The UPA government’s decision to amend the Constitution to provide reservation to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in government promotions within a system of reservation is a clear case of reverse discrimination. The outcome is bound to be divisive. If the government wants to redress inequalities, reservation should be based on verifiable socio-economic backwardness. I hope the government will introduce a bill that will ensure the equality of outcome, not just the equality of provision that a constitutional amendment will serve to reiterate.
Affirmative action is inevitable in a society deeply riven by social inequalities created and cemented over hundreds of years by an exploitative caste system. But an interminable continuation of reservation is bound to be counter-productive. Since the SCs and the STs have not made the grade even after years of reservation at the entry point, it is time to ask whether the policy has served the intended purpose. Promotion quotas may help a few to move up the ladder but cannot make them competitive. If the state is serious about raising the level of the SCs/STs, it should focus on providing quality education.
Jawaharlal Nehru said in his letter to Chief Ministers in 1961: “I react strongly against anything which leads to inefficiency and second rate standards ... The only real way to help backward groups is to give opportunities for good education ... It has amazed me to learn that even promotions are based sometimes on communal or caste considerations. This way lies not only folly, but disaster. Let us help the backward groups by all means, but never at the cost of efficiency.”