Quota and Reservation System in India – An Essay


Quota system and Reservation system in India seems to be an evergreen hot debate topic and everyone seems to have a point of view on it. Some consider this an abomination,some a blessing and some a necessary evil.

But before we discuss the concept of reservation, we need to step back and take a look at what exactly is the problem we are trying to solve? .

SC ST are the dalits, adivasis or Shudras who had suffered immensely under the caste based system of India. A lot can be written on it , but that won’t be necessary for this blog post as I am sure all the readers are aware of this.

Now the problem with many urban dwelling Indians is that they believe that caste based system does not exist anymore and the discrimination is more or less finished. This cannot be farther from truth.

The problem is very much here . There still are a huge number of people in this country who are denied a dignified life and basic human rights just because they belong to a particular caste .

“Discriminatory and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of over 165 million people in India has been justified on the basis of caste,” according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Many of these people are denied any Jobs, denied access to common resources such as water , treated as untouchables and basically denied of any opportunity to get out of the rut.It is not their lack of want but the system that keeps them there.

When people say ” They do not get jobs because they are not skilled” , it pains me to see how people look at only one side of the coin. They do not have any decent jobs because in the places they live , they cannot get one, unless the government forces it .There is an extreme bias in the minds of people who are responsible for giving them jobs.You may want to see the Satyamev Jayate episode on Caste based discrimination.

There was a recent report on how people who are treated as Untouchables are forced to Clean Human Waste , because that is the only Job they are considered suitable for.

Even when we speak about crime against women, let us be aware that a dalit woman is more likely to face abuse . Let me quote from a UN Study

Human rights of Dalits and women in general are normally violated by dominant castes and powerful communities to practice and exhibit patriarchy and caste based discrimination. Dalit women are oppressed by the broader Indian society, men from their own community and also their own husbands and male members in the family. Thus, Dalit women face multiple disadvantages and vulnerabilities. Their issues are clearly different from that of other Indian women.

But human rights of Dalit women are violated in peculiar and extreme forms. Stripping, naked parading, caste abuses, pulling out nails and hair, sexual slavery & bondage are few forms peculiar to Dalit women.


Woman abuse is an issue of power , when men feel threatened or are raised to feel superior to woman and want to show it(Apologies for oversimplification ) . Being a Dalit and a Woman surely compounds the problem.Why do you think that is?

People speak of “free markets” and “equal opportunity for all”  as arguments for speaking against reservation, while conveniently forgetting that these are the people who are NOT getting equal opportunities . Free markets do not work in case of externalities and this is an externality.

Let us all be aware that Untouchability cannot be wished away.

So now coming back to the question of Reservations

Whenever there is a section of society that is so much discriminated against , the best way to end that discrimination is by mixing them up with the general population and bringing them into mainstream. There will be uproars as people do not like change and the deep rooted biases act up , but that is what we as a society have to fight.

Only when we see people from that community all around us , understand them, see that they are not different, can we be able to remove this discrimination.

We need this section of society to be in all areas of community , from doctors to engineers to entrepreneurs  to CEOs to Artists to teachers . This is the only way to end this discrimination and give equal opportunity to all.

Basically we need to level the playing field for people who were not allowed to even compete.

And all this while , we need to be conscious that Bias exists. Just because caste based discrimination is illegal, does not imply that it does not happen.

So now we have established that there is a section of society that has been and still is unfairly treated and that biases still exist.We also established that the best way to end those biases would be to get these people in all areas of society , rather than confining them to jobs they are traditionally made to do based on their caste.

How do we do this?

This is where the government comes in. Let us understand a simple fact that whenever X is given to Person 1, that X cannot be given to person Y. Resources are limited . The government needs to come up with schemes and measures to help this section of society rise , this will be done at expense of something. This is not optional , we as a society cannot accept that a large part of us are denied basic human rights.

These schemes involve resources . Resources for education , resources for loans , resources for gainful employment and resources for spreading awareness .When the government reserves seats to SC ST , look at it as allocation of resources . Another way could be to halve the number of government colleges and spend that money on other endeavours . You do not have reservations then, but then the number of seats is still the same.

Reservation was one of the ways (Not the only way)to achieve this goal of getting SC ST OBCs into mainstream.

So Is Reservation Good?

Yes and No.

Yes: The intention for reservation is good , necessary and correct.

No: Because it has not been implemented properly.

The basic problem with reservation has been it’s misuse(or may I say heavy abuse). Reservation was never intended to help the Rich SC kid get an Easy entry to educational institute . It was meant to give a shortcut to millions of SC ST and  OBCs out of the rut , taking their families along,  and making the society more accepting of them .

It was also supposed to end, but sadly due to political corruption and vote bank politics , it did not. But when we say that , we need to remember that it was also thought that the caste based discrimination too would end. If our politicians have failed, so have we.

Another issue is that the reservation in higher educational institutes, without proper support for primary education seems like a cop-out. The government’s job was to bring about a change in mindset of people ,create and employ strict laws to stomp out any discrimination , but that is a really hard thing to do. It requires patience  and courage to risk annoying your vote bank which not many politicians are willing to do.

Plus it may not be the best way anymore , there can be a serious discussion on relevance of reservation in this time. Agreed that discrimination is still alive, but is reservation still a good way to end it?

Why the heck am I writing This?

To be fair, I am not too sure either. I have been on the other side, blaming the SC ST /OBC for taking such disproportionate number of seats to all the coveted institute ,  for getting seats in IITs while knowing much less than me(I did not make it to IIT –Failed to clear Mains ..Missed by a whisker) . Yes I too have been real angry at the system .I too called the system unfair to me and claimed that SC ST have it too easy.

But In retrospect , I believe I was ill-informed . My anger was directed at the wrong place and I see too many people like me , who ignore the very basic fact that this system is still relevant because we still have discrimination . The anger also needs to be directed towards the society as a whole , not just the government and certainly not against the SC ST/OBC community as a whole.

Yes reservation system is inherently unfair , but our society itself is based on unfairness at this point , where some people are superior to others and some inferior based solely on their birth and not merit.

As I said there needs to be a serious discussion on relevance of reservation for solving this issue. What can be the better way? In an education hungry society like ours , Is compromising on student intake for some of the most premium colleges worth it?

Also till reservation is there , how can we make sure that it is not abused? What laws need to be brought into place to prevent non deserving people taking it? I personally know cases of millionaires taking advantage of the reserved seat for their son, which is preposterous. Can I do not something about it? How do we make sure that the Creamy Layer(annual income >6 Lakhs) does not take advantage of this system?

How can we strengthen the basic education system so that all kids can get an equal shot at a good education .

And finally , how to end it? It will end when the cast based system actually becomes irrelevant . We need to ask the question that if Reservation is becoming and impediment to that? Instead of removing , is it now strengthening the divide, making it more vivid? If yes, we might need other ways to fight it.

For this we need more voices , voices from the SC ST OBC community as well to speak out, do you think reservation is still required?

And why are we seeing an increasing number of people demanding to be put as OBCs? Why are we doing this? Should this not be banned? For people who face economic hardships, we need a system based purely on financial well-being rather than caste based.

And yes , a hard-line. Any politician who takes a stand on getting a hard-line date to  end this system will potentially kill his or her political career , but I am sure there are some politicians who might risk it. By hard-line , I do not mean just some arbitrary date which can be later extended, but a dead line that cannot be changed or is too difficult to change , e.g.: Only if 99% of  both houses of parliament decide to extend it .

Finally , Reservation is not a revenge on General Class as some people make it out to be. It is a system which had to be brought in to end an unfair system , and is potentially itself becoming part of the problem rather than a solution. If we want to end it , at least we as a society need to end the discrimination . Let’s do our part as well. Shall We?


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