Education & Affirmative Action

According to the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, ‘Affirmative action means positive steps taken to increase the representation of women and minorities in areas of employment, education, and culture from which they have been historically excluded.’ Many steps have been taken by the Government of India so as to uplift these sections of people that need empowerment. One such policy is the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act, 2019. A little less than two years after the enactment of the law, we analyse how beneficial (or rather how baleful) the act has proved to be.

The Act repeals its namesake ordinance and provides for reservation of posts at the University level to Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Castes (OBCs) and Economically Weaker Sections (EWS). A major change brought about by the law is that the entire University is taken as a single unit while the calculation of total reserved seats is being done instead of calculating for individual departments.

Before delving into this issue, there is a noteworthy point here. The Allahabad High Court, in 2017, suggested that the departments be taken as the unit while calculating the seats allocated under reservation so that there is no such department that has an intake of teachers belonging to these sections. Later on, it was understood that there is a tradeoff between the two because taking the department as a unit would reduce the total number of reserved seats in each department when the Ministry of Human Resource Development put this forth in a petition at the Supreme Court after the judgement by the Allahabad High court.

This now brings us to the loopholes of the law. Firstly, it is an open secret that there are fake documents (both of caste as well as education) being produced on a very large scale in India. So, this law could actually benefit a number of bogus candidates seeking the posts at universities across the country. Secondly, due to the education system being in shackles, many people somehow earn their degrees but don’t really have a good knowledge of the very subject they have studied for a couple of years. Thirdly, employing in some of the best institutions of the country those people who haven’t had an opportunity to study well is indeed an action that would make their lives a lot better. But can this be done at the stake of those students that are studying there? And last, but obviously not the least, many institutions had to leave the reserved seats vacant because there either were no good candidates or because of it that there weren’t many candidates at all.

Now, the possible solution would be to have a separate test for candidates eligible for the reserved seats for each department and then offer the highest scoring candidates a job. But this would disrupt the entire process of affirmative action. What is the use if the same process as the one used for Unreserved candidates is put into effect? The best solution that has been put forth by many think tanks as well as researchers is it that the government should focus on education rather than on providing people with jobs.

One of the biggest problems with a democracy is that the political parties have to undergo the process of election once in every four or five years. And this makes the government think only of the short-term effects of the policies made by it. Due to this, many people who are qualified but not up to the mark get benefitted. This is justice.

But a government, in this case, should aim for equality and not justice. If everyone is provided with the resources to grow and develop at a very tender age, there would absolutely be no need to provide for reservations. Despite many scholars making this point, no government in power actually tries to speculate about things for the long-run.

In India, the most viable solution could be of setting an expiry date for the reservation policy while improving education standards for the schools as well as colleges. Education must be made accessible to all so that there is no need for reservation at the higher levels since this sometimes leads to widening of the gap among the sections of the society.

Hence, ensuring the Right to Education is being catered to all the children in the country can help repealing the reservations post a deadline.


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