"Ambedkar envisioned reservations to last only for 10 years"
So goes a very popular claim. There are a number of things wrong with the intent behind using that claim. So put it shortly, the intent is this:

"Reservations are a lousy system. Even Ambedkar, the person who wanted them in the first place, wanted them to end in 10 years".

The intent displays a profound ignorance of the struggle to achieve social equality for the depressed classes. To see why, do read the entirety of this document. But to save some time, I will quote some portions that I think sums it up:

An example of pre-independence efforts to secure justice for the depressed classes:

Quote:Efforts by both Indians and British officials encouraged untouchables and the lower castes to form their own organizations to call for more equitable treatment and to demand economic assistance. Ambedkar was at the center of these activities. Seeking a vehicle to bring pressure to bear on the government to secure more resources for the Depressed Classes he had formed the Independent Labor Party in 1936. Changing tactics, he used a July 1942 All India Depressed Classes Conference in Nagpur to establish an All India Depressed Classes Federation.

Among the group’s demands were those for a new constitution with provisions in provincial budgets, specifically in the form of money for education, to support the advancement of the scheduled castes; representation by statute in all legislatures and local bodies; separate electorates; representation on public service commissions; the creation of separate villages for scheduled castes, “away from and independent of the Hindu villages,” as well as a government-sponsored “Settlement Commission” to administer the new villages; and the establishment of an All-India Scheduled Castes Federation. When in 1942 Congress Party leaders launched a “Quit India” movement, the British, engaged in a war for survival, rounded up Nehru, Gandhi, and other leaders and jailed them for the duration of the
struggle with Germany and Japan. Ambedkar, by contrast, supported the war effort and became a member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council. He used his new position to advance the interests of the Scheduled Castes.

During the process of drafting a constitution:

Quote:From the outset, the Constituent Assembly laid out clearly its objectives and philosophy for the new constitution. Several of the framers’ main goals, articulated in the “Objectives Resolution,” included guarantees of equality, basic freedoms of expression, as well as “adequate safeguards...for minorities, backward and tribal areas, and depressed and other backward classes.” These principles guided the delegates throughout the Constitution-making process.

The Assembly set up a special Advisory Committee to tackle minority rights issues. This committee was further divided into several subcommittees. The Subcommittee on Minorities focused on representation in legislatures (joint versus separate electorates and weightings), reservation of seats for minorities in cabinets, reservation for minorities in the public services, and administrative machinery to ensure the protection of minority rights. After extensive research and debate, the Subcommittee on Minorities drafted a report of its findings for submission to the Advisory Committee. The latter supported most of the Subcommittee’s recommendations.

From the constitution:

Quote:Significantly, Article 15, which prohibits discrimination, also contains a clause allowing the union and state governments to make “any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.” This language was added in 1951 within weeks of a Supreme Court decision outlawing quotas in school admissions. The speed of the amendment is indicative of the strong political support for reservations, Nehru’s personal views notwithstanding.

Similarly, Article 16, calling for “equality of opportunity in matters of public employment,” contains clauses permitting the “reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State” and another allowing “reservation in matters of promotion” for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes

A separate section of the Constitution, “Special Provisions Relating to Certain Classes,” requires the reservation of seats in the “House of the People,” or Lok Sabha, and the Legislative Assemblies of the states for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The numbers of reserved seats are determined by the proportion Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe members to the general population, based on population estimates from the most recent decennial census. The President of India and the Parliament, in consultation with the state governments, determine the list of groups qualifying as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and “backward classes.”

Several safeguards accompany these provisions for reservation. First, the Constitution originally required the reservation of seats in the Lokh Sabha and state legislatures to end after ten years. After five amendments, the policy is now set to expire on January 25, 2010. Secondly, regarding the reservation of jobs, Article 335 of the Constitution mandates that the “claims of the members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration, consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration.” Finally, a National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was created to investigate, monitor, advise, and evaluate the progress of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes under the schemes aimed at the socio-economic development of these groups. Another Commission was also created to investigate the conditions of the socially and educationally backward classes.

What is clear from the document is that Ambedkar was very much in favor of affirmative action - be it through separate electorates or through reservations. The idea that reservations should be done away is contingent on how well discrimination has been rooted out from the society. There never was a blanket statement of the sort "reservations are needed only for 10 years". So to use that particular claim to say that reservations are irrevocably broken is a very weak argument.

The document does take a look at efficacy of reservations, but it doesn't resort to knee jerk justifications like "Even Ambedkar wanted reservations to end in 10 years". I would broaden that claim to say that the knee jerk justification is an argument against any form of affirmative action that prevents the privileged classes from continuing to benefit from the status quo. The reason I say that is that the 10 year claim has been around for decades even back when reservations were direly needed.
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