Reservations policy in India

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The age-old class structure of India is accountable for the origination of the reservation system within the country.

In simple terms, it's about facilitating access to seats in government jobs, educational institutions, and even legislatures to certain sections of the population.

These sections have faced historical injustice because of their caste identity.

As a quota based social action, the reservation may also be seen as positive discrimination.

In India, it's governed by government policies backed by the Indian Constitution.

Historical Background

William Hunter and Jyotirao Phule in 1882 originally conceived the concept of caste-based reservation system.

The reservation system that exists today, in its true sense, was introduced in 1933 when British Prime-Minister Ramsay Macdonald presented the ‘Communal Award’.

The award made provision for separate electorates for Muslims, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, Europeans and therefore the Dalits.

After long negotiations, Gandhi and Ambedkar signed the ‘Poona Pact’, where it absolutely was decided that there would be one Hindu electorate with certain reservations in it.

After independence, initially reservations were provided just for SCs and STs.

OBCs were included within the ambit of reservation in 1991 on the recommendations of the Mandal Commission.

In the Indra Sawhney Case of 1992, the Supreme Court while upholding the 27 percent quota for backward classes,struck down the govt notification reserving 10% government jobs for economically backward classes among the upper castes.

Supreme Court within the same case also upheld the principle that the combined reservation beneficiaries shouldn't exceed 50 percent of India’s population.

The concept of ‘creamy layer’ also gained currency through this judgment and provision that reservation for backward classes should be confined to initial appointments only and not touch promotions.

Recently, the Constitutional (103rd Amendment) Act of 2019 has provided 10% reservation in government jobs and academic institutions for the “economically backward” within the unreserved category.

The Act amends Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution by adding clauses empowering the govt to supply reservation on the idea of economic backwardness.

This 10% economic reservation is over and above the five hundred reservation cap.

Constitutional Provisions Governing Reservation in India

Part XVI deals with reservation of SC and ST in Central and State legislatures.

Article 15(4) and 16(4) of the Constitution enabled the State and Central Governments to order seats in government services for the members of the SC and ST.

The Constitution was amended by the Constitution (77th Amendment) Act, 1995 and a replacement clause (4A) was inserted in Article 16 to enable the govt to supply reservation in promotion.

Later, clause (4A) was modified by the Constitution (85th Amendment) Act, 2001 to produce consequential seniority to SC and ST candidates promoted by giving reservation.

Constitutional 81st Amendment Act, 2000 inserted Article 16 (4 B) which enables the state to fill the unfilled vacancies of a year which are reserved for SCs/STs within the succeeding year, thereby nullifying the ceiling of one-half reservation on total number of vacancies of that year.

Article 330 and 332 provides for specific representation through reservation of seats for SCs and STs within the Parliament and within the State Legislative Assemblies respectively.

Article 243D provides reservation of seats for SCs and STs in every Panchayat.

Article 233T provides reservation of seats for SCs and STs in every Municipality.

Article 335 of the constitution says that the claims of STs and STs shall be taken into consideration constituently with the upkeep of efficacy of the administration.

Need of reservation

To correct the historical injustice faced by backward castes within the country.

To provide A level playing field for backward section as they will not compete with people who have had the access of resources and means for hundreds of years.

To ensure adequate representation of backward classes within the services under the State.

For advancement of backward classes.

To ensure equality as basis of meritocracy i.e all people must be dropped at the identical level before judging them on the premise of merit.

Argument Against Reservation

Reservation in state services led to divisions and enmity among government employees, vitiating the atmosphere at workplace.

Eradication, not perpetuation of caste was the target of the reservation policy but Caste Based Reservation only perpetuate the notion of caste in society.

Reservation was introduced to make sure that the historically underprivileged communities got equal access to resources but regardless of the economic progress they still remain socially disadvantaged.

Reservation destroys self-respect, such a lot so competition isn't any longer on to see the simplest but the foremost backward.

Reservations are the most important enemy of meritocracy which is that the foundation of the many progressive countries.

It has became a tool to fulfill narrow political ends through invoking class loyalties and primordial identities.

The dominant and elite class within the backward castes has appropriated the advantages of reservation and therefore the most marginalised within the backward castes have remained marginalised.

Reservation has become the mechanism of exclusion instead of inclusion as many upper caste poors also are facing discrimination and injustice which breeds frustration within the society.

Reasons Behind Increasing Demands of Reservation

Reservation is increasingly seen as a remedy for the adverse effects of ill-thought out development policies.

In developed states like Haryana, Gujarat and Maharashtra, in spite of their economies being relatively better, three things are worrying the people:

Acute agrarian distress,

Stagnation in a job growth and

Distortions within the development trajectory.

In this backdrop, for governments, it's easier to speak of reservation than to form a course correction.

Increasing reservation demands among upper castes also arising from the fear of losing privilege and also the inability to address change

Upper castes have begun to feel disadvantaged especially within the context of state jobs as they don’t get similar advantages like backward classes.


The reservation benefits should flow to the overwhelming majority of underprivileged children from deprived castes; to not some privileged children with a caste tag. High ranking officials, families, high income professionals et al. above a specific income mustn't get the reservation benefits especially in government jobs. Fair and practical ways to assist needy people from each community through reservation is feasible and necessary. The method of reservation should filter the truly economically deprived individuals and produce all of them to justice. Revolutionary changes within the education system at the grass-roots level is the need of the hour. There's also a desire for awareness generation because while the unreserved segments carry on opposing the availability, the neediest sections from within the reserved segments are hardly aware of the way to have the benefit of the supply or perhaps whether such provisions exist. unconventional solutions like excluding the whole creamy layer among all castes from reservation and developing their capabilities rather than offering them reservation for admission to educational activity or jobs on a platter.


Reservation is fair, as far because it provides appropriate positive discrimination for the good thing about the downtrodden and economically backward Sections of the society. But when it tends to harm the society and ensures privileges to some at the value of others for narrow political ends, it should be done away with, as soon as possible. The communities excluded from reservations harbour animosity and prejudice against the castes included within the reservation category. When more people aspire for backwardness instead of forwardness, the country itself stagnates. Meritocracy shouldn't be polluted by injecting relaxation of entry barriers, instead it should be encouraged by offering aid to the underprivileged. A robust political will is indispensable to seek out an equilibrium between justice to the backward, equity for the forward and efficiency for the complete system.