The Supreme Court today gave its approval on the reservation of seats in higher education institutions for the Other Backward Castes (OBCs) in a major blow to unreserved category students who had seen a faint glimmer of hope about a year ago when the apex court had stayed the government order of reserving seats for OBCs in higher education. I had written at that time there was nothing to rejoice about that order. Now the worst we expected has come. But this was only inevitable. The only consolation – the court verdict excludes the ‘creamy layer’ (i.e. the affluent among the OBCs) from enjoying the quota benefits. However, there remains doubt as to how earnestly the govt. will adhere to this part of the court ruling with almost all the political parties already crying foul over the creamy layer exclusion. It must be noted that the creamy layer among the SCs and STs are not barred from enjoying the benefits.
The OBC quota of 27% will be implemented from this academic year 2008-09. A quick look at the existing quota picture. The central institutes already have a quota of 15% for SC (Scheduled Castes) and another 7.5% quota for STs (Scheduled Tribes). The quota pie-chart is not same everywhere though e.g. in Bengal the SC quota is 22% whereas the combined quota for all categories in Tamil Nadu is about 70%.
Any rational person will see the lack of sense and logic in a caste-based reservation system that compromises on talent and denies rightful candidates the chance. A lot can be said and has been said against this cursed system. Let me state a few points now.
- In India there is reservation in education, jobs and all government sectors for some specific castes labelled as SC/ST/OBC.
- The govt is considering a law for sometime to make reservation mandatory in the private sector as well.
- In addition to berths reserved for them, reserved category students enjoy a lot of scholarship opportunities and waivers in education fees.
- A reserved student can enjoy the quota benefit an unlimited number of times – e.g. first while getting into college, then to secure a postgrad degree and further up the academic ladder…. and finally bagging a govt job. Needless to say, a reserved student can take the quota advantage in competitive entrance tests as well.
- Caste-based as it is, the reservation system is of course hierarchical. If a man from a SC background becomes an IAS officer (one of the most coveted jobs), his children will continue to get reap the benefits of reservation no matter whatsoever.
- There is reservation in not just the education/job sector. The assembly/parliament seats too have reservations.
Anyways, regardless of whatever I crib about, reservation is here to stay. Reservation has little to do with the development of backward masses (all SC/ST students I have seen taking advantage of quota are from well off families) but it is inextricably linked with vote bank politics which explains the overzealous nature of all the parties in implementing quotas. Not a single party has the guts to do away with this monstrous system which is like a curse on democratic India. Not even the (pseudo) communists of India who project them as champions of secularism and equality. Before the Mandal Commission, the communists had opposed the idea of caste-based reservation. Economic status should be the only criterion, they had said. After the Mandal Commission’s proposals were made official, the communists were coyly silent. Now they shout creamy layer creamy layer once in a while, trying to sound like the guardians of secularism and equality.