Anup Surendranath responds
I am grateful to Madhav Khosla for this discussion and for the passionate case he makes against reservations in promotions. However, better engagement with the arguments in my article would have made for a more meaningful exchange. For instance, Khosla’s declaration that I have ignored the principle of equality of opportunity fails to account for my argument that reservations at the entry level have failed to ensure equality of opportunity. The abysmal number of SC/STs in promotion posts belies Khosla’s foundational argument that equal opportunity at the stage of initial appointments results in equality between the general category and SC/STs.
Khosla’s argument on backwardness fails to distinguish between OBCs and SC/STs as beneficiary groups. The test that he describes is already in place for the OBCs but the Supreme Court has rejected it for the SC/STs on many previous occasions for good reasons. The nature and extent of the marginalisation faced by these two groups are very different and therefore excluding individual members from accessing benefits cannot proceed on the same grounds for OBCs and SC/STs. While there have been demands, like those from the Madiga Dandora movement, for internal reservations among SCs, the nature and basis of those demands are far removed from Khosla’s backwardness argument.
Khosla’s arguments are unfortunately yet another instance of viewing reservations in promotions as a battle between efficiency and social inclusion. I argued in my article that reservations in promotions must be viewed as furthering efficiency rather than taking away from it.
Also, the connection between the criteria for recruitment and the tasks of government employees is extremely tenuous. Therefore, the issue is not whether we would be willing to sacrifice efficiency for social inclusion in the case of the ticket inspector but not for the nuclear scientist. The issue is the dominant normative commitment that has prevented us from viewing reservation in promotions as furthering efficiency.
(Anup Surendranath is an Assistant Professor of Law at the National Law University ,Delhi and doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Law, University of Oxford.)