‘ #OneIndiaOneLaw ‘ there are tweets and Facebook posts screaming this slogan. In fact, recently Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was caught in a crossfire of political allegations after he posted a picture, expressing his personal views on the subject of Caste-based reservation in India.
Interestingly, Prakash Javedkar, the minister of Human Resources and Development recently issued a contradictory statement replying to the Law Ministry’s question on the disparity between reservation for OBCs and SCs/STs in faculty positions across universities. He stated that the HRD Ministry, at the moment, was not keen on any changes in the reservation policy for higher education.
The row around the Mandal Commission and its findings and its then subsequent hasty implementation, have been the epicenter of political and social debate for decades. The general category feels alienated and uncared for, feeling that seats are doled out to the SC/ST community purely out of the political will to keep them captivated. Every other news channel and media figure has been questioning the relevance of the divisive Caste-based reservation in education and job sector, and in this article, we are going to investigate the same question in detail.
Respect for everyone around, a reward for the worthy, but reservation for none; this is the kind of sentiment that should override caste-based divisive politics in India. But in reality, the reservation system still exists and dates back to the deep-rooted caste system that has been striving since ages and dominating all spheres of life. Recently, even the Indian Supreme Court called for an end to the reservation system at all educational institutes regretting that some of the privileges remain unchanged even after 70 years of Independence. The judicial bench has urged the Modi government to take urgent steps to remove reservations in ‘National interest.’
A bench of Justices PC Pant and Dipak Misra drew attention to the fact that in spite of several reminders to the central and state governments to make ‘merit’ the primary criteria for admissions into super-specialty courses; the reality was otherwise, as the reservation system was thriving and still being given preference over academic worthiness.
“The fond hope remains in the sphere of hope… The mentioned privileges remain unchanged, as if (it is) to compete with eternity,” quoted the bench. The court mentioned that it had agreed with two of its judgments from 1988.
The two cases here refer to reservations in super-specialty medical colleges, where the Supreme Court had ordered to abolish reservation’. The rationale given was, that to improve the quality of higher education in general and to improve the quality of medical services was of utmost national importance.
“We are hoping and trusting that the Government of India, as well as the state governments, shall seriously consider this aspect of the matter without any further delay and the most appropriate guidelines shall be evolved…” these judgments had decreed!
The Supreme Court also stated that it was ‘inclined’ to convey the same message it did now, about 27 years ago. “Therefore, we echo the same feeling and reiterate the desire of others so that the respective authorities can objectively assess as well as approach the situation so that the national interest can become preeminent,” said the court.
The apex court referred to a host of past judgments, asking the government authorities to abstain from relaxing the eligibility criteria establishing it on various kinds of reservations, as it would defeat the sole purpose of imparting the best possible training to selected meritorious candidates.
The Supreme Court came out with this decision while delivering judgment on a heap of petitions which had challenged the eligibility criterion for admissions into certain super-specialty medical courses in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana as well as Tamil Nadu. The bench declared that it could not interfere with the admission process in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana as a Presidential Order had been created, and the constitutionality of the order was impossible to be challenged.
Lately, the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat caused a controversy by surmising that the reservation system in the country needed to be reexamined, kindling protests from across the political spectrum. Even the BJP had held a different opinion with Bhagwat and stated that there were no plans to discard reservations.
However, the actual scenario on-ground scenario is a little different:
It is assumed that the employing the reservation system at the university level on the backwardness of communities isn’t ethical. This is because of their poor performance. Instead, it is advised that the seats should be reserved right from the primary school level.
In its latest order, the Supreme Court has made a differentiation between eligibility and the qualifying criterion for the admission of OBC student community. If a student is successful in securing minimum marks in the qualifying examination, he/she is eligible to be accepted for admission. Whereas, the qualifying marks remain rigid and on the upper side for the candidate of the general category. Choice of the eligible mark is whimsical; one the other hand, the qualifying mark is a fact.
THE SURVIVAL INSTINCT:
Perpetually, the eligibility criterion is much lower when compared to the qualifying marks. In its wisdom, the Supreme Court has announced that while admitting students from the OBC category, it is only the eligibility criterion that is valid and not the qualifying marks. One might wonder what the IITs should do — as they have no eligibility criterion and solely depend on the marks obtained by the candidate in the Joint Entrance Examination.
The IITs have had a long history of accepting the SC/ST students. In 1971, the Indian government popularized the reservation of 22.5% for the SCs and STs for being admitted to the IITs. It was done in a hurry and without much thought and preparation.
Reportedly, there was a case in one of the IITs, wherein a student was accepted with zero marks in all four subjects of the entrance examination. When the other SC/ST students felt that they had performed poorly, they simply opted out of the later examinations. This particular candidate had come for all four exams, and as it happened, there weren’t enough candidates to fill the quota, and so he too was granted admission.
At this stage, P. V. Indiresan became the Dean of IIT Delhi, the in charge of undergraduate courses. Understanding what a travesty of justice it would be if such undeserving students were allowed to continue for five years or even more without any anticipation of getting a degree, he introduced the minimum performance for continuing a course in IIT. At the end of the year, of the total 53 SC/ST students admitted, admissions for 47 of them were canceled.
The ex-Minister for Education, Professor Nurul Hasan, asked for an explanation for the above incident. He was informed that every student had written two sets of internal tests, two-semester examinations and also a supplementary examination. On each occasion, letters were sent to the student and to their parents as well, expressing grave concern for the poor performance and fears that if this continued, their future would possibly be ruined. The Minister was convinced but still concerned, and nothing concrete could be done further when he was informed about their economic status and background.
In one of the subsequent meetings, it was suggested that no SC or ST student should be admitted until they secure a minimum of two-thirds of the marks listed for admission for the general candidates to the IITs as well as to the BHU.
This method did not help, as only a handful of candidates qualified. Mr. Shankaranand, himself an SC, had become Minister for Education and, initially, he objected to the suggestion made by the Additional Secretary, Professor Jha, for reducing the qualifying marks further, by stating that it would bring a bad name to the community in the end.
These days, the cut-off is 50%. Unfortunately, charity and sympathy have not helped the SC/ST community. Even after 40 years of reservation, SC/ST candidates do not seem to be doing any good in the top colleges like IITs and IIMs. In IIT Delhi, on an average, a general category student passes out with a Grade Point Average of 7.5, whereas the SC/STs have an average of around 4-5. As per the IIT standards, this is extremely low.
In the light of this record of nearly 40 years, it can be deduced that:
Reservation at the higher education level, mainly in medical and engineering colleges like IIT level has not helped SC/ST candidates. It is beyond reason that a community that produced an Ambedkar cannot create a few hundred students each year to perform well in the IITs.
Also, the system used by the IITs doesn’t attract the best students from the SC/ST communities because of several arbitrary loop-holes. SC/ST candidates often look for a career in government establishments, that only reserve posts for their community but do not show any preference to merit-based fields like engineering.
Therefore, it appears that most SC/ST candidates voluntarily prefer to study at institutions other than the IITs, where the competition is less severe, and admission is much easier giving a very valid ending to our point of discussion.