Who is perpetuating reservation in jobs?
Sharad Yadav - The Hindu Friday, Jul 07, 2006
In a bizarre turn, the Union Public Service Commission and the Department of Personnel and Training have transformed the policy of reservation into a policy of communal awards. They have treated general seats as seats reserved for people
belonging to non-reserved categories.
WHENEVER THERE is talk about reservation, the bogey of merit is raised by opponents of this policy. But the question arises: do the opponents respect the merit of candidates from the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Scheduled Tribes (STs)? Empirical studies suggest they do not. Almost six decades have passed since Independence but all important institutions of India,
barring Parliament and Legislative Assemblies and Councils, have been under the strong command of these self-styled votaries of merit. With some exceptions, they have abused their position to denigrate the merit of the people who have been given the constitutional right of reservation — so that privileges enjoyed by some people under the caste system are de-reserved.
The Union Public Service Commission provides glaring examples of how the merit of candidates belonging to SCs, STs, and OBCs is denigrated. The UPSC is a constitutional body. It commands high respect in India but in collusion with the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), it has been denying the rights of meritorious candidates belonging to reserved categories. It has been indulging in unconstitutional activities despite the clear-cut policy of the Government of India on reservation. The Supreme Court and High Courts have interpreted the policy in many
judgments. There is no scope for any ambiguity regarding this policy, but the UPSC has continued to deny meritorious candidates of reserved categories the right to join the civil services as general category candidates.
This has resulted in a denial of jobs to hundreds of successful candidates belonging to reserved categories; and almost the same number of candidates belonging to the
non-reserved category has got jobs, without being declared successful by the UPSC at the time of declaration of results. This is happening despite many judgments of the higher judiciary against the practice. People controlling the UPSC and DoPT are so strongly motivated against the candidates of reserved categories that they can go to any extent in their adventure to block the entry of reserved categories in the civil services. Under the reservation policy, 49.50 per cent of the seats is reserved. The remaining 50.50 per cent is open to all. Candidates who qualify for the civil services by dint of their merit alone should be enlisted in general open categories. After all, there is no bar on SC and ST candidates fighting elections for general seats. Many leaders, including Kansi Ram and B.P. Maurya, have fought and won from general seats.
General seats do not mean seats reserved for people belonging to non-reserved categories. Similarly, general open seats in the civil services are not reserved for
people belonging to non-reserved categories. The Government of India has not reserved hundred per cent of the seats of the civil services. In fact, it cannot do so.
There is a 50 per cent ceiling placed on reservation by the Supreme Court. But in effect, the UPSC and the DOPT are implementing reservation policy to ensure 50.50 per cent reservation for the unreserved categories that are supposed to form just 15 per cent of the Indian population. For the last civil services examination, around 214 of 425 seats were general open merit seats. Out of the first 214 candidates, 50 were from reserved categories. Forty of them were from OBCs. But the UPSC refused to allow reserved category candidates to enlist themselves as general candidates. Twenty seven per cent of 425 is 117: this is the exact number of candidates belonging to OBCs who were declared successful. Even those in the top 10 were classified as reserved category candidates!
By doing this, the UPSC has denigrated meritorious candidates from the reserved categories. It has also denied jobs in the civil services to an equal number of reserved category candidates. In fact, 157 candidates from OBC categories should have been selected: 40 on the basis of merit and 117 on the basis of the 27 per cent reservation extended to them. People belonging to SCs and STs in the early days of the Republic lacked education. Their number was not sufficient to fill the vacancies declared for them. Later on they picked up but there were all-out efforts to deny them their right to reservation under one pretext or another. If we analyse the data on successful ST and SC candidates, we discover they have done better in the written test, where the examiner does not know their caste. In the interviews they have been given fewer marks because people in the interview board know their caste.
It is shocking that candidates belonging to reserved categories are interviewed separately. They sit for the written examinations alongside non-reserved category
candidates, but when the time of interview comes, they are segregated. The interview board is well aware of their social background and discriminates against them while giving them interview marks. An analysis of the results reveals a big gap between the average interview marks given to reserved category candidates and non-reserved category candidates. One successful candidate of the 1996 civil service examinations, who was denied a job, has calculated these averages on the basis of information available with him. Since he fought for his job in the Supreme Court and
won, the data he offers can be relied upon in the absence of authoritative data provided by the UPSC. According to this candidate, the average interview mark in the non-reserved category is around 200, while the average for reserved categories candidates is 140. I believe that if there were no caste discrimination, the number of successful OBC candidates in the general merit category would have been much higher than 40. Unfortunately, even these 40 candidates were not declared successful in the general merit category.
The concept of excluding the creamy layer sounds progressive. Indeed the benefit of reservation should be made available to people from less privileged OBC families. In principle this is all right. But the design of those opposed to OBC reservation is to keep the creamy layer out of the reservation ambit and deny the benefits of
reservation to less privileged individuals. These individuals have no means of fighting the might of the UPSC and the DoPT. They have no money to engage lawyers to fight
legal battles. It is quite easy to deny them their right. So they are denied jobs despite getting letters from the UPSC informing them of their success. My information is that thus far 390 successful candidates have been denied jobs in the
civil services. Some of them, who have had resources thanks to being in other services, have challenged the DoPT successfully. But what about those who have not moved the courts? Why can't the courts take suo motu notice of such gross denial of justice?
Babasahib Bhim Rao Ambedkar was for separate electorates for Dalits. He wanted proportionate reservation for them but also demanded that their representatives should be elected from an electoral college comp rising Dalits exclusively. Separate electorates for Dalits were termed the communal award. Gandhiji and many other leaders thought such an arrangement would divide India; he went on a fast and Dr.
Ambedkar withdrew his demand. The policy of reservation was put in place so that those hailing from reserved categories could contest elections from unreserved seats also. The same rule applies to jobs. But the UPSC has turned the policy of reservation into a policy of communal awards. I cite below some judgments of Indian courts that are being consistently violated by the UPSC and the DOPT:
(a) India Shawnee v. Union of India, 1992 Supp. (3) SCC 217
"In this connection it is well to remember that the reservation under Article 16(4) does not operate like a communal reservation. It may well happen, that some members belonging to, say, Scheduled Castes get selected in the open competition field on the basis of their own merit; they will not be counted against the quota reserved for Scheduled Castes; they will be treated as open competition candidates."
(b) Union of India vs. Virpal Singh Chauhan (1995) 6 SCC 684
"While determining the number of posts reserved for SCs and STs, the candidates belonging to the reserved category but selected on the rule of merit (and not by virtue of rule of reservation) shall not be counted as reserved category
(c) Rithesh. R. Shah's case (1996) 3 SCC 253
"In other words, while a reserved category candidate entitled to admission on the basis of his merit will have the option of taking admission to the colleges where a
specified number of seats have been kept reserved for reserved category ... while computing the percentage of reservation he will be deemed to have been admitted as a open category candidate and not as reserved category candidate."
In a Delhi High Court judgment of April 29, 2003, the division bench made the following observation: "The decision of the Apex Court in Rithesh. R. Shah's case (supra) as also the proviso to rule 16 clearly prohibit deprivation of the benefit of the reservation only because some reserved category candidates had also been selected on merit inasmuch as they were not to be treated as reserved category candidates except for a limited purpose, namely, for the purpose of allocation of service, but thereby OBC candidates cannot be deprived of their right to obtain allocation of any service."
The interesting question arises: who is perpetuating reservation? If people from the SCs, STs, and OBCs get representation according to their population, the scheme of
reservation will come to an end. But who is depriving the meritorious from getting jobs as general category candidates?
(The author, a Member of the Rajya Sabha, is president of the Janata Dal (United) and a former Union Minister. He was educated to be an electrical engineer.)
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