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  • Khushi Bihani

The controversy of reservations in India (Part 1)

Reservation is a system of affirmative action or positive discrimination in India that provides historically disadvantaged groups with representation in various spheres of life, as mentioned ahead. Based on provisions in the Indian Constitution, it allows the Union Government and the States and Territories of India to set reserved ‘quotas or seats’, at a particular percentage in Education Admissions, Employments, Political Bodies, Promotions, etcetera for "socially and educationally backward citizens." The primary objective of reservations is to promote equality in India by increasing accessibility to provisions and opportunities for those who have historically been deprived of them. Furthermore, they aim for advancement and adequate representation of scheduled castes, tribes, and any other backward classes.

To capture the essence of reservations, the 3rd president of the United States of America, Thomas Jefferson, said, "There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people." Thus, reservations follow the principles of equity, which are greatly different from those of equality. Equity is the concept of treating people unequally in order to get equal outcomes or giving each person what they need to be successful (which may be more or less than another person). Equality is the concept of treating people equally regardless of outcome or giving each person exactly the same conditions, disregarding factors like gender, caste, religion, sexuality, economic or social status, etc.

In a vast country like India, where the difference between the rich and poor continues to grow, it is important to ensure the livelihood of those who are unable to thrive in the current scenario, but are reservations the only way to do so? What should be the cap for reservations? Are reservations unjust to the general populace because they steal away opportunities that should be given based on merit in favor of caste and religion? These questions will be answered in the second part of this article.

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