Reservation on the grounds of caste and gender: How valid is it today?

The reservation system in India was established long before independence as a scaffold to the oppressed classes. It was a step towards the dream of equity in the glorious post-independent India. The early establishments began as early as 1882 and 1891. The following is a rough timeline of the history of reservation in India, hinting at some of the many major episodes in the history of reservation in India.
Maharaja Shahu of Kohlapur provided free education to all and 50 percent reservation.
The British Raj passed the Government of India Act which had elements of the reservation system.
June 1932
Round table conference in which Ramsay McDonald, the then PM of Britain announced a communal award ensuring separate representation of various communities in India.
Poona pact, Gandhi reached an agreement with Ambedkar to have a single Hindu electorate, with Dalits having seats reserved within it.
The Ministry of Education suggested that 20 percent of places should be reserved for the SCs and STs in educational institutions with a provision to relax minimum qualifying marks for admission by 5 percent wherever required
Mandal commission recommended 27 percentage quota for OBC in public sector and government jobs.
15 percent and 7.5 percent of vacancies in the public sector and government-aided educational institutes should be reserved for the SC and ST candidates, respectively.
Indira Sawhney vs Union of India and others case made the Supreme court of India to put a cap on the reservation system by limiting reservation to a maximum of 50 percent.
77th amendment of article 16 to enable promotions in employment for SC/ST groups.
Nagaraj and Others vs Union of India case challenged the various amendments that supported reservation for employment promotions for SC and ST groups. The supreme court upheld these amendments as enabling provisions.
Sachar committee, set up in 2005 to study the conditions of representation of Muslim community rejected the idea of introducing 4.5% reservation of the 27% quota allocated for OBC, to be exclusively given to the Muslim community, citing it as an attempt to boost the image of the party, prior to elections.
10% quota for economically weaker sections of the general category.

As we track down, we can clearly see how reservation was majorly based on caste and community and how it excluded women, the perennially oppressed social group. While the second sex was confined to the limits of the kitchen, she required a room of her own. This has led to the development of reservation for women. Many steps like reserving at least one third of all the seats in the parliament, various state governments like the Gujarat State government have legislated 33 percent of reservation in state government posts.
However, it has to be noted how the Lok Sabha declined to vote the hundred and eighth amendment regarding the reservation of 33 percent of seats for women, which was approved by the Rajya Sabha. The condition of gender based reservation has to be addressed more meticulously. Apart from the socio-political and economic aspects regarding the position of women, it has to be noted that the history of oppressing women had a different track than the history of the oppressed class.
Another important issue with respect to reservations on the grounds of gender is the gender minority groups; both recognised and otherwise, are often undermined in a legal construct. The only other gender identity that is struggling its way into the legal atmosphere other than the conventional dichotomy is that of the transgender community. Reservation and other legal protection for these groups are in its infantile stage and often failures in terms of execution. A major reason for this is the flawed understanding and persistent ambiguity with respect to gender and sexuality.
In an online based survey conducted among students from various universities of India, youngsters reported their take on reservation system of India and its current status. Sahla, a Political science student from Pondicherry University, says:” The Indian society is rooted in caste system and has oppressed the Dalits and other lower caste people historically. And that is still continuing, though not accepted by many. Atrocities against all the historically and socially oppressed groups are still happening in a horrific scale and thus preventing them from rising up. Therefore reservation is necessary for the socially excluded classes to ensure their representation in every field. But there are many flaws with the existing reservation system which has to be addressed. But most importantly, it is the mentality of the Indian society that needs to be changed for these groups to come forward. Some people argue that reservation is unfair to the general category people, but if reservation is scrapped altogether, then it is going to leave these communities worse off than before. Because this is the time of hatred politics. So making the reservation system more efficient is one solution. The other is to eliminate the caste prejudices in the minds of Indian people, which is a very hard job and requires grass root level work. And finally one more word about economic reservation; reservation is not the solution to address the problem of the economically weaker sections. There are other ways to eliminate poverty. “
Janis, a student of Christ University, Bangalore says that she has personal experience as to why reservation on caste basis is essential. “From my personal experience during an internship when I was working in the recruiting session of a manufacturing unit was that  all the positions of factory workers (with a salary of Rs.6000) were taken by people from the so-called lower castes who had just finished their schooling and I didn't notice even one candidate from the upper caste which clearly indicates towards the fact that how much we have to go forward to at least ensure that they are getting opportunities to make their ends meet.”
Aju, a student of Applied Psychology from CUTN, says: ”Reservation system in India for me it's just pleasing the minorities for political gains. Most of The minorities who deserve reservation doesn't even have the information that they are eligible for reservation. Those minorities those who apply for most of the reservation lie in middle economic status. And most of the minorities have become the majority now. The India reservation system is still based on the time of Independence and whatever changes have been made is just for political gains.” Thereby shedding light to the other side of the story.
Kavya, a student of Kerala University raises the question of efficiency with respect to reservation. She says: “Reservation has got merits and demerits...   We are all aware of the positive sides of that... Empowerment of the underprivileged, security, fulfilment of basic amenities, education etc. This is necessary for a society which is so called equitable. Reservation was one feature of our constitution, which was originally for 30 years. But, when it entered into Politics.. Its shape altered. Reservation, sometimes, I feel is like a movie reservation ticket in Parliament/ Legislative assembly.     Another aspect what I think is that: the first generation of a family which availed the benefits need all that for living. But the second generation in that same family, do they really need it? What about the case of poor in the unreserved section? The cases when a good student is denied admission due to reservation?.. Let me ask you something which has been lingering in my mind for a long time.. Is India's history is been rewritten in this current era, as a continuation of the divide and rule by the  British? There might be instances of untouchability and others. And as a solution, this system of reservation is running. But still, isn't there an end to this? Why people are so much proud to announce that they get reservation? Isn't it time to think about Skills?”
While reservation has certainly been able to take giant leaps in ensuring major levels of equity and has helped in solidifying India's claim to be a socialist, secular, sovereign republic as mentioned in the preamble, it has many shortcomings to be addressed. Reservation is not merely a legislature, but it is also a social move that comes with a price. Every act of reservation comes at a price of merit based equality for the sake of equity rooted in historical scrutiny. This is justified to a large extent by the rise of the oppressed classes envisioned at the dawn of independent India. But changing times has come to a point that demands a thorough revision of these systems. There are many people who argue that caste-based or gender-based reservation is more of an entitlement based on birth, in the same way a high caste used to be a privilege decided by birth one time hence its time to adopt new strategies like socioeconomic status based reservation. Also, though untouchability has been wiped out, implicit attitudes towards successful people of backward community is sometimes harsh. People often think that they were successful because of the reservations even when the case is otherwise.

- Ananda Krishnan

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