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Two thousand years ago, the great philosopher Aristotle said, "Injustice arises when equals are treated unequally and also when unequals are treated equally". This profound statement is what lies at the heart of equality-a fundamental human right. Every human simply by virtue of being a human being is entitled to equal treatment. The most significant, pervasive and violent discrimination in our country is the centuries old caste system. It was abolished by the Constitution in 1952 and untouchability was declared a crime. There was a category of people called dalits outside this system who were discriminated and treated as untouchables. They were thus given reservation by the government. Reservation in India is the process of setting aside a certain percentage of seats (vacancies) in government institutions for members of backward and under-represented communities (defined primarily by caste and tribe). It is a form of quota-based affirmative action. Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other backward classes are the primary beneficiaries of the reservation policies under the Constitution with the objective of ensuring a 'level' playing field. The Constitution of India states in Article 15(4) that, "All citizens shall have equal opportunities of receiving education. Nothing herein contained shall prevent the state from providing special facilities for educationally backward sections". It also states that, "The state shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of society and shall protect them from 'social injustice' and all forms of exploitation". The Article further states that nothing in Article 15(4) will prevent the nation from helping SCs and STs for their betterment. In 1982, the Constitution specified 15% and 7.5% of vacancies in public sector and government-aided educational institutes as a quota reserved for the SC and ST candidates respectively for a period of five years, after which it was to be reviewed This period was routinely extended by the succeeding governments. The Supreme Court of India ruled that reservations cannot exceed 50% and put a cap on reservations. However, there are state laws that exceed this 50% limit and these are under litigation in the Supreme Court. For example, caste based reservation stands at 69% and the same is applicable to about 87% of the population in the state of Tamil Nadu. 'In 1990, Prime Minister VP Singh announced that 27% of government positions would be set aside for OBCs in addition to the 22.5% already set aside for SCs and STs. This was followed according to the Mandal Commission which was established in India in 1978 by the Janata Party government under Prime Minister Morarji Desai with a mandate to "identify the socially or educationally backward". Now, the question arises whether there is a need to review the reservation policy in India or should continue with the tradition? The basic idea of reservation was undoubtedly superb as it was in all good intent, meant to improve till now the status of those sections of the society which had hitherto been left uncared for. However, as we see it today, the policy of reservation has completely changed in the past few years. There has been unlimited extension of the policy for no one knows how long, it appears as though the policy has come to stay forever and its extension is also as though unlimited, with several more sections joining the band wagon of the classes under reservation. If we look at the reservation policy in India, we are the only country in the world that provides affirmative action based on individual caste identities. It is a well-established fact that reservations are tools of upliftment for those disadvantaged groups who have suffered years of discrimination and oppression at the hands of the higher castes. We the people of India, believe in the concept of 'Vasudeva Kutumbakam' where we take each and every person on equal terms and also take the path of fraternity into its ambit. The reservation policy in India gave a chance to the backward and downtrodden people to be on equal terms with the other classes of the society. It not only helped them in improving their lives and status in the society but also provided them with an opportunity to represent themselves in various aspects of the decision-making part of society, something which was denied to them for a long time. Reservations has come up in educational institutions, in jobs, in state assemblies, in Parliament and in every feasible sphere. It will be a wonder if this system is really going to help us to raise our standards in every sphere or will this become just a tool in the hands of a few, to forward their own interests, as has been up to this juncture. The reservation policy has taken only few families of weaker sections and not the masses
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Paragraph By : Ranjeet Kaur

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