Insights into Editorial: A solution in search of a problem: on 10% reservations
Parliament passes Bill to provide 10% quota for poor:
President Ram Nath Kovind has given his assent to the constitutional provision to provide 10-per cent reservation in government jobs and education to economically backward section in the general category.
Previously, Parliament cleared the Constitutional Amendment Bill guaranteeing 10% quota in education and employment to economically weaker sections in the general category, following an approval by the Rajya Sabha.
The Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill was introduced by Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, who later in his reply said that the existing reservation to the SCs, STs and OBCs would not be touched by the amendment.
The Upper House nod came following an over nine-hour-long heated debate, during which the Opposition accused the government of bringing the Bill in haste with an eye on the coming Lok Sabha election.
Amendments Added through Constitutional 124th amendment:
The Act amends Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution, by adding a clause which allows states to make “special provision for the advancement of any economically weaker sections of citizens”.
These “special provisions” would relate to “their admission to educational institutions, including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the state, other than the minority educational institutions”.
It also makes it clear that reservation would be “in addition to the existing reservations and subject to a maximum of 10 per cent of the total seats in each category”.
Clause 6 to ARTICLE 15:
It allows the Government to give reservation for the economically weaker sections of society in higher educational institutions including private ones, whether they are aided or not by the State. Minority educational institutions are exempted.
Clause 6 to ARTICLE 16:
It provides quota for economically deprived sections in the initial appointment in Government services.
It is amendment to fundamental right coming under Part III of the Constitution and it does not require ratification accordingly.
DPDP of Article 46: About Reservation in Education and Economic Interests:
According to the objects of the bill, “The directive principles of state policy contained in Article 46 of the Constitution enjoins that the State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.”
Economically weaker sections of citizens were not eligible for the benefit of reservation.
With a view to fulfil the mandate of Article 46, and to ensure that economically weaker sections of citizens get a fair chance of receiving higher education and participation in employment in the services of the State, it has been decided to amend the Constitution of India.
Redesigning Reservations is the Need of the Hour:
The greatest cost of this amendment lies in the foregone opportunity to develop an enhanced and more effective reservation policy so that we can genuinely see an end to the entrenched inequalities in Indian society in the medium term.
We have gotten so used to business as usual that we make no effort to sharpen our focus and look for more effective solutions, solutions that would make reservations redundant in 50 years.
If the goal is to help as many people as possible, we are facing a serious challenge.
On the one hand, 50% reservation looks very large; in the grand scheme of India’s population it is a blunt and at times ineffective instrument.
The Statistics from UPSC tell us that in spite of reservations, a vast proportion of reserved category applicants do not find a place via the UPSC examination.
Statistics from other fields may tell a similar story. This implies that if we expect reservations to cure the ills of Indian society, we may have a long wait.
Spread the benefits: about Alternative Strategies:
One strategy may be to try and spread the benefits of reservations as widely as possible within the existing framework:
- Ensure that individuals use their reserved category status only once in their lifetime.
- This would require that anyone using reservations to obtain a benefit such as college admission must register his/her Aadhaar number and she would be ineligible to use reservations for another benefit (e.g. a job) in the future.
- This would require no changes to the basic framework but spread the benefits more broadly within the reserved category allowing a larger number of families to seek upward mobility.
A second strategy might be to recognise that future economic growth in India is going to come from the private sector and entrepreneurship:
- In order to ensure that all Indians, regardless of caste, class and religion, are able to partake in economic growth, we must focus on basic skills.
- We have focused on admission to prestigious colleges and government jobs, but little attention is directed to social inequality in the quality of elementary schooling.
- The IHDS shows that among children aged 8-11, 68% of the forward caste children can read at Class 1 level while the proportion is far lower for OBCs (56%), SCs (45%) and STs (40%).
- This suggests that we need to focus on reducing inequalities where they first emerge, within primary schools.
At present, the economically weaker sections of citizens have largely remained excluded from attending the higher educational institutions and public employment on account of their financial incapacity to compete with the persons who are economically more privileged.
The challenge we face is that our mindset is so driven by the reservation system that was developed in a different era that we have not had the time or the inclination to think about its success or to examine possible modifications.
The tragedy of the EWC quota is that it detracts from this out-of-the-box thinking.