Originally reservations of seats in educational institutions and jobs in government and public sector services,etc were only about 22%, 20% for Scheduled Castes (SCs ) and 2% for Scheduled Tribes ( STs ).
In 1989 by one stroke of the pen the then Prime Minister V.P.Singh added another 27.5 % for OBCs ( Other Backward Castes e.g. Yadavs, Kurmis,etc ), by implementing the Mandal Commission Report, making a total of 49.5%.
This was challenged before the Supreme Court, but the Court upheld the reservations for OBCs in its decision in Indira Sawhney vs. Union of India, A.I.R.1993 S.C.477.
I met Justice B.P.Jeevan Reddy, who had delivered the majority decision in Indira Sawhney's case, at a function at the National Law School, Bangalore after he had retired, and told him that his decision was not correct. He asked me why ?
I explained to him that in U.P. and Bihar the position before Independence in 1947 was that there was a zamindari system. The zamindars ( landlords ) were mostly upper caste Hindus or Muslims, and their tenants were Yadavs, Kurmis, etc (the present OBCs ). At that time Yadavs, Kurmis, etc were really poor and backward, and almost all illiterate. After Independence, zamindari was abolished, and the former tenants ( Yadavs, Kurmis,etc ) became bhumidhars i.e. landholders. This enabled the Yadavs, Kurmis,etc to use the income from their landholdings to educate their children, and now Yadavs, Kurmis, etc are doctors, engineers, lawyers, High Court judges, etc. In other words, they are no longer backward.
So when the Yadavs, Kurmis,etc were really backward ( that is, uptil about Independence ) and needed reservation or some other kind of help they were denied it, but when they are no longer backward they are being given reservation. In fact this was the very reason for which the only dalit member of the Mandal Commission, L.R.Naik, refused to sign the report.
Justice Reddy replied to me that he had to rely on the report of experts, i.e. the Mandal Commission Report. I said that I was not blaming him, but only informing him that he was not given correct information.
I have always been a strong opponent of the caste system, and believe it is a curse on the nation, and the sooner it is destroyed the better ( see my article on the Caste System on my blog justicekatju.blogspot.in ).
However, in my opinion caste based reservations, which have benefited only a miniscule number of such castes ( and that too the richer section, which did not need any help ), has done great damage to the rest, and ensured that they remain as wretched and poor as they were before.
In my opinion financial help and facilities should be given to poor people of all castes, There are poor people in all castes, not merely among SCs and OBCs, and they should all be helped.
Caste based reservations are like permanent crutches. Unless they are removed SCs and OBCs cannot walk erect. These categories should certainly be helped by giving them all facilities, but thereafter they must work hard and make it on their own merit. It is totally unjustified that open category boys and girls who get 90% marks are denied admission or jobs, while those getting 40% get them due to reservations.This is reverse discrimination, as pointed out by the U.S.Supreme Court in Bakke vs. California,438 U.S.265 (1978).
I spoke to the Principal of a Government Medical College in U.P. He told me that if an SC boy fails in a test, oral orders come from above to pass him, otherwise the Principal will get into trouble. In this way we produce many ( though not all ) incompetent SC doctors, without thinking of the risk to patients.
No doubt reservations have helped many politicians by creating vote banks for them, but it has made casteism more deeply entrenched in our society, and has further divided our people on caste basis at a time when we must be united to solve the country's massive problems. It is time to end caste based reservations