8th January 2019 will forever be etched in memory as the day when logic finally prevailed over politicking as far as the policy of reservations is concerned. For too long we have debated on the reservation, its basis and the utility it serves. Many have suggested economic status as the perfect qualifier for reservations. But the Indian Constitutional under Article 15 and 16 only provides for reservations to educationally and socially backward classes, Dalits, and Tribals. This bar on economically backward class runs contrary to the objectives stated in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution which envisages equality of opportunity, economic justice, inter alia.
The justification for reservation to Dalits, Tribals and other socio-economically backward classes is that it is an ‘Affirmative Action’ which serves as an equalizer in society. Given the historic atrocities meted out to these classes, there was a need for a psychological boost to the people of these classes so that they can assert themselves and get their due. Reservation cleared their way to attain social power and do exactly that. There is no denying the fact that this empowered these classes and today these classes do have a formidable voice in society.
But what crime did the economically weaker general caste people did to be treated unjustly? What about their rights? This Constitutional Amendment is an act to provide closure to the concerns of this class. Now a Brahmin student, a Baniya youth or a Thakur graduate who is loosing out in the race to the top just because she is poor will be empowered and in the process will lift out an entire family out of poverty. She will come out of a vicious inter-generational cycle which had entrapped her family into poverty. This will have a multiplier effect and many more related families will be uplifted in the social strata.
The long-standing caste-based reservation policy had also created a rift between people. This was a major flashpoint in the recently concluded assembly election too, particularly in Madhya Pradesh. This new amendment will go a long way in bridging the gap between the people. There will be broader consensus and support for reservation as a policy.
This new policy should also be seen as a step towards rationalization of the reservation policy and providing it with a sound logical foundation. Currently, there are some serious questions that need answering,
1. Now that the primary concern of Dalits, Tribals and OBC’s – inability in the assertion of rights – has been addressed what is the need for the continuation of reservation policy based on caste?
2. The benefits of reservations flow to the already empowered Dalits and Tribals, and thus should some criteria like that of creamy layer be added?
3. Should the economic status form a common criterion to give reservations?
The passage of The Constitution (One Hundred And Twenty-Fourth Amendment) Bill, 2019 in the Lok Sabha is a landmark moment in our nation’s history.
It sets into motion the process to achieve an effective measure that ensures justice for all sections of society.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 8, 2019
All in all a historic wrong was done right with this new policy wherein the stated objective of Indian Preamble was followed in letter and spirit, and justice ensured for all. This will thus be a landmark moment in our nation’s history. This truly is ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’.