On ST Reservations: The Need and Systematic Reassessment Henceforth

Swayam Nath
Swayam Nath
A sceptic in this Hebraistic world is Swayam Nath, a 12th grader from South Point School, a passionate devotee of literature and theatre. He finds pleasure in composing poems. Over the years, he has participated in several public speaking contests and has been able to hone his oratory skills. Swayam was also one of the selected fellows in the YLAC 2020 online edition. He also has an ardent adoration for music and a fine taste for good art.

The concept of "equality" is deep rooted in primary and secondary schools, yet what Indian education fails to impart clarity on is the concept of "equity", which is generally either overlooked or treated the same as "equality", which is downright problematic.

Reservation in the social strata tends to provide a sort of equity to the backward classes or castes.

The concept of equity and equality can be best explained with an example, and so let us imagine a fruit-bearing tree, and on the two sides, we assume, are two children, one tall and one short. The children are not of the same height, and so there is one attribute in which they differ, or are not equal. So, should they be treated equally, having at the back of their minds the difference in height? I should let you think about it.

Equity would mean in this scenario—the provisions made so that both the children could reach the fruit. Here we assume that the tall child could easily reach the fruit without external help. So the child with a short height would be offered some sort of external help, a ladder perhaps. 

Similarly, this concept of "equity" is applied to the treatment of backward castes, classes, tribes, etc., who are given certain provisions and relaxation to compete with the general majority.

Tribes were viewed as atavistic, anarchist, and barbaric sects that lived collectively amidst nature's bounty and were to be eliminated and dominated during the British era.Many such processes of elimination were undertaken with the utmost tyranny where the tribes were ravaged and their settlements plundered. The British in the 1770s followed a brutal policy of extermination, hunting and killing the Paharias (people living around the Rajmahal Hills who practised Shifting Cultivation) (Pattrea, 2022). 

Keeping in mind the unjust practises of the past, proper care was taken, after independence, to uplift the multiple sects of society, which, of course, became the dire need of the government, with the backdrop of such rampant poverty, unemployment, and food insecurity. Reservations for Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Scheduled Castes (SC), keeping the social scenario in mind, were also enshrined in the constitution. 

For quite some time now, reservations have been in place and are vehemently adhered to and applied in the government sector for quite some time now. Should we re-access the criteria for such reservations? 

I believe that we should, without any doubt. The entire framework of the reservation was built on the circumstances of the newly independent India with its elephantine share of socio-politico-economic problems, but we have, since then, progressed quite a lot from those circumstances, especially with the rapid industrialization and globalisation providing a great impetus and enriching the lifestyle and financial status of many. Also, there has been a migration of several indigenous groups to urban backgrounds, with 40% approximately between 1951 and 1991 as a result of development schemes like dams, mines, industries, and various projects (Mondal). Hence, the vicissitudes of such rigorous times, along with the passage of time and greater adaptability, have given stability to many. Some are working in MNCs with salaries that are very high, even higher than the people who belong to the general category. Why then, should the former get more relaxation and benefits than the latter? In reality, it is a very complex matter. Most people have a vehement dislike for reservations as a result of these unchecked disparities.

It has become very important that proper reassessment be considered so that those who actually need the support in terms of equitable representation can easily get it based on their socio-economic instability. 

Today, this systematic framework needs to be assessed as quickly as possible to avoid unrest so that people who are actually in need can get the amenities. Certain criteria must be laid down that look at both the past and the socio-economic conditions of the present.