Reservations in government jobs were provided in our Constitution as an instrument to ensure social justice to the downtrodden and raise their status so as to make them capable of competing with other classes. However, due to their being caste based, they soon became an instrument of selfish and corrupt caste politics. In their present form they have become a serious issue that should attract attention of one and all interested in providing social justice to the really needy and in emergence of India as a casteless, fair and forward looking society.
The preamble of our Constitution reads:
“We the People Of India………………and to secure to all its citizens Justice…….., Liberty……, Equality of status and opportunity……”, and article 16(1) of the Constitution proclaims “There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the state.”
Then article 16(4) makes enabling provision for the state to make reservations in favor of any backward class of citizens. The two types of provisions are obviously contradictory; and, if they are read together, it can be rightly inferred that the provision of reservations in employment can be only for those who are so much socially or economically discriminated as to make them incapable of securing government jobs despite their best efforts. It is not for those who have not been denied means and circumstances to compete with others.
However, the history of ever-increasing reservations in government jobs makes it clear that the intention is not to provide government jobs to the really downtrodden and needy, but to play caste politics with its help. If this political game continues unchecked, Indian State would never be able to provide equality of opportunity to all its citizens. Even the rulings of the Supreme Court to bring sanity in the race of political parties for one-up-man-ship in providing more and more reservations in more and more fields to more and more castes (and even religions) are being got nullified through acts of legislatures.
A glance through the developments of the last 6 decades in the field of reservations reveals:
During the first four decades (1950-1990) reservation in central government jobs were provided to S.Cs.S.Ts. only; of course, there were some states which provided reservation in jobs to backward castes and women also in provincial jobs. The rule was that in any recruitment the reservation to S.C.sS.Ts. be limited to 22.5% of the total vacancies in the centre (and in proportion to population percentage in the states). However, in order to appease S.Cs.S.Ts., this rule has been regularly flouted by making 100% appointments of S.C.|S.Ts. in the name of ‘special recruitments for filling backlog’. Moreover, this backlog is counted not on the basis of unfilled vacancies in the previous recruitments, but as the gap between the total number of jobs calculated on percentage basis (of S.C./S.T. population) and the number of existing S.C.S.T. employees in the rank for which recruitment was being done. Filling of backlog on this basis was against the very spirit of equal opportunity as it deprived candidates of other castes completely from entering into the government service during those ‘special recruitments’.
During these decades provision was made for reservation in promotions also, which effectively meant that the government discriminated even among equals (employees of the same rank) on caste basis. There was another effect of this that S.C./S.T. employees in the initial rank got promoted sooner than others and therefore, despite their full entry in each recruitment (many a time more than their population percentage), the gap between their number calculated on caste percentage basis and their actual number in the initial rank always existed. This became an excuse for never-ending ‘special recruitments (100% reservations)’ by caste-minded or politically opportunistic governments.
During the first three decades (1950-1980) such S.C./S.T. candidates, who qualified among others on merit, were included in counting the 22.5% quota. This had a rationale because it ensured that the S.Cs.| S.Ts. did not grab more jobs than the percentage of their population. Subsequently the rule was changed and the candidates of reserved category, who successfully competed among general category candidates, were excluded from the reservation quota. This resulted in a situation where S.CS.T. and backward class candidates started getting selected even beyond their population percentage, which cannot be justly the intention of a constitution proclaiming equality of opportunity for all its citizens.
Another dimension to reservations was added during the seventies- through a Government Order one dependant of such government servants who died during harness was assured of an employment without competition. This reservation not only violated the principle of equality but was also totally biased against those whose parents had not got an employment in the government.
After implementation of Mandal report during nineties, O.B.Cs were provided reservation in all central and state jobs. But since the Honorable Supreme Court had fixed a cap of 50% in reservations, O.B.Cs could get only 27.5 % seats reserved as per rule. However, this limit arising due to Honorable Supreme Court’s ruling was repeatedly crossed by some states and when the Supreme Court stayed the appointments made beyond 50%, legislation was passed to nullify those rulings.
The Supreme Court had debarred the ‘creamy layer’ among backward classes from the benefits of reservation. Here the states tried to outsmart the Supreme Court by defining ‘creamy layer’ in such a fashion that even millionaires could not be excluded from reservations.
Earlier the rule was that due to reservation in promotions, any general category employee who got superseded by his junior, again became senior to him when he got promotion to the same rank. Later this rule was amended so that any junior reserved category employee promoted before his general category seniors, became permanently senior to his left out seniors. Since the benefit of reservation in promotions is given at each stage of promotion, this rule effectively meant that only reserved category employees would reach the top echelons in any department, and all general category employees would retire in lower positions.
Earlier, only the backward castes among Muslims used to get reservation benefit among the O.B.Cs. Then in 2004 Congress party declared in its manifesto that it will provide reservations to all Muslims and subsequently the state of Andhra Pradesh issued orders to that effect.
Earlier there was no reservation in education to O. B. Cs., now even in highly specialized courses reservations have been provided. This has resulted in greatly downgrading the ability of our doctors and engineers and adversely affecting their reputation worldwide.
It is surprising that as the country is progressing socially and economically, the political parties are finding necessity of more and more reservations to more and more castes. And no party or person ever dares to speak of withdrawing reservations to over-represented castes/categories.
And essentially who is enjoying the benefits of reservations? Among S.Cs.| S.Ts. the main beneficiaries are the sons and daughters of those government servants who had themselves got government jobs earlier due to reservation. Among the various reserved castes, most of the jobs are cornered by off-springs of Yadav officials among S.Cs. and Meena officials among S.Ts. Among O.B.Cs land-wise, money-wise, muscle-wise and vote-wise strong castes like Jats, Yadavas, and Kurmis are almost exclusive beneficiaries of the reservations. So far no political party has ever displayed courage to speak of exclusion of any caste or tribe from the reserved category. Instead, inclusion of newer castes in the reserved category on imaginary or fake data are order of the day. Inclusion of Jats among O.B.Cs. in U.P. and previous U. P. government’s attempt to declare 12 O.B.C. castes as Scheduled Castes are burning examples of such political maneuvers.
In this scenario the unreserved castes have a right to ask a few questions from the self proclaimed champions of social justice:
- What is the limit of acceptable discrimination in the name of social justice?
- Will any political party ever dare to speak about withdrawing reservations granted to any caste?
- Does social justice mean near exclusion of hard working and meritorious people from most of the jobs in this country?
- Do the political parties really intend to ameliorate the condition of the truly deprived when highly placed and highly rich Dalits and O.B.Cs are not being excluded from the benefits of reservation?
- Is it not true that in the present scheme of reservations real Dalits and real backwards will continue to remain the same for ages?
- Is it not a fact that in the name of social justice total injustice is being done to the meritorious as well as to the really deprived sections of society?