Meritocracy v/s Caste-Based Reservation



India's constitution, adopted in 1950, inaugurated the world's oldest and farthest-reaching affirmative action program, guaranteeing scheduled castes and tribes - the most disadvantaged groups in Hinduism's hierarchy - not only equality of opportunity but guaranteed outcomes, with reserved places in educational institutions, government jobs and even seats in parliament and the state assemblies. These "reservations" or quotas were granted to groups on the basis of their (presumably immutable) caste identities. The logic of reservations in India was simple: they were justified as a means of making up for millennia of discrimination based on birth. The problem, as all too often in India, is politics.

India's first Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had hoped that caste consciousness would wither away in a few years, but the opposite has happened as caste was such a powerful source of strengthening the Vote Bank that when an Indian casts his vote, he too often votes his caste. Due to this reason, the governments kept amending the reservation for SC’s, ST’s, and OBC’s. How the governments and Political parties are enjoying this caste-based reservation can be seen from the fact that the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Sixth Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Law and Justice, Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad, on December 9, 2019.

The Bill amends provisions related to reservation for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs). This has been provided for a period of 70 years since the enactment of the Constitution and will expire on January 25, 2020. The Bill seeks to extend the reservation for SCs and STs by another 10 years till January 25, 2030.

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