education institutions, both private and public, and in government jobs exclusively for the EWS belonging to the general category.
Discuss what are the pros and cons of the policy.
Discuss the rationale behind it.
Suggest your opinion and conclude with fair and balanced conclusion.
Conclude with significance of such policies, yet suggest what more can be done.

The President of India has given his assent to the bill providing 10% reservation in jobs and educational institutions to the economically weaker sections in the general category. The legislation will be known as the Constitution (103 Amendment) Act, 2019 and it shall come into force on such date as the Centre notifies.

Reservation is a fundamentally political promise made in acknowledgement of the fact that caste literally excludes sizeable communities from Indian society. The primary reason why reservation was written into India’s Constitution was to ensure representation of all social groups in positions of power. The topic of reservations in education and government jobs is, arguably, the most contentious of India’s myriad threads of public discourse. It has led to many agitations, violence, court rulings and constitutional amendments.

Common prejudices against reservation policies:
Some people say that they oppose today’s reservations because they believe reservation should be made on the basis of income rather than social background.
In the upper caste imagination, reservation is indelibly branded as a welfare programme giving handouts to a set of caste-marked “beneficiaries”.
One of the primary criticisms that caste-based reservations faced, even from liberal quarters, was that it would lead to an inefficient bureaucracy.
Another charge against caste-based reservation and its implementation was that it would be against national unity. Granting quotas by caste, it was argued, would escalate caste-based divisiveness and encourage sub-nationalisms by allowing them to be articulated in electoral politics.

Reservation should be based only on caste and not economic status:
Reservation is intended not to be an anti-poverty programme. The government has many programmes which are, in principle, accessible to all poor people.
Reservation exists because, in addition to being more likely to be poor than general castes, Dalits, backward Muslims, and Adivasis face social discrimination and exclusion that poor people from general caste backgrounds do not face.
The fact that the right to education, the right to own land, the right to conduct business, or to pursue a well-remunerated occupation has been reserved for men from high caste backgrounds for generations means that government must take steps to correct the unequal distribution of rights.
Historical injustice: Caste based reservation is a necessity in India because of historical negligence and injustice caused to those backward communities.
Level Playing field: Reservation provides a level playing field as it is difficult for the backward sections who were historically deprived of education, skills and economic mobility to suddenly start competing with those who had access to those means for centuries.
Meritocracy is important, however, it will have no meaning without equality. The caste based reservation also minimized the gap between upper and lower castes to a great extent.
Administration quality: A study revealed that reservations have not affected the efficiency of administration, but enhanced quality. The best example is the Indian Railways in which the SC/ST employees comprise more in number, and the results have been better.
As for economically weak SCs and STs, they need both financial support as well as reservation to ensure fair access to employment and education.
Malaysia, South Africa and many countries in the European Union have supplemented anti-poverty policies with equal opportunity policies for excluded groups based on group identity.

Why reservation shouldn’t be based only on caste and but also economic status:
Majority of lower castes have stepped up the social ladder and are now on an equal status compared to the general population. Hence, there is no need for reservation anymore.
Reservation only provides a limited and short-term solution to the historical injustice issues.
Reservation is obviously a tool to address social and educational backwardness, however, it does not have solutions for all social and economic ailments. There are much better and innovative ways to solve those issues. However, reservation prevents the leadership to come up with viable solutions.
As the reservation grows larger, it becomes a mechanism of exclusion rather than of inclusion. Because, nowadays, the previously advantaged communities has becoming disadvantaged to a large extent due to the reservation conundrum. Many upper castes are still plagued by poverty and illiteracy.
Reservation brings down the economic growth rate of the country as it reduces the efficiency of its labour.
New reservation on the basis of economic background is based on moral duties which are implicitly part of the constitution.
Every person has right ‘not face any inequality on the base of any ground’ and, the directive principle of state policy (DPSP) is a moral obligation on the state to secure a social order for the promotion of the welfare of the people.
High economic class and lower economic class and higher economic class in SCs and STs defend a reservation for maintaining the status quo.
The same scenario is in socially and economically backward class also like Maratha, Jats, gurjars etc. is demanding reservation despite high living standard.
Reservation on the basis of economic background may pave the way for a casteless society which was initially purpose of Dr Ambedkar’s reservation system.

Way Forward:
Reservation is a policy tool that is used not only in India. In many countries, reservation or other types of affirmative action are used to try to overcome human prejudice based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion, caste or any other group identity, and to encourage representation of and participation by groups traditionally excluded and discriminated against.
One way to make these measures more acceptable and help people better understand the historic, social and cultural background behind reservation would be to educate children in schools about caste, ethnic, gender and regional diversities and the need for public policy interventions to make society more equal and fair.

Thus, the quota for the economically poor among the upper castes has been seen essentially as a poverty alleviation move dressed up as reservation. Reservation to the weaker sections is an positive affirmative action needed for their welfare. The 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act though is a beneficial move for the “forward poor”. It is prudent to look at other alternatives to alleviate the conditions of EWS.

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