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Constitutional Validity of 10% reservation for economically backward upper caste citizens

Upper caste citizens are those who belong to the caste superior to scheduled caste and schedule tribe. These category people are also called as forward caste as per the privileges enjoyed by them as compared to the castes in a nation. This category of people is the social groups which do not qualify for any of the reserved categories or other affirmative schemes which are provided by the government of India.

India is a democratic nation in which various castes of people reside including the upper caste citizens which are also known as the general category people, the schedule caste, the schedule tribe, and other backward categories. Except the people belonging to the general category i.e. the upper caste citizens, all the other residing categories in India are entitled for the benefit of reservation as provided by the government of India. As per the statistics provided by the National Sample Survey Organisation, it can be highlighted that after the population of the OBC which has been already protected by government of India, the largest population of India belongs to the upper caste which is being left unprotect and has been ignored for multiple reason for an extremely long period of time.

In this paper there will be focus on the term “upper castes” including the percentile of upper caste that exists in India, the requirement and importance of providing the reservation to the Upper Caste in India as well as the problems and solutions that would exist or arise due to such reservations.

India is a democratic nation in which various castes of people reside including the upper caste citizens which are also known as the general category people, the schedule caste, the schedule tribe, and other backward categories and in order to protect the interests of these different categories of people the government, in the past years took various initiatives by providing reservation to them in education and job.

As per the reports of The Times of India[1], the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) specified that in the year 2018, the population of the Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe in India is 19.59% and 8.63% respectively. Whereas, the population of OBC constitutes a total of 40.94% and the population of the upper caste citizens constitutes 31%.

Now, focusing only on the upper castes, it is highlighted that the Upper caste citizens are those who belong to the caste superior to scheduled caste and schedule tribe.

These category people are also called as forward caste as per the privileges enjoyed by them as compared to the other castes in a nation. This category of people is the social groups which do not qualify for any of the reserved categories or other affirmative schemes which are provided by the government of India. Due to the reason of being neglected primarily by the consequences of reservation the government of India on January 7, 2019 declared 10% quota for the poor among upper class so that they must not be deprived of their respective life in order to live life with dignity.

This represents that the people who fail to receive benefit from the already existing 50 per cent quota as well as they are below the EWS i.e. they belong to Economically Weaker Section, would primarily benefit from this proposal.

In a judgment of Balaji v/s State of Mysore[2] it was held that the “caste of a person cannot be the sole criteria for ascertaining whether a particular caste is backward or not. Determinants such as poverty, occupation, place of habitation may all be relevant factors to be taken into consideration. The court further held that it does not mean that if once a caste is considered to be backward it will continue to be backward for all other times. The government should review the test and if a class reaches the state of progress where reservation is not necessary it should delete that class from the list of backward classes.”

In order to grant reservation to the poor belonging to the upper caste there would be proposed amendment[3] to the Article 15 and Article 16 of the constitution of India providing reservation to the economically backward upper castes in the government jobs.

However, in order to classify among the poor upper castes, an individual is supposed to fulfil certain perquisites which are highlighted as follows:
1. “The people with an annual income below Rs 8 lakhs as well as the people with agricultural land having possession of lower than five hectare are eligible for this quota.
2. The persons having a residential property lower than 1,000 sq ft are also eligible to enjoy the benefit of this 10% quota.
3. The persons in possession with a residential plot lower than 109 yards in a notified municipality or a residential plot below 209 yards in a non-notified municipality area may also benefit from this move.”

It can be mentioned that our constitution is itself is reservation friendly, which under article 14 states that every citizen of the country must be treated equally with respect to caste, creed sex, religion etc. This can be interpreted that a person is entitled to equality even if that person is not capable of such quality. It means that equality must be measured on the basis of merits and not upon the criteria of being economically backward or economically forward.

Whenever a student fills up an admission form for any university, a major question which asked to everyone is to which category they belong to. Like whether they belong to the category of SC/ ST/ OBC or General category. How does such a question plays an important role in the future of a child or student, instead the major role that plays in the life of a student is that the merits that they possess which would lead to the overall development of the student in professional as well as personal life. And such consideration of merits in a student would directly benefit the overall development of the country in which that student is going to provide the services in future.

The reservation system in India should be based upon the economic and financial status of the individual. However, in today’s time even the problem of finance for education has been curbed by the government of India via announcing various educational schemes that would directly benefit the economically weaker section of the Indian society.

Focusing on the 10% reservation that has been granted to the upper class by the present government, it can be highlighted that this reservation should only be provided to those classes of people who actually requires it i.e. only to those people who lack financial sources but are full of merits and should not be granted on that classes of people who neither have merits nor have the ability to develop their skills.

For providing reservation under the criteria of upper class or any other class, all the candidates must go through a primary examination in order to test their basic skills so that the opportunity provided to them for the reservation must not be misused by any individual or a class of person. Earlier when the reservation system was introduced in India, it was introduced for the purpose of creating equality among all the citizens of the country. It was introduced for eradicating inequality among diverged people on the basis of caste, creed, sex or religion.
But it can be noticed that the primary purpose of the concept of reservation was defeated and was misunderstood by the citizens of India.

Providing reservation to one class of individuals led to conflict of thought between other classes of individuals which developed a thought that every group of person must receive reservation separately leading to increase in more discriminative thinking in all the citizens belonging to different religions and castes and eventually defeating the purpose of the constitution of India which talks about equality.

For instance, the OBC, ST, SC, Jatt’s and Gujjar, the general category and now the upper class have been granted a particular percentile of reservation. It can be hypothetically thought that now in the near future there could be any other group other than the above mentioned would eventually feel inferior due to non reservation and then they would come up and protest for their respective reservation in the country.

So the big question that arises here that:
will they also be provided the reservation?
Till when will the government encourage this act of reservation?
Is reservation the only way out for equality and not the merits of the individual?

All these questions showcase that now the purpose of reservation has defeated the purpose of equality. In order to change our country from the status of a developing nation to a developed nation, it is quite obvious to understand that for the overall development of our nation we don’t require the support of reservation. Instead we require the support of our merits that exists within us so that everyone could equally contribute to the country, and when everyone will equally contribute to the nation then eventually everybody would be treated equally in the nation. The primary hindrance for the development of our nation would not be eradicated due to the precise granting of reservation to all the existing different classes of groups, instead the hindrance for the development would increase if everybody would be granted reservation and then the merits of the country would be ruined due to severe effects of reservation.

Hence, a brief suggestion can be provided that the reservation in our nation must not be provided on the basis of economic condition of an individual, it should not be provided on the basis of caste or religion. Instead as per my opinion, the reservation in our country should be provided on the basis of the merits that an individual hold in him/ her/it. The merits of an individual should be kept as the first criteria for reservation instead providing the caste based reservation to the citizens of the nation.

Hence, it can be concluded that the 10 percent reservation to the upper class is not a required step that the government has initiated. This reservation has the potential to increased the caste based differences between the citizens and not reduce the same within the people.

End-Notes
[1] The percentile of people belonging to various categories (visited on Jan 27, 2019) https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/OBCs-form-41-of-population-Survey/articleshow/2328117.cms
[2] AIR 1963 SC649
[3] The highlights of the reservation (visited on Jan 29, 2019) https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/10-per-cent-reservation-for-poor-among-upper-caste-who-all-will-benefit-1425371-2019-01-07

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