Is "The Quota System" Really What India Requires? Or Has It Become Only A Political Gimmick?

In India the topic of “Quota System” or caste based reservations is always hot on the political platter. What it actually means in context of the Indian Constitution is – “keeping aside a certain percentage of seats in government institutions and public sector units, etc. for the benefit of backward sections of society”. But whether all the beneficiaries of this system actually deserve it has always been debatable.

The Beginning: Why was it needed?

For centuries and millenniums, India has been plagued with the social evil of caste-ism. So when India finally achieved independence, the constitution makers were of the view that some sections of society needed an extra push to bring them into mainstream. They decided that, in order to achieve the motto of “Equality to all”, some socially, economically and culturally backward sections of society be given some additional incentive.

As a result of this, the Constitution of India laid down a reservation quota of 15% for SC and 7.5% for ST candidates, in government educational institutes as well as government and public sector jobs. This was done so that these castes were adequately represented in the nation building activities. This policy has been revised and extended to a number of other fragments of population ever since.

Present Day Scenario

Over the multiple election cycles the reservation system has become more of a political tool. Parties today play the reservation card to attract communal vote banks. Recently an entire state election was fought and won by a party upon the reservation card.

Moreover, the system of reservation is being misused or abused for the major part. There have been numerous instances of income or caste certificates being forged in order to avail the benefits of reservation. Even the castes that have been elevated socially and economically are still availing the benefits of this structure. A rich and educated father from the supposedly backward background would still seek the admission for his son on the basis of caste merit.

All of this could still have been ignored if the system was serving its intended purpose of equality to all. But Alas! This isn’t the case.

The reservation system does nothing to support a financially unsound member of an upper caste. In fact it reduces the overall probability of selection in a government institution for such member of society.

At the time of inception of this policy, the major population of the country lived in villages. The policy was made keeping in view the social and economical standing of this part of the population. There are still castes, tribes and communities based in villages that are economically sound but socially backward or are backward on both scales. This section of population has benefited little from the quota system when compared to their urban counterparts. They are still vastly under-represented in the nation building activities.

The reservation system has also effected the quality of human resources in the country. It is also a cause of Brain Drain at the undergraduate as well as postgraduate level.

Who should reservation be given, and on what basis?

The reservation as a policy can not be abolished yet. But there are measures that can be taken to make it more impartial.

First and foremost, reservation should not be allowed to be used as a political tool any longer. Regular independent audits should be carried out to decide what sections of society actually need these benefits. Tools like development index and economic stability index should be used to decide eligibility. The concept of one time benefit should be introduced for the familial hierarchy. There should be some incentive for the economically backward from the forward castes as well. In fact the eligibility criteria should be based on a combination of social, economical and cultural factors.

But the best measure would be to improve the quality of education imparted right from primary level at all government as well as government funded institutions. The government should aim to make the candidates capable to hold themselves up in a fair and impartial competition. If need be, the incentive should rather be financial.

The purpose of the System of Reservation would truly be achieved only when  India would no longer need it .