People of India appear divided in two categories, General & Reserved; is it fair ?
Let we work with open mind, do not debate but discuss demands and objections for & against reservations (in Legislature, in Education institutions and in Government jobs) so as to address the genuineness of the issues worth satisfying the ‘leaderships’ of either side so that atleast now onwards some good happens to the beneficiaries who were kept in focus by the framers of Constitution of India while drafting articles like Art-330, Art-332, Art-341, Art-342, Art-46 and like.
India surely has a very unique and people centric Constitution. In case one intimately goes through the contents of the Constitution of India with particular reference to the Directive Principles one would find that while framing the Constitution of India it was not the voice of only those sections who directly worked for independence of India but it was more for the cause of the Indian masses who did not directly become part of independence struggle, who where much away from the administrative arena , who had no meaningful access to the educational institutions , the children , the woman , social / regional minorities , backward people , those still with indigenous traditions& practices and who had remained devoid of administrative /social/ political participation.
The constitution laid down for grant of fundamental rights at equal footing to all citizens but at the same time also incorporated some provisos of exceptions. India is a socialist democratic republic hence in view of the spirits laid in the Constitution of India (COI) where in a way even it could be said that ‘human rights’ are enshrined as Fundamental Rights for all Indian Citizens in Part-III of the COI ( Art-12 to Art- 35 ) granting equality at all forums ( particularly Art-13 : Laws inconsistent with or in derogation of the fundamental rights; Art-14- Right to equality/ Equality before law; Art-15 – Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth; Art-16 Equality of opportunity In matters of public employment: Art-19 – Right to Freedom:- Right to freedom of speech, to acquire, hold and dispose off property etc; Art-23 : Right to freedom of religion; Art-29 -No citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the State or receiving aid out of State funds on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them. ; Art-31 – Compulsory acquisition of property / Right to Property ; Art-32 -right to constitutional remedies; ). Still some provisions & some articles were simultaneously incorporated where in some exceptions have been permitted not worth violation of the fundamental rights of other citizens like (Art16.4- (4) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State.; Part-IV Directive Principles of State Policy : Art- 37 – The provisions contained in this Part shall not be enforceable by any court, but the principles therein laid down are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws.; Art-45 The State shall endeavour to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.
Art-46 :- Promotion of educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other weaker sections. — The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation. PART XVI Special Provisions relating to Certain Classes Art-330 : Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes ( see Art-341 for description of SC) and Scheduled Tribes( see art-342 for description of ST ) in the House of the People.( Lok Sabha) , Art-332 : Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assemblies of the States ; Art-334 :- Reservation of seats and special representation to cease after ten years; Art-335 : The claims of the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration, consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State).
Government (s)/State were made duty bound through to make policies and provisions so as to increase the economic and social status of those below the datum even if there is need for the time being to extend some props to those who had in the past remained in critically weak social & educational environment worth even for their taking minimum initiatives .Some exceptional provisions for giving some special treatments to some Indian citizens over other citizens like providing 10 yr reservations to Socially & educationally backward classes/communities in the legislature where under people included were those who are referred as Schedule caste & Schedule Tribes were provided in ‘first’ ( edition) constitution itself.
It is worth noting here that Constitution of India specifically talked of Social and Educational Backwardness and not of economic backwardness ( although some researcher could also would contest that it is the continued economic backwardness / low economic status that also is more responsible for pushing the individuals to back benches of any community / society and better would have been to name socially & economically backward ).
In1950 reserved category comprised of only SC &ST and the Constitutional (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 SRO 385 CO 19 of 10-08-1950 did not include the persons who professed religion other than Hinduism in schedule Castes except that every member of Ramdasi, Kabirpanthi, Mazhbhi or Sikligar caste resident or Punjab or the Patiala and the East Punjab States Union in relation to that state was deemed to be considered a member of Scheduled caste.
No doubt as per descriptions in the constitution there was no direct reference of religion in relation to SC but the Presidential constitutional order of 1950 did make in a way the SC to look like religion specific. So, keeping in view Constitutional 1950 (SC) Order 1950 SRO 385 C.O 19 of 10-08-1950 could be said that originally sections of Indian citizens for reservations in socially & educationally backward classes were identified primarily in view the much trumpeted ‘caste’ based social discrimination existing only in Indians practicing Hindu religion (as had been done by British also while identifying the ‘depressed classes’ in India ) but later on castes from among the Sikhs( Act No 63 of 1956) &Buddhist ( Act 15 of 1990 of 03-06-1990 ) were also included in SC since it was accepted by their community that they too carried ‘caste’ based social discriminatory traditions amongst them (they too had their origin in ‘Hindu’).
Whereas for Schedule Tribe (ST), The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 C.O 23 of 1950), was also based on social & educational backwardness but was caste & religion wise totally neutral (ofcourse in literary terms materially/ economically also neutral).
In 2022 we have many more added to reserved categories as Other Backward Classes who too have been provided Reservations (but only in services & educational institutions and not in legislature).
The elders who drafted COI aimed at making Indian society free from social & educational backwardness, independent of any region or religion based divisions ; making people live in a free and fair environment worth capacitated to atleast earn minimums for one’s honourable survival through self and hoped that after a decade or so there will be no need for any specials props to any one for minimum capacity building but that did not happen. And it could be said that instead in 2022 the people of India have been divided into two categories, General Category and Reserved where demanding reservation on the basis region / sect/ area / clan appears to have become a living feature.
(The author is Sr Journalist, social activist and analyst J&K affairs [email protected])