What if all the general caste citizens came on the streets and started protesting for reservation-free India?

Here is the composition of Indian population[1] (excluding the Muslim and Christian population of almost 15% ) :

  • General Castes – 15 % of population
  • Other Backward Castes (OBCs) – 41% of population
  • Scheduled Castes (SCs) – 20% of population
  • Scheduled Tribes (STs) – 9% of population

Reservation status is as follows:

  • OBCs – 27 %
  • SCs – 15%
  • STs – 7.5%

The reservation for OBCs was recommended by Mandal Commission[2] in 1979 and implemented by V P Singh Government in 1990. At that time there was severe backlash from upper castes section who resorted to large scale protests, agitations, self immolation etc.[3]

(Image: Self immolation by Rajiv Goswami, a student of Delhi University, in 1990)[4]

Despite the vehement opposition of upper castes, the reservation was implemented. The only satisfaction being that Supreme Court in Indra Sawhney Case said that creamy layer in OBCs shall be suitably identified and excluded.

General population form a small minority of population (only 15%) and its protests against reservation, provided to around 70% of population, are not going to be fruitful. Upper castes are also much more disorganized and politically sidelined. While OBCs and SCs have specific political parties representing them and occupy central place in any political rhetoric. Bharat Bandh called by Dalits was supported by every single political party.

Backward Castes today are also much more vocal and organized. This could be seen in the Jat, Patidar and Kapus agitation for reservation, Dalit protests against dilution of Prevention of Atrocities Act. [5]Rather than weakening of reservation, there are actually demanding more reservation and safeguards. This is also encouraged by political parties, who indulge in giving reservations to specific communities on the eve of elections to win over their votes.

(Image of Jat Violence over reservation in Haryana)

To some extent, granting of reservations is also justified as some of the communities especially SCs and STs face several disabilities. However, creamy layer should be specifically identified and reservation benefits should be granted to only one generation in a family. Along with reservation, good schooling facilities and scholarships should be provided to students of backward classes. As rightly pointed out by Supreme Court, the aim of government should be to ensure equality of opportunity and not equality of outcome. Recently the two steps announced by central government offer some hope of rationalization of reservation system :

  1. Giving constitutional status to National Commission for Backward Classes[6]
  2. Sub categorization of OBCs into Extremely Backward, Most Backward and Backward.[7]

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