Reservation has always been at the crux of every topic in India right since its independence. Back then when the colonists were leaving the nation, after almost sucking it dry, it was a much needed step for developing and uplifting the backward and tribal communities. However, now after over 70 years of independence many are divided over the same issue. For some the indigenous and backward communities need even more reservation than they enjoy currently, while others who support a purely merit based system believe it to be the main hurdle in the country’s development in the 21st century. The five-member constitutional bench of the Supreme Court hearing the case relating to Maratha reservation issue has for once exposed the hypocrisy. The court has spoken about the possibility of all reservations going, with only quota for economically weaker sections remaining. “This may be a beginning, all reservations may go and only EWS may remain, but these are all policies,” presiding judge Justice Ashok Bhushan observed. But he was careful to mention that it was for parliament or the legislatures to decide on this all-important issue.
However, political parties still back a reservation system, even suggesting it be raised beyond the 50 percent ceiling to pester their respective vote banks. But every new addition in the reservation eligibility is a threat to the existing beneficiaries and this has led to serious conflicts among the affected parties. It is high time we realised that reservation is a means of supporting underprivileged sections and giving them a head start. The misconception of it being a privilege must be done away with. If the sections of society for whom the reservation system is meant are already well enough, then reservation becomes a mere privilege and nothing more. The objective of any such policy has to be the uplift of select backward/underprivileged sections and not conferring a privilege on a selected few. For instance, if the grandchildren of an IAS officer, who got into service on the basis of reservation also gets the same preferential treatment when they compete with the rest, the whole concept of the system actually goes for a toss.
We must understand that reservation is not an issue that concerns only SC-STs. Since the total availability of jobs or educational seats is not infinite. Any policy that treats subjects unfairly is a bad policy and needs to be changed. Quotas are a means of empowerment in a limited sense that can work at certain levels and for certain roles. The role of a dispensing clerk in a medical facility can be performed by a person with limited skill, but the surgeon supposed to carry out complicated surgical operations cannot be decided on the basis of reservation, much in the same way as quotas cannot work in constituting a space mission team. A skill deficit of even a fraction of a percent will only make the mission end up in smoke in outer space. Reservation is a means to get a head start for those who are deprived, not an advantage or preferential tool for select sections of the society, this is what we need to understand.