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Prelims Capsule

Human Development

Centre approves 27% reservation for OBCs in medical seats – Is it the death of merit system?

Centre approves 27% reservation for OBCs in medical seats – Is it the death of merit system?


  • GS 2 || Governance & Social Justice || Human Development || Concept of Development

Why in news?

  • The Centre announced that it will provide 27 percent reservation for OBCs and 10 percent reservation for the economically weaker section (EWS) in the All India Quota (AIQ) scheme for undergraduate and postgraduate medical/dental courses in state medical and dental colleges from the current 2021-22 academic year onward.

Reservation in the Constitution

  • 77thConstitutional Amendment Act, 1995: The IndraSawhney verdict had held there would be reserved only in initial appointments and not promotions.
  • However, the addition of article 16(4A) to the Constitution, empowered the state to make provisions for reservation in matters of promotion to SC/ST employees, if the state feels they are not adequately represented.
  • 81stConstitutional Amendment Act, 2000: It introduced Article 16(4B), which says unfilled SC/ST quota of a particular year, when carried forward to the next year, will be treated separately and not clubbed with the regular vacancies of that year.
  • 85thConstitutional Amendment Act, 2001: It provided for the reservation in the promotion can be applied with ‘consequential seniority for the government servants belonging to the SCs and STs with retrospective effect from June 1995.
  • 102nd, 103rd, and 104thAmendments: In the last couple of decades, there have been several amendments to the constitution like the 102nd amendment, 104th
  • 10% reservation for EWS.was made by the 103rd amendment to the Constitution.
  • Article 335:It says that the claims of SCs and STs shall be taken into consideration constituently with the maintenance of efficacy of the administration.

Reservation is provided in central government posts and services to

  • Scheduled Castes- 15%
  • Scheduled Tribes- 7.5%
  • Other Backward Classes- 27%
  • Economically Weaker Sections- 10%
  • The Government recently introduced EWS Reservation. 10% quota is provided for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS)among General Category candidates in government jobs and educational institutions.
  • This is done by adding clauses for the same in the Indian Constitution (103rd Constitution Amendment Act, 2019).

What are the pro-reservation arguments?

  • Historical injustice: Because of historical neglect and injustice to backward communities, caste-based reservation is a requirement in India.
  • Level playing field-Reservation creates a level playing field because it is difficult for backward sections who have historically been denied education, skills, and economic mobility to suddenly begin competing with those who have had access to those means for centuries.
  • Meritocracy vs. Equality: While meritocracy is important, it is meaningless without equality. The caste-based reservation also significantly reduced the disparity between upper and lower castes.
  • Administration quality: According to one study, reservations have increased administration quality while decreasing administration efficiency. The best example is the Indian Railways, where the proportion of SC/ST employees is higher and the results are better.

Arguments against reservation

  • A short-term benefit-A reservation only provides a limited and temporary solution to the issues of historical injustice.
  • Doesn’t address social and economic evils-Reservation is a tool for addressing social and educational backwardness, but it does not address all social and economic ills. There are far more effective and innovative solutions to these problems. Reservation, on the other hand, prevents the leadership from devising viable solutions.
    • Poverty and illiteracy continue to plague many upper castes. Reservation reduces the country’s economic growth rate by decreasing labour efficiency.
    • Reservation claims broaden-As the reservation grow in size, it becomes an exclusionary rather than an inclusive mechanism. Because, as a result of the reservation conundrum, previously advantaged communities are now disadvantaged to a large extent.
    • Agitations- Reservation agitations, as they did during the Mandal Commission, may cause social unrest (1990).

Challenges in the reservation system

  • No target delivery-Castes that should benefit from the reservation system are not benefiting; instead, others benefit from the reservation system.
  • The Census 2011 recorded 11.65 lakh, rural houseless people, while in SECC their numbers were only 6.1 lakh.
  • The provisional rural data of SECC 2011 shows Scheduled Castes at 18.46% (or 15.88 crores), Scheduled Tribes at 10.97% (9.27 crore), Others at 68.52%, and 2.04% (or 36.57 lakh) as “No Caste & Tribe” households.
  • Political tool-The reservation system has only recently become a tool for politicians to gain vote banks.
  • Loss of life and property due to agitation-The reservation agitation resulted in several deaths, disruptions in transportation, and the loss of many working days in schools and workplaces. In Haryana, for example, there is a Jat agitation.
  • Communities claim reservation one after another-Because of the success of others, one community after another will begin to demand reservations. Many of these communities are politically and economically stable, so putting the entire community on reservations is unethical.
  • Labour efficiency comes down-Reservation brings down the economic growth rate of the country as it reduces the efficiency of its labour.

What is theSupreme  Court’s stance on the reservation?

  • The Supreme Court ruled in the Indira Sawhney case in 1992 that total reservation for SC/ST and other backward classes or special categories should not exceed 50%. As a result, the Maharashtra government’s decision following the passage of the law is likely to be challenged in court.
  • The then-Maharashtra government granted Marathas 16 percent reservation in 2014. The reservation, however, was stayed by the Bombay High Court.
  • The Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that quotas in jobs and education in Rajasthan had exceeded the 50% limit and could not be increased further.
  • Furthermore, a petition challenging the Tamil Nadu reservation policy is pending before the Supreme Court.

Way forward

  • Balancing Reservation and Merit: When granting reservations to communities, the administration’s efficiency must also be considered.
  • Exceeding the reservation limit will result in a lack of understanding of the merit, which will disrupt the entire administration.
  • The sole purpose of reservation is to address the issue of historical wrongs done to underserved communities, but the merit beyond a certain point must not be overlooked.
  • Reviewing the 1992 Decision: The Supreme Court will go a step further and investigate the Indra Sawhney case to resolve the issues that have arisen as a result of various high court decisions.
  • The reservation facility should aim to improve the socio-economic conditions of the marginalized following their caste-based census standing.
  • Make a reservation system based on economic status
  • Reservations based on caste rather than economic status are unethical and unacceptable.
  • Fair and just reservations should be made available to help people in poor living conditions, such as those who do not have enough food to eat, clothes to wear, or a place to live.
  • Roboust education system
  • Bring about revolutionary changes in our educational system at the grassroots level to improve educational quality. Because subsequent stage reservation will be useless if children do not receive a quality education in the primary stage.


  • As Justice Ravindran correctly stated in the Ashok Kumar Thakur vs Union of India case, “when more people aspire to backwardness rather than forwardness, the country itself stagnates.
  • Reservations are the polar opposite of progress and equality. We do not need reservations based on caste or religion, but only to help those with fewer resources, and merit should be given equal and due weight in admission procedures as well as employment opportunities. This way, we will be able to eliminate caste discrimination and unite the economically wealthy in supporting the economically poor, regardless of caste.

Mains model Question

  • In India, sub-categorization of reserved classes is required for more inclusive affirmative action.” Discuss the statement in light of the recent Supreme Court decision.