Caste-Based Reservations

Chalam, K. S. 2007. Caste-Based Reservations and Human Development in India. Sage Publications India Pvt. Ltd.

, New Delhi. The present book by K. S. Chalam attempts to bring together some of the empirical data to present the factual position of caste-based reservations in India. It throws light on the almost two centuries old policy to find out its utility or uselessness for contemporary society.

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K. S. Chalam’s present book is an attempt to recollect the arguments for reservations, remove some of the misconceptions that gained currency since the V. P.Singh government’s move to introduce the Mandal Commission recommendations, and also to look at the notion of reservations in a post-liberalised, open economy. The methodology of the book: It is primarily a socio-political analysis of the caste based reservations in the present time.

Caste-Based Reservations and Human Development in India analyses the impact of such reservations on the target groups, as well as on major human development indices, taking into consideration time series data. Besides the study on human development through caste based reservations, K. S.Chalam also presented a case study of the impact of reservations on development taking Dalits in Andhra Pradesh. The book has two sections namely, “Present Status of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes” and “Impact of Caste-based Reservations”. The former section deals with the present status of the deprived groups and the latter section examines its impact on the targeted groups. While talking about caste and economic inequalities in India, Chalam argues that it is the power which takes into account of the social relationship between two individuals or groups of individuals.

Power is always exercised through domination and subordination. It depends upon the historical setting, social structure, and nature of the state and economy. Chalam states that caste has been used as a source of social and economic power since its earliest stages. pp.

31. The dvija castes have used it as a property of the group of people who inherit a particular caste by birth. Dvija caste-power as domination is exercised by social action, which in India is implemented through the operation of upper caste cleavages.

Chalam mentions that social discrimination against the dark-skinned people also led to discrimination against the trades which they plied. the castes that were responsible for the creation of wealth in the country were never given the status that they deserved. As a result, the OBCs and Dalits who are actually involved in production activity are given very low positions; while those who do not contribute anything but are involved in exchange and implicated in contributing intangible services obtain a higher status in India. Further he explains that how the Mandal Commission did not use caste as a blind indicator to determine backwardness.

He draws attention to the inclusive criteria adopted by the Commission to identify social and educational backwardness by looking at the following indicators — Social: castes/classes considered socially backward by other castes/classes; castes/classes which mainly depend on manual labour for their livelihood; castes/classes where at least 25 per cent of females and 10 per cent of males get married at an age below 17 years in rural areas and 10 per cent females and five per cent males do so in urban areas; castes/classes where the female participation in work is at least 25 per cent above the state average.Educational: castes/classes where the number of children in the age group of 5-15 years who have never attended school is at least 25 per cent above the state average; castes/classes where the rates of student dropouts in the age group of 5-15 years is at least 25 per cent above the state average; and castes/classes amongst whom the proportion of matriculates is at least 25 per cent below the state average.Economic: castes/classes where the average value of family assets is at least 25 per cent below the state average; castes/classes where the number of families living in Kuccha houses is at least 25 per cent above the state average; castes/classes where the source of drinking water is more than half a kilometre for more than 50 per cent of the households; castes/classes where the number of households have taken consumption loan is at least 25 per cent above the state average. Latter section of the book gives an account of the impact of caste based reservations.

While giving the positive impact in the various spheres of life, Chalam has addressed the debates of reservation versus merit and efficiency. He argues that with poor rates of growth, rising unemployment and growing competition for limited opportunities in a market economy, those with combined and cumulative disadvantages of inferior social status, little access to educational institutions, bureaucracy and political power, are the worst sufferers in the system. Reservations can provide the much needed band-aid though not a cure.He effectively uses the figures of the UNDP’s 2005 Development Index to prove the benefits of the affirmative action of reservations. The Human Development Index value for India was 60. 2 and was ranked 127 among the nations.

However, the southern States, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, got a very high ranking with Karnataka close behind. The indices of these States were nearly equal to that of middle-income countries. Chalam attributes this to the long tradition of reservations in these States that began in the early part of the 20th century.Pp. 130-31. Chalam has brought out that caste is omnipresent both in our conscious and subconscious level. In the last chapter author has tried to find out an alternative to the present system of the so-called caste based reservations.

He has tried to examine the policy of caste-based reservations in the context of constitutional democracy to understand its relevance. His assertion that “parliamentary democracy did not bring justice” (pp. 172-73) lacks nuances about governance, its ability to deliver, and the speed of change.

As an alternative Chalam argues for representation rather than reservation and asserts that former is more respectable than latter one (pp. 180-81). Author further notes that the individual in India represents a caste or community, and therefore it is necessary to ensure that each caste or community is adequately represented in the institutions through which the system operates. The individual in India represents a caste or community, and therefore it is necessary to ensure that each caste or community is adequately represented in the institutions through which the system operates.Therefore, it is inevitable to provide representation to every caste sooner or later in the parliament, economy and social relations. Hooda, Sagar Preet. 2001.

Contesting Reservations: The Indian Experiment on Affirmative Action. Rawat Publications, Jaipur and New Delhi. The study by Sagar Preet Hooda is a part of growing literature on the issue of reservations in India. The central theme of the book is to examine the experiments of the Indian state with the efficacy of reservations in bringing about equality in Indian society.The instrumentality of reservations has been grossly undermined with its half hearted implementation. Reservations, if carefully and properly implemented, can prove a good instrument of state policy for undoing social inequality.

However, there is always a scope for a better policy. All these issues have been examined in this book. Methodology of the study includes the fieldwork in two districts of Haryana.

By the method of random sampling 320 respondents (160 each from the forward and backward castes) were selected and interviewed.The book is the outcome of responses analysed on various issues such as attitudes on reservation, how it is an avenue for upward social mobility, its impact on inter-caste relations. Author, in his book argues that Indian caste system was a source of great inequality and oppression and something needed to be done for amelioration of the oppressed castes and reservation flows out of a concept of compensatory discrimination. Author here, beautifully traces the historicity of reservations and gave an account of the backward class movement in pre independent as well as in independent India.Rath, Rajalaxmi. 1995. Reservation and Social Transformation Among Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Inter-India Publications New Delhi.

Pp. 208. The present book by Rath is actually a thesis of her doctoral research. The methodology deployed chiefly, is the method of case study for the collection of data.

The author gathers firsthand knowledge of the impact of caste based reservations on scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in general and Bihar in particular in regards with the public services.The author chiefly examines the impact of the policy of compensatory discrimination and the various constitutional provisions aimed at giving preferential treatment to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes especially with regard to the provision of reservation of jobs in the public services. The author argues that Constitution of India provides preferential treatment for various deprived and marginalized groups and it also recognises the need for special provisions in favour of the socially disadvantaged groups with the objective of bringing them to a level comparable to the other communities.The author analyses the degree of social transformation achieved due to the implementation of the policy of reservation in the public services among the SC’s and ST’s with particular reference to the State of Bihar. Author’s one of the major finding in this book states that the beneficiaries of reservation have not only broken away from their traditional occupations but have also become examples for members of their communities in view of their power, prestige and self-confidence vis-a-vis members of the upper castes.Rajalaxmi Rath argues that the induction into the government services has given a thrust and boost to these communities to contribute actively in the development process. The present book also gives an account of the historical and constitutional background of reservation and its rationale to implement the caste based reservation for the benefits of the marginalized and deprived groups and individuals. It also examines the implementation of the policy of reservation and the change that has occurred in the semi-feudal society of Bihar.

Arguments in favour of Reservation in India:Policy of reservations in India has been influenced by two main considerations, namely: 1. To overcome the multiple deprivations of the marginalized social groups inherited from exclusion in the past, and to the extent possible bring them at par with the others i. e.

the deprived groups had been suffering from the historical injustices in the past, even today. So, reservation is something like paying the social debt to some extent. 2. To provide protection against exclusion and discrimination in the present by encouraging their effective participation in the general economic, social and political processes of the country.Besides, other arguments in favour of the reservations in India include: 3. Reservation provides social equality through representation in all the institutions of the State. So, real representation is not achieved yet, so it is needed. 4.

Reservation enhances and widens the access to education, thus democratising institutions and knowledge. It is aimed at the massification of education and knowledge, and representation in all the institutions of the state, in proportionate measure. 5. There is no truth in the arguments that reservations brings about efficiency because of so called low merit. 6.

Even 62 years after independence, the position of the SCs/STs has not greatly improved. Thus, reservation is needed. Arguments against the Reservation in India: 1.

It does not address the basic problem of inadequate expansion and poor quality of public education at elementary and secondary levels. 2. It militates against “merit” and allows degrees and qualifications to be awarded with less than deserving aptitude and performance. 3. It is inefficient compared with openly competitive market-based systems.

4. It creates perceptions of “victimhood” and democratically undesirable identity politics. 5.Inequalities within the specified communities allow a “creamy layer” to take advantage of the reservations and benefit unduly while depriving the rest of the community. 6. The rigid and inflexible nature of the instrument of reservation does not allow for more creative modes of affirmative action.

7. It privileges caste-based discrimination and therefore ignores other and possibly more undesirable forms of exclusion. 8.

It compresses the notion of social justice into only reservation, instead of encompassing broader socio-economic policies such as land reform and other asset redistribution, strategies of income generation, etc. . Caste based reservations promote unhealthy forms of identity politics that distract from more substantive and critical social issues.

10. When job opportunities are rare, reservations for chosen sections can only lead to resentment among the unemployed in the general category who will be deprived just because of their birth. 11. The reservation system has led to inter-caste conflict as they have to compete for the limited social and economic benefits.

Author: Elbert Porter


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