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The idea of a caste census is back in the realm of public debate, following the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to establish a commission to collect caste-wise data.
The move may have been born out of political expediency (hurry), in response to the restive pre-election agitation organised by the Pattali Makkal Katchi demanding 20% exclusive reservation in education and government jobs for the Vanniyar community, its main electoral base.
The reservation policy has become one of the major political issues in the domestic politics of India.
Several communities have also been demanding reservation under various categories in several north Indian states, culminating in violent agitations several times.
What are the interesting facts about reservation in India?
When the Indian Constitution was ratified in 1950, it included a provision to reserve up to 22.5% of enrolment of marginalized group – 15% for Scheduled Castes and 7.5% for Scheduled tribes. This was based on Census 1950.
Articles 340, 341 and 342 in the constitution of India details the classification and reservation to be made in favour of members of Scheduled castes or scheduled tribes.
Scheduled Castes Reservation- Government Order in 1950 excluded members of other religions except Hindus (except four Sikh Dalit caste groups) from this reservation. Slowly, by the 1990s, Sikh and Buddhist members were included, but Christian and Muslim Dalits remain excluded.
In 1992 in the Indira Sawhney vs Union of India and others, the Supreme Court of India in its judgement laid down that the total reservation cannot exceed 50% under the state.
The reservation policy was intended to redress caste-based inequalities. It was thought to be reviewd every twn years and removed when social justice for all was achieved. However, the reservation system has been expanded to include the OBCs.
In 1979, The Backwards classes Commission (popularly known as the Mandal commission formed by the Janata Party in power) identified 3,743 communities which comprised 52% of the Indian population as belonging to ‘socially and educationally backward classes”. It recommended that 27% of seats be reserved for OBCS in addition to existing 22.5% of seats reserved for SCs and STs. The recommendations were rejected by Indira Gandhi led Government in 1980.
Two states in India, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan exceed the reservation cap in the state and have reservation of up to 69% and 68% respectively.
1990-Mandal commission recommendations were implemented in Government Jobs by Vishwanath Pratap Singh in the Janata Party-led Government.
The list of OBCs maintained by the Indian Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is dynamic, with castes and communities being added or removed depending on social, educational, and economic factors. Further, every state has its own reservation norms based on demographics and maintains its own list of Other Backward Class (OBC).
The reservation is not applicable to religious/linguistic minority educational institutions.
Reservation in Tamil Nadu has been included in the 9th schedule of the constitution of India, which cannot be challenged in a court of law, for violation of fundamental rights against Articles 14 and 15.
A caste-wise survey helps gather quantifiable data, but the aim must be a casteless society.
Reservation is fair, as far as it provides appropriate positive discrimination for the benefit of the downtrodden and economically backward sections of the society.
But when it tends to harm the society and ensures privileges to some at the cost of others for narrow political ends, it should be done away with, as soon as possible.
Source: The Hindu.