From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Article 16 (4A)
Mains level : Paper 2- Reservations and issues with it
Provision of reservation has helped in correcting the historical injustice in some way. However, the recent decline in government jobs and policy changes could undermine the provision of reservation.
How reservation helped SCs and OBCs: Some figures
- In the Central Administrative Services, SCs reached 14 per cent of the Class C in 1984.
- They reached 14.3 per cent of Class B in 2003.
- In Class C,13.3 per cent in 2015.
- In the Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs), their proportion rose from 14.6 per cent in 2004 to 18.1 per cent in 2014.
- In parallel, the SCs’ literacy rate jumped from 21.38 per cent in 1981 to 66.1 per cent in 2011.
- After the Mandal Commission report was implemented, OBCs started to benefit from it.
- In 2013, OBCs – 52 per cent of India’s population according to the Mandal report – represented 8.37 per cent of Class A in the Central Government Services, 10.01 per cent of Class B and 17.98 per cent of Class C.
- Their percentage in the CPSEs jumped from 16.6 per cent in 2004 to 28.5 per cent in 2014.
Number of jobs declining
- First, the number of vacancies has surged, from 5.5 lakh in 2006 to 7.5 lakh in 2014 so far as central government employment is concerned.
- Second, the total number of employees has dropped between 2003 and 2012, from 32.69 lakh to 26.30 lakh in the Central Government Services.
- The number of Dalits benefiting from reservations has been reduced by 16 per cent from 5.40 lakh to 4.55 lakh.
- While the number of OBCs benefiting from reservations had jumped from 14.89 lakh in 2008 to 23.55 lakh in 2012, it has dropped to 23.38 lakh the year after.
- Reservations have also been undermined by lateral entry into the bureaucracy.
- This new procedure undermined the reservations system because the quotas did not apply.
Judgements that affect the idea of reservation
- In one judgment the UGC was allowed to shift the unit of provision of reservations from a university as a whole to the departmental level.
- Such a shift has reduced the quantum of reserved seats and restricted the entry of lower castes.
- Small departments, where vacancies are few, would be indivisible — thereby no seats would be reserved.
- As a result, only 2.5 per cent posts were reserved for SCs, none for STs and 8 per cent for OBCs.
- However, the impact of the ordinance and the subsequent Bill passed by the Parliament in March and July 2019, reversing the Supreme Court’s judgment, is yet to be seen.
- In another judgement, Supreme Court ruled that reservation in job promotions was not a fundamental right.
- This ruling undermined the effect of an amendment to the Constitution that had been introduced by the Narasimha Rao government in 1995 and that had resulted in article 16(4A).
- Article 16(4A) had circumvented a facet of the 1992 decision of the Supreme Court to allow reservation for SCs and STs in promotions.
- In 2001 the 85th amendment extended the benefit of reservations in favour of the SCs/STs in matters of promotion with consequential seniority.
- This time, in 2020, the Government of India has decided not to contest the decision of the Supreme Court.
Policy changes that affect the reservation
- The National Commission for Backward Classes has issued a notice to the health ministry complaining that the post-Mandal 27 per cent quota was not implemented systematically.
- The funds earmarked for Dalit education in the Indian budget were reduced by the previous government.
- While this budget item, within the Special Component Plan is supposed to be proportional to the demographic weight of the Dalits, 16.6 per cent, it fluctuated between 9 and 6.5 per cent.
Reservations have been one of the most effective techniques of positive discrimination in India and helped in the goal of delivering social justice. So, any policy that affects it must be reconsidered.