India’s Reservation Policy in Higher Education Institutions The term “Reservation” has been doing the rounds within the Indian media circuit of late owing to the government decision to implement 27% quota for the OBCs in the educational institutions of higher learning. Time has come to study the significance of this matter and see its consequences on the country in the future. When our country achieved independence, a large section of the society was leading a miserable life. They had been exploited for ages and the false beliefs in the society at that time further worsened their condition. The government of that day introduced the concept of reservations so that there would be equal progress of all sections of the society. Over the years, the condition of the people of reserved categories has improved at a fast rate while that of the middle class, general or open category people has remained more or less the same. After nearly 60 years of independence now, general category people have started to feel that they are being subjugated and that the odds have been stacked against them. At a time like this, the government’s decision to bring out legislation to implement a 27% quota for OBCs adds further fuel to the fire. There are a large number of failings in the reasons publicized by the government for implementing this decision. Firstly, the government has rooted its decision in a survey conducted by the Britishers prior to Independence, on the percentage of the OBCs in the population. The reserved category candidates occupy nearly 52% of the government jobs today. Then what is the immediate need to increase the quotas?
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Though the government would not agree to it, most people feel that this is just another way of wooing the voters. The above stated move by the government brought out the students, resident doctors and even the faculty members of AIIMS and many other hospitals to protest against the government. None of us would hesitate to say that these doctors were inhuman and heartless to have neglected even the emergency services. But isn’t it our government that is to be held responsible for a situation like this. Year after year, the governments of India have been enforcing their will on the people, making us ponder if ours is a democracy at all. In a free and fair country, the candidate who is the most worthy should get the opportunity irrespective of his caste, creed and religion. When caste becomes the criteria for selection, how can one expect to get what is honestly due to him. The government argues that it can balance the equation by increasing the number of seats in the educational institutions. But then it is the quality of education that suffers. Before we come to the higher secondary stage none of us even talks of these quotas. Then the process of applying for the entrance exams for the professional courses starts and the seeds of caste get drilled into our minds. Each time before elections, new reservations start to emerge. Governments are practicing the policy of “divide and rule” with our own people. We hear this even during admissions to under-graduate courses. But is it correct to carry it into the post-graduation phase also? Nowadays the value of professional education has plummeted with a large number of private institutions entering into the stream. The number of engineers coming out every year is beyond the imagination. It is like pampering kids through school and junior college right into the professional education stream, without requiring any effort from them at all. But do we need to do it even at the post graduation level?
When will a person learn to go all-out for something in life? How far can they go when they have been driven into the industry and have not learnt the art of survival to start with? The decision has indeed drawn flak from many quarters. Getting reservations would be a good thing, but the advantage always lies with the “more privileged” section of these backward castes. For instance, most students from backward castes do not reveal the truth about their parents’ income and get the scholarships for education that they wouldn’t get normally. We must also consider what the future of the candidates who acquire education through reservation will be. At present, since the percentage of quotas is small, the employers don’t bother. If the government implements this decision, nearly 50% of the seats will be under reservation. The employers in future might start dividing candidates into reserved and unreserved categories. There are many merited students even from the OBCs and other reserved categories. Wouldn’t it hurt their sentiments if the employers start to look down at them as they have obtained their degrees through reservation? It is right that some sections have been oppressed for decades, hindering their progress. But the government cannot reverse the process and repair the wrong done in decades with a single move. This decision has occurred mainly as a result of the hype over the high salaries that IIT and IIM graduates have been getting recently. These institutions are seen as places where people can get rich. The government wants to give opportunities to the backward castes to earn similar salaries. But this should not happen at the cost of the quality of education.
There is no doubt that when the quality of education suffers, there won’t be such high salaries anyway. There is one more thing we should look at. The involvement of the courts in various strike-related issues has just lead to the end of these strikes, but it hasn’t been able to provide justice to the protesters. The courts, which we look to for a fair solution to any issue, have only been leaning toward the government. Even in the case of the protest of resident doctors in Andhra Pradesh against increase in the quota for service candidates in the PG course seats, the protesters got nothing but an assurance from the government that the matter will be looked into. The courts in many other cases have been successful only in obtaining assurances and not in delivering justice to the people. This really questions the law which states that no strikes or protests must be staged on an issue when the matter is in judicial review. This law is in favor of the government and must be looked into immediately. There is a strong feeling these days that in the future there won’t be a single general category student going for higher education in India. It looks like the government wants to make it a reality too. It is alright as long as there is no limit on the number of general category students going abroad and banks keep providing huge loans, but there are many who cannot afford to take these loans at high interest rates. The solution to the overall problem cannot be obtained in a short period of time. Firstly, the government should have the latest statistics of different categories of people within the society at the present time. Since India has a large population, more institutions which can impart high quality education to the students should be opened in various parts of India and the institutions that we have at present should be upgraded to meet the rising demands. The government should also do something for the economically backward people of the higher castes who have been left to strive for themselves. Let’s be positive and hope the government will consider all these factors and find a solution that is fair and just for all and not try to impose its will on the people.