Maintain spirit of reservations


The promulgation of an ordinance by the central government nullifying a Supreme Court order asking departments to be taken as a unit, instead of the university or college, for recruitments based on reservation was a step to mollify the inflamed sentiments of communities eligible for reservations. Those belonging to Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) had protested all over the country against the court order. Opposition parties had also supported their demand to restore the earlier system of faculty reservation. The situation was similar to what prevailed after the Supreme Court order last year which diluted some provisions of the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The government amended the Act after protests and now it has sought to address the grievances of the reservation communities through an ordinance.  

The earlier system of university recruitment, called the 200-point roster system, ensured that out of every 200 posts, 99 were reserved for SC, ST and OBCs. This made sure that all reserved categories got the seats earmarked for them in one department or the other. The deficit in one department was made up in others, so that the constitutionally mandated quota remained the same. But the Allahabad high court struck down this system in 2017 on the argument that this led to some departments having all reservations and some others having no reservations. It replaced it with a 13-point roster system, in which a department was taken as a unit and one out of 13 posts was reserved. This would have led to an overall reduction in the number of reserved posts. The Supreme Court upheld the high court’s order and the government’s review petition was rejected last month. The University Grants Commission (UGC) had even issued new circulars in accordance with the court judgement and the government, too, had approved them before the protests forced its hand. 

Implementation of the reservation system sometimes gives rise to anomalous situations which could not have been foreseen. But it is important to respect the spirit of reservations and ensure that reservation communities are not denied their due. At other times, the procedures are misinterpreted, as it has sometimes happened in the case of promotions, so that the interests of those belonging to the general category are adversely affected. In the case of university recruitments, the UGC and the government had made a mistake. But the government did not have a choice when there were large-scale protests because it could not alienate Dalits and other weaker sections before the elections. But the party also risks disaffection among forward castes, some of whom feel that their interests are not taken care of.

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Maintain spirit of reservations


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