Reservation is an affirmative or supportive action taken for the protection of the lower caste who were used to treat as untouchables and even used to torture them by the upper caste. Traditionally, they had been exploited for ages and false beliefs in society and later worsened their condition. Thus, the need for reservation arose to uplift the lower caste people who were treated as slaves. Such reservation is provided in Education, Employment, Politics, etc.

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The main intention of the reservation in the education system is to improve the conditions of the backward classes. Some percentage of the seats are for the reserved category so that they can get an education and develop their skills without being discriminated by the upper classes.


The reservation system finds its origin in the old caste system in India. There were 4 classes of upper caste namely

  • Brahmin– Priest, teachers
  • Kshatriya – Warriors, kings
  • Vaishya– Merchants, Landowners
  • Sudra – Farmers, Peasants, Servants

And other castes will be considered as UNTOUCHABLES. (Lower Caste)

Historical Background:

  1. In 1882, William Hunter and Mahatma Jyotirao Phule were the 1st to envision the caste-based reservation.
  2. Later, In 1901-1902 Chhatrapati Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj implemented the reservation policy.
  3. In 1921, Madras Presidency introduced the communal go which ensured the reservation of 44% of Non-Brahmins, 16% of Muslims, 16% of Anglo Indians and Christians, and 8% of Schedule caste.
  4. In 1932, The Britishers announced the Communal Award which was considered one of the tools of divide and rule in India. This award includes the separate electorate for the different classes of the people and Mahatma Gandhi objected to the provision of separate electorate.
  5. In 1935, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi Made the Poona Pact which laid down the reserved seats for the lower classes for which the elections would be through joint electorates.
  6. In 1950, Constitutional provisions include the reservation of seats in legislation for SC and ST. After the Amendment, it also provides the reservation in Education institutions.
  7. In 1980, The Mandal commission recommended giving reservations to other backward classes(OBCs) not just in government jobs but also in the educational system. Earlier the reservations were given to the Scheduled Tribes(ST), Scheduled Caste(SC). The commission recommended that the OBCs be given 27% of the reservation.

Kinds of Reservation:

Caste based:

Reservation is given to protect the lower caste for the upliftment of their progress and to improve their social and economic development. For example ST, SC, OBCs.

Religion based:

Reservation held by minority of population of a religion community.

Gender based:

Sometimes reservation is based on gender. The vulnerable group i.e. girl/women have given the benefit of this system in the institution.

Management quota:

Those people who actually didn’t qualify the eligibility criteria for getting a seat in college but willing to get admission by paying more money.

Inhouse quota:

The admission quota for the students who have been pass out from the same institution.

Current Reservation data:

Other Minorities4.5%

Benefits of reservation:

  • The reservation system has helped the reserved category people to improve their social as well as economic status.
  • Reserved seats in education institutions will help them to understand the importance of education in life.
  • More number of SC, ST, OBC students have been enrolled in undergraduate, postgraduate, and other higher studies.
  • It helps to correct the historical injustice faced by backward castes in the country.
Image Source – Google| Image by – Rishi Sankhla

Is there a need of reservation even after the Independence of 70 years?

In earlier days like before or during the Independence era, it was necessary to give reservations in the education system to protect the Schedule Caste, Schedule Tribes, Other backward classes because they were facing discrimination. The main objective was to improve the social and economic conditions and to avail of their rights. In earlier days these peoples have suffered discrimination by the upper caste people.

We are in the 21st Century, but still caste and creed this system is prevalent in our society. Even 70 years after Independence the demand for this has only increased.

Reserved or Deserved?

In the current scenario, more talented students don’t get admissions in good college or university even though they have scored more marks than others who have got admission. Over the years, government policy has taken the wrong turn. Reservation in education has become a serious topic. Education checks the ability of the students to reach their goals. And if the education is on the basis of the caste system then it would be a slow improvement of the country because the students who have scored good marks and not getting the admissions and students with fewer marks get the admission leads to the discrimination between the reserved category and general category.

 If we compare the situation of the reserved category during the independence era and current years, there is more difference, improvements, understanding among reserved classes. Poor people from the forward category do not have any social or economical advantage over rich people from backward classes.

The unfortunate truth is the average statistics of students studying and applying for higher education says that the reserved category like SC, ST should have 40% to qualify while the General category people should have 80% to qualify. The difference is double, and this is not only affecting the education system but also affecting the mindset of people living in society.

Most of the deserved people are moving to foreign countries because 80% of government sectors, educational institutions are filled with reservations. Merit is necessary for the development of the country. People with less ability sit on important jobs while the better-qualified ones are forced to stay at home. Students who put in the best of their efforts to make it in the merit list are disheartened when they fail to get an admission in a good college due to reservation in the education system.

Fees Structure:

There is a vast difference in fee structure for reserved category and general category on the basis of the caste system. The student of the forward class with the low financial condition has to pay the fees by taking an education loan. There is a need to ensure whether the people who are beneficiary really in need to get the reservation on the basis of caste or it should be given on the basis of economic conditions.

In the current scenario, it is not the situation that forward class people having high financial status and backward/reserved category people having low financial status. Therefore, on the basis of caste, the fee structure should not be decided. Irrespective of caste those people who are not able to study because of less finance need to give reservations in the education system.

Impacts of reservation in the education system:

  • Many people with lower caste have educated and now on equal footing with the general category.
  • Economically sound people are also enjoying the benefits of caste reservation neglecting really needy ones.
  • Those categories who are not getting the reservation are suffering from illiteracy or low opportunity in higher education.
  • India has decreased the pace of development due to the reservation system.
  • Ultimately the reservation policy dividing the country on the basis of caste, religion and leads to threatening unity.
  • Upper caste has begun to feel disadvantaged in educational as well as in job opportunities.
  • Several unreserved or general category has started demanding reservation to themselves.
  • People struggle to be declared as backward just to avail the benefits of reservation policy.
  • It allows backward classes a chance at improving their lives and status in society and getting meaningful employment.

Politicians role in reservation policy:

Reservations are nothing but means to prosper the vote banks of politicians. They are hindering the country’s growth as well as development. Nowadays, Reservation has become a political necessity required for peace. In the beginning, this system is only applicable for 10 years but due to political compulsion, this system is regulating to date.

The politicians think that most of the upper caste do not take a real interest in the political process of voting. Thus, their votes depend on the middle and lower caste. No political party is ready to abolish this system. After so many years of Independence, caste reservation does not make any sense. Till date, many lower classes have progressed themselves but this issue now has taken a political turn.

EWS Reservation:

The central government has recently introduced the EWS 10% reservation in 2019. This is given to the general category candidates in educational institutions as well as in government jobs. This is basically for the economically weaker section.  Under the Indian constitution, there is no provisions on an economic basis thus allowing 10% reservation for economically weaker sections of the general category under the 124th Amendment Act. Whoever of the general category will fall under the category of EWS, will get the reservation in higher education and employment. This benefit will be given without tampering the existing quota for SC, ST, OBCs.

Amendment in Article 15 (Reservation in Educational institution)– nothing in this article or sub-clause (g) of clause (1) of Article 19 or clause (2) of Article 29 shall prevent the sate from making:

  • any special provision for the advancement of any economically weaker sections of citizens other than the classes mentioned in clause (4) and (5); and
  • any special provision for the advancement of any economically weaker sections of citizens other than the clauses mentioned in clause (4) and (5) in so far as such special provisions relate to their admissions to educational institutions including private institutions, in addition to the existing reservation and subject to a maximum of 10% of total seats in each category.

Landmark Judgements:

State of Madras v. Smt. Champakan Dorairajan –

This was the 1st landmark judgement after the independence of India on the reservation policy.

In this case, 7 judges heard the matter and held that the Allocation of seats according to the Communal G.O. issued by the state of Madras is violative of Article 15 and Article 29(2). When a conflict arises between the Directive Principle of State Policy and Fundamental Rights, Fundamental rights will prevail.

Ashok Kumar v. Union of India

In this case, it was clear that the identification of SEBC or OBC cannot be solely based on the caste. It deals with the exclusion of creamy layer concept in education sector.

The court held that if lower caste is deprived of facilities and opportunities in the name of creamy layer, it will compromise value objective reservation.


It can be concluded that the reservation in the education system is a very sensitive issue and it should be given to them who are genuinely in need and not on the basis of caste or religion. In my opinion, the reservation should be given to them who are economically backward irrespective of any caste or religion. If it is given on the basis of caste then will act as a barrier for the development of the country. Reservation started with a very good objective of uplifting the socially backward society but in the modern era, people started misusing it. For the welfare of the state, there is a need to reform the reservation policy.

Author: Snehal Tanaji Shirke | College:  Parvatibai Jondhale Women’s Law College, S.N.D.T  University, Mumbai

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