There are definitely both advantages and disadvantages to systems established by governments or organizations that seek to redress grievances by swinging the proverbial pendulum too far in the opposite direction. Just as the system of what is known in the United States as “affirmative action” has its supporters and critics,...
There are definitely both advantages and disadvantages to systems established by governments or organizations that seek to redress grievances by swinging the proverbial pendulum too far in the opposite direction. Just as the system of what is known in the United States as “affirmative action” has its supporters and critics, so the Indian system established in 1979 by the Mandal Commission has its detractors, despite the legitimacy of the intent behind the commission’s recommendations.
Modern India is a product both of its own history and cultures and the influences of its former colonial ruler, Great Britain. The nation’s creation following decolonization maintained a well-established, if ill-considered, caste system that condemned multitudes from lower-income communities, the lower caste, to lifetimes of discrimination in education and opportunities for professional advancement. Understanding that such a class driven society would eventually fracture along those lines, the commission named for Indian parliamentarian Bindheshwari Prasad (B.P.) Mandal recommended the reservation of a certain percentage of government jobs for applicants from what it called Socially and Educationally Backward Classes, in effect, the lower caste communities that endured institutionally imposed discriminatory practices. In short, the Indians established their own form of affirmative action in an attempt at redressing legitimate grievances.
Meritorious though the efforts at reforming government hiring practices were, the SEBC reservation system has had its share of critics, most of whom argue that such policies discriminate against qualified applicants who are being denied opportunities solely because they are not products of the lower castes. If the advantages of the SEBC reservation, then, include some measure of redress of legitimate grievances emanating from historically deprived communities while providing opportunities for members of the lower castes who are qualified for jobs but who would otherwise be unfairly denied opportunities, the disadvantage of such a system is the denial of opportunities to equally qualified applicants who happen to be products of the upper classes.
The SEBC reservation remains the subject of continuing debate across India. As recently as 2019, officials in the state assembly of the State of Maharashtra in western India debated changes in the quota system that dictates the number of government jobs that must be reserved for lower caste applicants, with that quota being reduced from sixteen percent to twelve and thirteen percent of openings in education and government jobs respectively. What will be the impact at the local level of this reduction in the number of academic opportunities and government employment openings reserved for lower caste applicants will be determined over time. What is known, however, is that such systems as that established by the Mandal Commission will always be controversial, despite the admirable intent behind these policies.