It is most unfortunate that the Supreme Court made sweeping, unwarranted comments on reservations in higher education institutions (click HERE to read). While dealing with a case of ‘reservations’ on the basis of domicile in Andhra Pradesh, Telengana and Tamil Nadu in certain medical super-specialty courses, bench of Justices Dipak Misra and PC Pant noted that “despite several reminders to the central and state governments to make merit the primary criteria for admissions into super-specialty courses, the ground reality remains that reservation often holds sway over merit”.
The ‘reservations’ on the basis of domicile has nothing to do with the logic of reservations for scheduled castes (SCs), scheduled tribes (STs) and other backward classes (OBCs), which is to enable students from these communities to overcome the deliberate social exclusion of these communities in all social, economic and political spheres and access educational opportunities.
By making a sweeping general statement like this the Supreme Court bench deviates from the fundamental logic and raison de etre of the reservation policy; and also delimits ‘merit’ as defined only by those who are privileged.
Even more distressing is the bench regretted that some “privilege remains unchanged” even after 68 years of independence, and averred that “national interest requires doing away with all forms of reservation in institutions of higher education”, and urged the Centre to take effective steps “objectively”.
While not imputing any motives or mala fide intention, these pronouncements can do incalculable harm to the cause of the marginalized communities in our country. What privileges is the bench talking about? Is it the valuable access to education that our reservation policy affords to these communities that are called ‘privileges’?
And this access to education is possible after years of struggle by entire families to educate their children despite hostile environments in the villages, abysmally low levels of education in government schools where the children from these communities go; and deliberate efforts to exclude at every level of social life!!! After 68 years, as a result of reservations today, we have a class of educated citizens and government/public sector officers from these communities who were able to access institutions of higher educations and eventually move into government posts and also into the non-reserved sectors.
The Supreme Court bench in one sweeping statement discounts the unjust social context and calls reservations ‘privileges’. It is really saddening; and in the context of the ‘savarna’ conspiracy through the RSS to dismantle the entire reservation system (of which the Patidar agitation is an integral part) it is frightening too.
*Prasad Chacko (left) is director, Human Development and Research Centre, Ahmedabad