Reservations: Old Flame Rekindled


Caste based reservation in matters of higher education is unwarranted. In the 21st century, India has acquired a strategic position in the global arena and is being regarded as the potential superpower of knowledge and human capital. However, if admissions are not made on the basis of merit, we may lose this competitive edge. Economic development and increasing social awareness had, to an extent, distorted the class hierarchy, but reservations continue to be a constant reminder. These reservations were to be introduced only for the first 10 years for the upliftment of the deprived sections, but due to political considerations it may not be repealed in the near future. Reservation in higher education undermines merit and discourages deserving students. It leaves little scope for competition and the achievement of global standards with regard to academics. The current policy is aimed at taking an easier way out. It does not focus on improving the accessibility, affordability and quality of schooling in a bid to encourage more students to attend school. There has been little success in universalisation of elementary education. Poor foundation at the primary level is responsible for a large number of dropouts and incompetency due to which students may not benefit from reservations in higher education. Reservation has lead to discrimination and stigmatisation of genuinely brilliant students who have fallen into the bracket of reservation. This often leads to a lack of initiative and drive for academic excellence. The beneficiaries are often the creamy layer and thus the state initiative is abused. In the backdrop of political motive, the meritorious students suffer. To provide opportunities for progress and equality to the deprived sections, the government should focus on charging a subsidised tuition fee, providing free books and uniforms and instituting more scholarships and fellowships. Reservation according to per capita expenditure levels should be restricted only to primary and secondary level of education after which, merit should be the sole criterion. Ways and means have to be derived to restrict the creamy layer from gaining undue advantage and reservations should be allowed only for a few generations. The focus should be on universalising primary education and improving infrastructure and standard of teaching in backward areas. The government should invite private participation in improving quality and accessibility of schooling. An income tax relief on a certain part of the income spent on education can be provided. The effectiveness of such initiatives could be seen in the form of improvement in the standards of living of subsequent generations. Reduction in drop-out rates and improvement in attendance will indicate progress. Blurring caste hierarchy and reduction in social unrest would be the parameters of success. Educational achievements on the basis of merit will provide exposure to systematic thinking and analysis. The revision of the definition of OBCs from time to time will indicate proportional growth and increasing equality. Hence, in a country which is witness to the evils of communalism and regionalism, this is merely another state-sponsored measure to aggravate the existing situation. Kanika Bahadur[Image courtesy:]