Reservation in Indian education

Updated: Jun 30, 2021

by Monika Sidhu There is no doubt that people of many countries face inequalities in various aspects of their life such as education, employment, and so on. To overcome such discrimination there have been many policies made by the government of all countries for the welfare of their people. When it comes to India, it is considered as one of the racist countries in the world because of its colonial past and background and to tackle it, the constitution of India made the reservation system which is also known as the quota system in India(“India Is the Most Racist Country I Have Been To” — an African-American’s POV, 2017). The main purpose of this system was to uplift the deprived communities of the Indian society such as SCs (Scheduled caste), STs (Scheduled tribes), and other backward classes by providing reservation in education and jobs so that they can live equally with the other members of the society but due lack of control and it’s the failure by the Indian government, people are misusing it for their benefits due to which the unprivileged communities are getting more depressed day by day. Moreover, it has become a debatable issue whether reservation in the Indian education system is good or not. In the upcoming paragraphs, I will discuss the brief history of the reservation in Indian education, its causes, and its purpose concerning its present status in Indian society and finally conclude with some recommendations and solutions.


The system of higher education of India is considered the third-largest system in the world, and it has become one of the most important components of social mobility in Indian society but the existence of the caste system made it difficult for the lower caste people to get access to the higher education (Rathod, 2017). To solve this issue, the constitution of India had made the policy of reservation in which a specific percentage of “15% and 7.5%” of seats are reserved for the scheduled caste (SC’s)  and scheduled tribes (ST’s) and this quota mainly aims to give chance to these underprivileged communities to get enrolled in the government’s institutes ( Reservation System in India: Concept, Arguments, and Conclusions, 2014). There is a lot of difference between the Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes of India and there is no doubt that both these communities faced a lot of discrimination and marginalization in the past and are still facing this oppression even today. Scheduled castes are those communities in the caste system of the Hindu framework, who were historically poor, opposed, and socially, economically isolated from the society because of their low status and they are placed outside the existing Varna system (Caste system) which contains Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra. Moreover, these communities were forced to work at a very low cost and they usually work for sanitation, cleaning their gutters, and many others which were considered as low-status jobs by the existing members of the caste system and it is first originated by the “Government of India Act, implemented by the British in 1935, carried this definition of the term “scheduled caste,” in Part 14 of the Act, and the same definition continued to be used by the Indian government post-Independence” and Dr. B.R Ambedkar is the one who wrote these communities in the constitution of India and his main purpose was to empower these communities in all aspects that are socially, economically and politically so that they can also live equally (Gopinath, 2018).


The picture illustrates that there should be no discrimination in terms of the race of the people in the education system because until we can not get equality in our education the system, we will not be able to live equally.


On the other hand, Scheduled tribes are known as those communities who were marginalized based on their geographical location and it is observed by the “The National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4):” that “45.9 percent of scheduled tribe members were in the lowest wealth bracket compared to 26.6 percent of scheduled castes, 18.3 percent of other backward castes, 9.7 percent of other castes and 25.3 percent made up of those whose caste is unknown” due to which this community is considered as the poorest tribes of the Country(Yadavar, 2018). Moreover, they are not marginalized based on the caste system, but they are distinguished from the other communities based on geographical isolation and backwardness in terms of social, educational, and financial. Moreover, many laws are made under the constitution of India which provides safety for the rights of these communities, and the focus is to uplift them and provide them equal status in society.


Moreover, talking about the history of the reservation system in India, it was first started in “19th century” by “Mahatma Jyotirao Phule” and demanded free and necessary education for all the citizens of the country but it was first implemented in the state of Maharashtra which was specially made for the people who belonged to the categories of non-brahmins and afterward, in “1943” this policy had become effective in the country with the help of Dr. Ambedkar who wrote the constitution of India and the addition of many new quotas have been seen in this policy (Admin, 2016). The focus of the reservation was to eliminate discrimination from society and to promote equality in society.


Taking causes into account, it has been noticed that the caste system is the root cause of the reservation in India because in earlier times, white privilege was very common in the country and people from the upper class had all the powers and freedom due to which this underprivileged community faced discrimination in every sphere of their life and education is among one of them, this is because of the expensiveness of the higher education system and due to which every individual especially people from deprived communities were not able to afford it and to give justice and accessibility to these communities, education quota policy was made(Reservation in India – Do we Still Need Quota System in India, 2013). Moreover, this quota policy aimed to provide approach ability to the advancing education system of India for Scheduled caste and Scheduled tribes and it gives the total quota of 50% to these underprivileged communities and the rest of the 50% for the open categories. Talking about the specific percentage of Quota in the federal educational institutes, it provides “15 percent for Scheduled Caste (SC); 7.5 percent for Scheduled Tribe (ST) and 27.5 percent for Other Backward Caste (OBC)” and rest of the 50 % for other categories which is based on the merit list (Onwudiwe & Ojowu, p.4).


The current situation about this reservation in India is different because of the vote bank politics in the country. No doubt, there is still reservation in the education system in India,but people are using it for their benefit. The existence of creamy layer exclusion within the SC/ ST communities made it difficult for the people to take advantages who deserved these quotas in other words who are below the poverty line because other people who are in power are taking advantages of the reservation which is hindering the growth of the country as poor people, cannot afford education are still poor because they do not access to these reservations because of this creamy layer principle(Dec 2 et al., n.d.). Moreover, it is also not fair for the other categories of students who have good grades but still can not enter the college or university because of this reservation which is creating heartedness among Indians towards the reservation game as it is making problems more worsen day by day (Sambit, 2013).



The picture illustrates the current situation of an unfair, unequal system of reservations in India which has become an obstacle in the country’s development.

Due to these issues, there has been always a debate regarding this reservation because many people are in favor of reservation and some are not. From my understandings, the purpose of the reservation is to promote equality in the society but its implementation is wrong and it was made to end up the injustice in the society but it is also becoming part of the problem and making the situation more worsen. Back in India, I also face this problem, it was the time when after my senior secondary education, I planned to give the AIIMS exam that is All India Institute of Medical Sciences which is an entrance exam to get enrolled in government colleges. Even though I got good marks in the exam but I was failed to get admission in the college because my marks were a little less than the cut off percentage for the general category while the cut-off percentage of reserved seats for under-privileged communities were less than my scores which made me very upset because, through this system, students like me are not able to get enrolled in the exam because of merit lists which make difficult for the students who deserved the admissions. Moreover, I have also seen that nepotism is very much popular among the upper-class people due to which negatively affects the students who deserved the seats which directly affects the country’s development.

Moreover, there is always a debate regarding the reservation because some people are in favor of it, but some are not. The perspective of those who are in favor, think that it helps to give equality of education to these marginalized group so that they can also come and have positions in the higher sector as well as it helps them to provide justice because these people also have equal human rights and education is the only tool which can bring changes in the country(Reservation in India – Do we Still Need Quota System in India, 2013). Apart from this, looking at the current situation, the new National education policy in which education minister said that this new policy of education does not eliminate the reservation as the reservation is mentioned in the constitution and this new policy will help in educational inclusion to all groups of people especially who are social-economically weak which indicates that the new policies are still suing this reservation so that marginalized people can have access to the education (NEP does not dilute reservation policy in educational institutions: Union Education Minister – Times of India, n.d.).


On the other hand, the views of those who are not in favor of reservation think that it is a curse on people from the forward classes who are poor because they can not afford the education but rich people from the backward classes are taking advantage and misusing these quotas.


It explains the hurdles faced by the students of the general category due to which it is very difficult for these students to get enrolled in higher education.


Moreover, they think that reservation is increasing brain drain in the country due to which people are moving to the foreign countries for their higher education which hinders the country’s development because the youth of the country are migrating from India. Apart from this, reservation based on caste is creating inequality in the society because due to it people still believe in the caste system which is creating a sense of inequality in the mind of the people living in India(Reservation in India – Do we Still Need Quota System in India, 2013).


In conclusion, every coin has two sides, same as a reservation system has both positive and negative effects. There is no doubt, it was started by the government for the betterment of the people and to promote equality in the society but with the time it is being used in the wrong direction due to which one half of the society is getting advantages while the other half is still struggling with social issues such as poverty and unemployment. To promote equality in the society, the government should look up this issue and should take some steps to its better implementation because people who are poor from the upper class are getting poor and poor day by day because of this quota policy even people should have responsibilities to use it wisely so that everyone can take benefits and live a happy life.

Moreover, from my perspective, it should be based on the income level of the people not on the caste-based reservation based on caste creates discrimination in the society among various social groups. So, to promote equality in society I think education is the only tool that can change the thinking of the people but if people are facing discrimination in terms of education then how it will be possible to abolish racism and the caste system in the country. So, it should be assessable to everyone.