Caste-based reservations: enhancing the differences?

Sukhjeet Kaur Bains and Mandeep Kaur Bains India områdestudier, IKOS, UiO Despite being the world’s largest democracy, India has faced a lot of controversies for the existence of the caste-system. This has been a fundamental part of the Indian culture for a very long time, and is still very much present in everyday life. To better the situation of the lower castes, the Government of India introduced caste-based reservations in governmental jobs and educational institutions. But the question remains whether this has been beneficial or if it is further enhancing the differences? Maybe an income-based reservation scheme is a better option?

The hierarchical structure of the caste system was based on the principles that a person’s role was determined by birth. The different castes had their own positions and privileges in the society and these distinctions between the castes were important to maintain a functional society. “The duties of Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, and Vaisyas, and of Sudras, too, O terror of your foes! are distinguished according to the qualities born of nature. (Every) man intent on his own respective duties obtains perfection.” (Bhagavadgita, chapter XVIII, pp. 126-127).Some people fell outside of this classification, and were recognized as Dalits. This group which defines a noticeable percentage of the Indian people has faced a lot of discrimination for reasons they are not in control of and unable to change by themselves.

The introduction of reservations in governmental jobs and educational institutions in India was originally implemented to improve the well-being of backward and under-represented communities. These groups were defined on basis of their caste, and the positive discrimination was foremost designed for the Schedules Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) in the Constitution of India. The caste-based division has roots back from the British reign, when it was first introduced to give equal opportunities in education. It has since then been extended to other sectors. In 1984 a third group was included to the program; Other Backward Classes (OBC). Together these three groups make up around 85 % of the total Indian population. The law sets aside a percentage of vacancies in governmental jobs and educational institutes for these groups. In 1989 the government decided that 28 % of the governmental employments and university seats were to be reserved for OBC. The thought behind was to give everyone equal opportunities and reduce the gap between people caused by having different opportunities and responsibility in the society. This issue has been very much debated in India since it was implemented after Independence and remains a controversial topic even today.

The reason for objections by many has been the criteria for inclusion being based on caste. This reinforces the importance of the caste-system in the society, which is initially the reason for the differences. The law enhances the identity-politics and makes castes and ethnicity more prominent in the Indian society. In a country with such a huge diversity in religions, beliefs and traditions, caste-based reservations seem to be another way of fragmenting the nation instead of bringing people together. This might seem as a paradox for many.

There have been many questions regarding the fact that the caste-based reservations build on the hindu caste system, while the Indian Constitution guarantees equality to all citizens, and thus does not permit discrimination by the state in any manner. Further on, the anti-reservationists claim that the reservations infringe the right to equality, instead of strengthening it. This scheme seem to be dividing India into two groups; the oppressed and the oppressors, which further leads to mistrust and groupism. Some individuals of backward castes too feel unfairly judged, according to their right to reserved seats rather than their capabilities. The disapproval is most visible among those who are not included in the program though, I.e. upper castes, who might lose out on preferred education and jobs, despite being qualified, as some vacancies are reserved. In a situation where there is already though competition for almost every education and later on job, the reservations leads to an increased animosity among the groups, besides being a social stigma. Thus the idea of including the backward classes in the society and empowering them, might lead to even more hostility and oppression.

The welfare of Indian economy and industry growth has also been an issue of interest in this debate. The economy and efficiency of public services will only increase by hiring the most deserving candidates based on their qualifications and merits and not their caste. It might prove more beneficial to provide lower castes with the infrastructure and opportunities to compete for the same jobs, as this would boost the motivation to excel educationally among both groups. With the present system, both groups might not see the need to perform at their best. For the backward classes it is probably not necessary, and for the others it can prove to be useless. People from backward classes who fall under the “creamy layer” term might find it easier to reduce their income to receive the governmental benefits, rather than struggling to maintain their income. In both circumstances the consequences will be net loss for the society as a whole.

In 1992/1993 the government and Supreme Court excluded the creamy layer of OBC from the reservations. This group is defined according to their gross annual income. Children belonging to OBC families whose income is above Rs 450 000 a year are not classified as socially and educationally backward, and are therefore not given any rights in the governmental reservations program. This exception applies for OBC children only, and not children of SC and ST families. This certifies the requirement to look at underprivileged individuals, rather than underprivileged classes. There will always be differences within a caste, and if the reasoning for denying the creamy layer reservations is their income, then why not base the reservations on income and not include caste in the equation at all?

But income-based reservations might not be an optimal solution either. The lower castes are usually the poorest ones, so it would more or less benefit the same people. But the caste-system is a strong in-built part of the Indian society, and so the discrimination towards the lower castes (in this case, represented as those with lowest income) would probably be just as visible as it is now. Even without the word “caste” included in the law, it would be quite evident who is benefitting from the scheme within the community. And so the discrimination would affect the same people.

The reason for introducing the law in the first place is to empower and better the opportunities for the underprivileged. In other words those who are incapable of changing their situation as it is predefined by the family they are born in. With an income-based reservation scheme, one would focus on helping those in economic need, and not those discriminated because of circumstances they are in no control of themselves.  Therefore an income-based reservation would not meet the idea behind the law. For example, a low caste family might earn a reasonable amount of money, a typical middle class income. The reason behind this good economic state might be the fact that the family works hard, but within the job limitations set by their caste. This does not mean they will have the opportunity to consider a job for a higher caste, or have the same amount of respect and trust as a higher caste person in the same society.

Furthermore, the Government of India recently introduced sub-quotas within the reservations. For example, a sub-quota of 4.5 % is given to minorities within the 28 % reserved for OBC. The rationale behind this is to ensure that OBC minorities, such as Muslim communities, are able to compete at the same levels as other OBC, such as those belonging to Hindu communities. And so this raises the question about who the unprivileged are, and who is to determine that. Apparently caste is not the only disadvantage as the need to include subgroups was seen.  Was it then right to base the reservations on caste to begin with? And if the reservation law was to be based on caste, would it be right to modify it accordingly later on?

Many people have stated that they feel the law is only a way to gain votes by politicians who themselves do not believe in it. It is appealing to promise something that is thought to better the condition of a big population. But at the same time the amount of votes gained from the same population cannot be overlooked. People tend to vote as they are promised a law that is thought to better their state, but what is planned to work in theory does not always work out in the practical sense.

It would be relevant to see what the effects of the law has been; whether or not lower castes are now included in the educational and employment system, and if this has led to any improvement in their situation in the Indian society. A study tried to estimate the impact of positive discrimination in India. It showed beneficial effects in urban areas and places where the educational competition might be though. Overall there was no effect.

The idea behind this law is good, and the execution has worked in some cases as explained above. But overall there is a huge discontent among the common man. It will be important to look at ways to prevent this discontentment from growing any further.

PS: Watch Aarakshan (Bollywood movie) if you found this interesting 🙂

The writers are BA students at India områdestudier (area studies), IKOS, UiO. The blog post is written as part of the course SAS1500 – India: utviklingsland og stormakt

12 Comments on Caste-based reservations: enhancing the differences?

  1. reservation jb tak duniya hai tb rehni chahiye…bcoz still people believe in castesim…still have high or low caste bases discrimination..acha bhala india angrezo se azaadh hua tha tum ghatiyan logo ne society ko ek caste line mein devide kiya na krte sbhi ko hindu maan kr chalte toh aaj yeh reservation jaisi koi problems hi na hoti..bada shokn chada tha na khudh high rank mein rakhne ka dusro ko low mein rakhna bina unki marzi jane bcoz us time unki conditions poor thi tumhare paas paisa tha toh tumne khudko high rank mein rakh liya bt kaam tumhare low standard se bhi ghatiyan hai..jitne bhi crime hote hai woh brahmin kshatriya jaise logo ka haath hota hai unka..ab bhagwadh geet ka example le lo jo brahmin kul mein janma means ravan aaj ke samaye mein woh raksh hi samjha jata hai or valmiki jo shudra the apni knowledge ke bal pr usne sabe uscha staan prapt kiya hai..kya hoti hai high or low caste or kya hai yeh brahmin kshtriya or vaishya or shudra..khudh hi sb create krke khudh hi sbko prblems mein daal diya..kya god ne yeh ghatiyan kaam kiya i m sure god apne logo ko kbi high or low mein nhi rakhega…us time kuch logo mein knowledge kya thi uska itna galat fayda utha liya u should be ashamed of yourself..we all are hindu..no one is brahmin, no one is kshtriya, no one is vaishya n no one is shudra understood..india mein jo rehta hai woh sbhi hindu hai sb pehle insaan ke roop mein aate hai..baadh mein tum hindu,muslim, sikh or christian ho..yeh char religion kafi nhi the..discrimination krne ke liye jo char or le ke aa gaye ho..first say no caste n no community we all are hindu..prove kro isko khatam kro isko sbko ek nazar se dekho..inter caste marriage krke iss ghatiyan thinking ko khatam kro..we all are human being then anything else..jo india mein hai woh indian hai okh..n let me tell u one think…kuch lower caste issi baato se dukhi ho ke abroad chale gaye or kuch religion hi change kr chuke hai..sabse kam population toh pure world mein hindu logo ki hai..bt i happy hindu sbhi khatam hi ho jaye acha hai atleast yeh ghatiyan castesim high or low ka system toh khatam hoga aise toh kata hindu kbi nhi sunenge kbi na manenge..kitni zindgiyan kharab kr chuke ho..schi mein narak mein jaye sbhi hindu dil se badhdua deti hun..pure world mein uslim budhist or christian ki populations badti rahe..bcoz tum nhi samjhoge or na shudharne wale ho..

  2. reservation jb tak duniya hai tb tak rehni chahiye…bcoz still people believe in castesim…still have high or low caste bases discrimination..acha bhala india angrezo se azaadh hua tha tum ghatiyan logo ne society ko ek caste line mein devide kiya na krte sbhi ko hindu maan kr chalte toh aaj yeh reservation jaisi koi problems hi na hoti..bada shokn chada tha na khudh high rank mein rakhne ka dusro ko low mein rakhna bina unki marzi jane bcoz us time unki conditions poor thi tumhare paas paisa tha toh tumne khudko high rank mein rakh liya bt kaam tumhare low standard se bhi ghatiyan hai..jitne bhi crime hote hai woh brahmin kshatriya jaise logo ka haath hota hai unka..ab bhagwadh geet ka example le lo jo brahmin kul mein janma means ravan aaj ke samaye mein woh raksh hi samjha jata hai or valmiki jo shudra the apni knowledge ke bal pr usne sabe uscha staan prapt kiya hai..kya hoti hai high or low caste or kya hai yeh brahmin kshtriya or vaishya or shudra..khudh hi sb create krke khudh hi sbko prblems mein daal diya..kya god ne yeh ghatiyan kaam kiya i m sure god apne logo ko kbi high or low mein nhi rakhega…us time kuch logo mein knowledge kya thi uska itna galat fayda utha liya u should be ashamed of yourself..we all are hindu..no one is brahmin, no one is kshtriya, no one is vaishya n no one is shudra understood..india mein jo rehta hai woh sbhi hindu hai sb pehle insaan ke roop mein aate hai..baadh mein tum hindu,muslim, sikh or christian ho..yeh char religion kafi nhi the..discrimination krne ke liye jo char or le ke aa gaye ho..first say no caste n no community we all are hindu..prove kro isko khatam kro isko sbko ek nazar se dekho..inter caste marriage krke iss ghatiyan thinking ko khatam kro..we all are human being then anything else..jo india mein hai woh indian hai okh..n let me tell u one think…kuch lower caste issi baato se dukhi ho ke abroad chale gaye or kuch religion hi change kr chuke hai..sabse kam population toh pure world mein hindu logo ki hai..bt i happy hindu sbhi khatam hi ho jaye acha hai atleast yeh ghatiyan castesim high or low ka system toh khatam hoga aise toh kata hindu kbi nhi sunenge kbi na manenge..kitni zindgiyan kharab kr chuke ho..schi mein narak mein jaye sbhi hindu dil se badhdua deti hun..pure world mein uslim budhist or christian ki populations badti rahe..bcoz tum nhi samjhoge or na shudharne wale ho..

  3. kya muje tum log ek baat ka jawab de sakte ho ki abroad mein kyun marks or grade matter nhi rakhta hai sirf knowledge matter rakhti hai or work aap apni capability ke according hi krte not in india but in abroad..wahan jobs koi A,B,C grade pr nhi di jati hai jaisi interview hoti uske according di jati hai..or ek baat abroad mein bhi severage ka kaam hota hai roads pr se garbage uthane ka kaam hota hai wahan kyun nhi log discrimination jaisa kuch krte hai ki jo yeh kaam krta hai woh low hai jo church mein priest hai woh high hai..wahan char community kyun nhi hai bcoz unke paas aisa cheap sochne ka waqt nhi hai but india ke paas full on time hai iske liye..am i right?…soch ko badal doge toh sb acha hi hoga…society ko ek caste line mein devide krne wale bhi hum hi log hai sb ko hindu maan kr chale toh kya kbi reservation jaisa kuch system hota..now 21st century going on but ab bhi soh baar sochte ho inter caste marriage ke liye..hum kyun nhi samjhna chahte hai hum chote nhi ho jayenge agr hum caste se bahar nikal kr humanity ko dekhenge usko important denge..be true indian..

  4. I dont know how to make understand indian people..sirf ek baat ka jawab do muje abroad mein koi high or low caste hai..bt india mein hai..kisne create ki apne aap se pucho..abroad mein jobs category ke bases nhi milti hai or na percentage ke bases pr or na hi addmission percentages pr hoti hai..sbko right hai educate hone ka..aisa india mein kyun nhi hai..there are lots of schools n colleges why not in india..apni soch badlo ek baar sbko ek hi nazar se dekho jaise abroad mein hai high or low hum apne behaivour n character se bante hai caste se nhi..sbko educate hone ka chance do sbko jobs do..bahut si jobs hum create kr sakte hai yeh govt ko krna chahiye agr woh corrupt na ho..kyun yeh condition rakhte ho ki jobs 50% or 60% ko milegi…zaruri nhi hai jiske marks kam hai uske paas knowledge kam hai ya woh ache se work nhi kr sakta hai or jiske marks high hai woh intelligent hai…yeh thinking hi galat hai jo koi bhi ho kbi kbi aisi situation paida hoti hai ki hum marks nhi le pate hai jyda bcoz kbi bimar ho jana financial problems hoti hai..family stress koi bhi reason ho sakte hai…or ek baat jitni jobs ki zarurat 70% wale ko hoti hai unti hi zarurat 50% wale ko bhi hoti hai…poor log bhi kbi 50% le lete hai toh kbi 70%.. general or sc ka jo jaal buna hai usko khatam kro sbhi hindu hai kuch intelligent hai kuch slow learner hai but we cant say they are not intelligent..time sb sikha deta hai..kuch log kehte hai jobs jo poor hai unko milni chahiye i agree with u…but yeh batao jo log sc certificate fake bana ke jobs le ke baithe hai jo real mein brahmin hai..jin logo ne hi yeh khel racha hai high or low ka…unke liye kitna mushkil hoga ek poor ka fake certificate bana lena or jobs le lena..i apke bhale ke liye keh rahi indian people aap sb bhul jayo or chodo iss castesim ko..kuch nhi rakha hai sivaye stress ke or apna dimaag kharab krne ke..yeh socho aisa kya kre ki jayda se jayda jobs create kr sake govt ki…ek example deti hun..aap sbne satyamev jayate2 ka episodes dekha hoga police wala..24hour police wale jobs krte hai family ko time nhi de pate hai..ab agr hum jis chownki pr 10 logo ko police ki jobs pr 24 hour rakh rahe hai wohi hum agr 20 rakh de or shift 12 hour kr de isse sbko govt jobs bhi mil jayegi or police wale bhi apni family ko time de sakegi..plz solution hamare paas hi hai…bas soch badlne ki zarurat hai..

  5. We always talk about religion and castesim but in reality there is no any caste and religion. We all are same our blood are same.then why we believe in discrimination. God never created any caste they made simple human being.. Mentally sick people take the path of fundamentalism and spread casteism and communism. They suffer from inferiority complex and divide the society into “we” and “they”. They (belonging either to higher or lower ranked caste) have a fear in their heart that if they do not get a higher place for themselves in society, “other” people are going to exploit them and going to put them down.They don’t have believe on themselves and their own work. They have doubt own their capability. People with negative mindset suffer from inferiority complex and divide society into compartments like higher castes or lower castes.and can’t tolerate “others” progress or well-being. They cannot work hard and cannot tolerate anybody else’s achievements. These are the people with negative mindset who believe in ranking some belonging to higher castes and/or some to lower castes. They are coward and they are unable to protect themselves…

  6. Hindu (body) four community: brahmin (head) kshatriya (arm) vaishya (belly) shudra (feet) All these four community called as hindu. We all are parts of one body. Without each part our body is not complete. If we lost one part of our body then we become handicap. The human body is the entire structure of a human being. Human Body is considered so loving that God even wants to have it. Spiritual Yogis have found that after going through the 84 millions species this souls get the most dignified human body. So it is the last step to explore the God or to get the view of almighty father god. We know that the soul never dies it takes birth again and again just like as we take new clothes to wear the soul as it takes new body and it is an infinite process. But the body what we get in next birth depend on our karma that has been cited in Gita by Lord Krishna to Arjuna. We all here to perform our duties. Our action makes our destiny and nothing else. The result is in the hand of supreme power. Karma is the seed of plant and if the seed is genuine it must be fruitful.

  7. Many a time, man has taken birth in high caste and low caste; but this does not make him great or low Having been born in high caste man thinks himself to be great and being born in low caste thinks himself to be low and pitiable; both of these states of mind are wrong because many times man has been born in high and low castes. Hence, one should not be proud of having been born in high caste and not feel low if born in low caste family.
    Greatness has nothing to do with high caste. Man becomes great because of his noble work, exemplary character and becomes loathsome because of his immorality and evil conduct. Thus, it is his conduct only that decides his greatness or lowliness. Who does not know that high family born Ravana, Kansa, Duryodhana and others are censurable; whereas Metarya muni, Harikeshi muni and others, though born in low family, are venerable.
    Then, what is the importance of high or low caste?

  8. Some stupid people living in India that’s why this country cant be develop anymore as the other countries are well developed. Bcoz indian people live in caste-ism and egoist by nature especially who belong to upper class which is created by themselves not created by God.God only created human being..He didnt put any human in high and low category..This cheap things only created by some mad people itself who live in India..and they be proud by called themselves hindu..I am also hindu but I feel bad when every person who proudly said they are hindu but their thinking is so narrow minded..now its depend on human what they want to become Devil or Angel..Nobody is lower and higher by caste or religion..they become high and low by their behavior..Reservation should be stop itself when you all leave this stupid casteism..Say no caste and no community..All are hindu who live in hindustaan understood..

  9. All human-beings are equal in the eyes of God.The human-beings have only created the caste system.There are good and bad people in both high caste as well as low caste.
    Ultimately,what matters to God is, whether one is a good person or striving to become one, or not.

  10. One who thinks himself to be of a high caste is actually low. While one who thinks himself/herself to be of low caste is said to be high caste.As per the scriptures, people are known by their nature and the quality of work they perform..

  11. Whenever someone’s ask you about your caste then your answer should be to them is:
    I am a Brahmin in knowledge
    I am kshatriya in valor
    I am vaishya in business
    I m shudra in service
    In the end I am just sanatam dharmi hindu and nothing else..Then say you proud to be a hindu..

  12. Harbans Lal Badhan // 20. mars 2015 at 06:28 // Svar

    «The Untouchables (Dalits) of India want economic, social, political, religious and educational equality in Society, not in the eyes of God»
    (Harbans Lal Badhan)

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