Reservations: Annihilation of caste vs perpetual quotas – Makarand R. Paranjape


Prof Makarand R. ParanjapeIt would seem that we Indians, despite whatever we may claim, love caste. The only problem is that we want it to work in our favour rather than against us. – Prof Makarand R. Paranjape

Perhaps no facet of Indian society is so difficult to comprehend and, more recently, more contentious than caste, along with millennia-long attempts to reform or modify it. The euphemism for India’s reservation system, affirmative action, is actually a misapplication to India of US social justice and equal opportunity interventions. Our system of quotas is not only different but almost certainly far more complex, not to mention unique, with countless state and region-wise variations. It is, paradoxically, almost as complicated and fathomless as the caste system itself, which it ostensibly seeks to replace.

Not surprising if we get to the bottom of the problem, it would seem that we Indians, despite whatever we may claim, love caste. The only problem is that we want it to work in our favour rather than against us. Everyone understands this except the naïve few who want India to transit into a colourless equality of the sort that is only a modern ideal and perhaps nowhere in practice. In one form or another, privileges, whether monetary, cultural, or social, are zealously guarded and routinely reproduced in most parts of the world, though under different guises. Why should it surprise us if reservations create another type of caste, with special benefits to certain sections, entitled by birth and extended generation after generation? No wonder many not so badly off sections of our populace are seeking reservations regardless of any vestigial stigma that may be still attached to them.

On August 23, the Supreme Court, hearing debates on whether reservations for SC/ST candidates should extend to promotions or not, asked whether the presumption behind those arguing in favour was that SCs/STs will remain perpetually backward. This is a logical question for if that is indeed the case then, clearly, reservations, having failed to alleviate the condition of the beneficiaries, are therefore not the solution to the problem. On the other hand, if we believe that reservations are helpful, as much of the evidence shows, then they should be applied only until the beneficiary needs them, not forever. In other words, reservations without de-reservations are meaningless and self-defeating. Instead of destroying hereditary caste, they only create another category of a perpetual beneficiary or yet another type of caste.

De-reservation should, obviously, be based on verifiable criteria, just as caste benefits themselves are. There are “creamy layer” indicators in place applied to OBCs. Shouldn’t something similar also pertain to SCs/STs? This is the crux of the contention going on in the Supreme Court of India. The honourable bench upheld the salience and necessity of reservations at entry level but questioned whether they should be used for speedy or special promotion channels in addition to being extended generation after generation. Should promotions be given “to the grandson and great-grandson of an SC/ST person who had already availed the benefit?”, the Court reportedly asked.

There are, of course, many precedents and earlier judgements, for example, the M. Nagaraj case, where reservations in promotions had been allowed with some riders. K.K. Venugopal, Attorney General, maintained on the other hand, that the backwardness of a community is determined by its inclusion in the list of SC/STs by a presidential order and need not be ascertained again and again. The flaw in this position is the assumption that a community will remain static, frozen in the social order, or backwards forever. On the contrary, ethnic groups have moved up or down the ladder of social, financial, and political privilege with astonishing speed, sometimes within just a few decades. We need high-quality evidence and data to understand such transitions, which in turn will help us generate objective determinants. Yet, just caste will no longer suffice. It must be supplemented by other factors, including economic status and regional factors.

The problem is that the political investment in caste is an almost insurmountable obstacle not only to social transformation but also to legal reform. Let’s face it: if backwardness goes, so will its brokers and beneficiaries. And yet we must bite the bullet, sooner or later. We need a nation-wide debate on this issue, a debate that must not run on predictable caste and ideological lines. Shanti Bhushan, making a case for “general candidates” was quoted as saying that “reservation in promotions in bureaucratic posts would spell disaster for a democracy.” In fact, unless the entire question is taken up and a new way of supporting our disadvantaged citizens found, we are staring at a huge crisis down the line.

There is yet another side to this debate that is rarely considered. The advantages of reservation decline with time: entitled groups turn lazy or noncompetitive. It is only hard struggle that brings out the best in us. Thus, beneficiaries of reservation may themselves ask for de-reservation so that children remain competent. – DNA, 25 August 2018

» Prof Makarand R. Paranjape is a poet and teaches English literature at JNU.



5 Responses

  1. The original Constitution adopted as moved by Dr Ambedkar set a limit to the reservations, amended later to go on ad infinitum. This is a political opportunism, and is causing vast damage in varied ways. Objective, data driven research is needed. Why our academic institutions are not doing this is a great question.


  2. Well said.


  3. An overview of reservation:-

    * In most of the states except for Brahmin community other forward communities has got some sub groups identified as OBC/MBC. These forward community people gets bogus certificate of the sub groups and avails the reservation benefit. Similar in case of OBC/MBC to SC/ST

    * The Government should pass a law with a time limit stating whoever got the bogus certificate and availed the reservation benefit should announce the same. Those people are warned with a nominal fine and left out. Beyond that time frame if anyone caught with bogus certificate they should be severely punished.

    * To-day’s politicians are all most bogus certificate holders and they only raise their voice for more reservation and also oppose the creamy layer concept. Almost 75% of OBC/MBC are big land lords or business people.

    * The families of (OBC/SC/ST) having got the reservation benefit for all the family members once and there is no justification in extending the same to their future generation. Hence Government should publish those family names in the Gazette time to time so that the benefit can be extended to other needy persons.

    * Except in Hindu religion cast division is not there in other religion and our constitution also clearly says that cast base reservation is not applicable to other religion. But most of the converts are having two certificates with a Hindu name and availing the reservation benefit in Hindu religion and also in minority institution. No one is bothered to verify the same.

    * Confused converted Hindus mostly hide their Christian name or keep both the name and continue their cast division like a shadow fooling everybody

    * Suppose a forward community male or female marries a lower cast person their children should be identified only as forward community.

    * Now the Government has introduced creamy layer concept in higher education. Initially for this purpose the annual income was fixed at 2.5 lacs. But the bogus certificate holding politician opposed this limit and now the same was revised to 4.5 lacs. That means those who are earning an annual income of less than 4.5 lacs are considered to be poor. Then why the Government is taxing the salaried people who are earning an annual income of less than 4.5 lacs per annum. The Government should increase the tax ceiling to 4.5 lacs and establish social justice.

    * It is Justifiable giving reservation in education and there is no logic in extending the same in employment also. It is not stopped at this stage reservation is still extended in promotion also. We Indians are not qualified to play world cup football match. Our Government calls the best world football coaches and give intensive training to our team and made them to contest the qualifying round eligible for world cup. Can we ask the world cup organizers since our team just got qualified and hence if they put one goal in the match it should be treated as two goals. Will they not say you fools quit the game ?

    * Backward people are allowed to apply in general quota as well as in reserved quota. If he gets a seat in general quota one number is reduced in general quota for the forward community and there is no reduction in backward quota at the same time but the left out number is carried over to the next year. Is it OK?

    * Upon introduction of reservation in educational institution everybody forgot character building along with the education. Thus a generation of educated character less people have been created and we are now witnessing the tragic end of the same to-day in all the administrative mechanism. Without bribing you cannot do any work from burial ground to parliament. State assembly & Parliament is functioning like a fish market. (Shouting slogans with half naked and the day is not far off to pose with full naked) Doctors are engaging in long strike without bothering about the valuable human life. Very often Lawyers are breaking the law and behave like a street rowdy. Corrupt persons are elevated up to the Chief Justice level.

    * A trend is set that every community wants to identify them as backward.

    * Hence cast base reservations are to be abolished and creamy layer system only helps the needy people. If required we can have 2 or 3 income limits for reservations. This alone will eradicate the cast barrier on the long run.

    * It is high time that OBC/MBC reservation system to be totally abolished. only SC/ST reservation that to only in education to be continued, rest are to be covered under creamy layer system.

    * The court wrongly exempted the minority institution to allocated reservation of 25% to the poor, which is a must for other institution. This also to be eliminated once for all

    * Caste is an alien word imposed in India, we have only Kula & Parampariya which can not be changed by force are any means ?

    * Two basic identifications are sex and nationality, rest are society imposed. Nationality is a general identification based on the birth place. Even for changing the nationality in a foreign land one has to full fill so many conditions and also to wait for long time to get the changed citizenship. It is not something like dipping you in bath tub, putting a cross dollar in the neck and saying from to-day you are a Christian. The majority becomes minority and he is eligible for all the minority benefits. Is it logic? Cast & religion are based on who gave birth to you and it is permanent and cannot be changed. If change of religion is justifiable by law then change of cast group is also justifiable. I am willing to change my cast group and want to announce that I am converted to dalit community and except the government to provide all the reservation benefit. Is it OK ????

    // Swami Vivekananda said “True equality has never been and never can be on the earth. How can we all be equal here? This is impossible kind of equality implies total death. Inequality is the basis of creation. At the same time the forces struggling to obtain equality are as much a necessity of creation as those which destroy it” That is why the Supreme Court restricted the reservation to 50% maximum. Providing reservation beyond this only leads to pushing the forward classes to backwardness. //

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sir, perhaps you were misled by the article’s title. The real issue is reservations, not caste itself.

    Whether caste is good or bad, it is there in one form or another in every society. The point is reservation, if any, should not be predicated on caste.


  5. Professors irrespective of what they profess and utter should know the difference between varNa and jaati and the great harmony that prakriti shows up through the harmonious but sometimes discordant , sometimes peaceful but sonetimes violent,sometimes beautiful sometimes ugly appearence it takes .Professors must think afresh as to how peace ad harmony can be maximised without hating the varnas. They should that everything can appear to be equal only when everything is at or near Zero. Instead of feigning equality, it would be better to keep saying the panchaxari mantra continuously for peace in the existence of all


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