Ever since it achieved Independence, India has seen the reservation system in place in its job and education sectors. But the reservation system has existed in other parts of the world with different names, before it was adopted in India. With the name Affirmative Action , United States of America introduced the concept of reservations. It was brought into existence in order to end discrimination against the black people and give a level playing field to all its citizens irrespective of race. Similarly, South Africa introduced Affirmative Actions to end ‘Apartheid’. Brazil had also introduced the system to end discrimination on the basis of race. The experiences of the US, South Africa and Brazil with respect to reservation can be utilised by India to learn and plan its future policy on reservations. This is not only because of the formers’ more experience on reservation but also because of the commonalities between India on one hand and the US, South Africa, Brazil on the other. India and the US are the biggest and oldest Democracies in the world respectively. South Africa, Brazil and India are all developing and Emerging economies. Hence, a comparison of India with these nations in relation to reservations can give valuable inputs and insights which can throw enough light on India’s road ahead on the policy of reservations.
It is now widely accepted and claimed by American experts that all these nations have suffered immensely on various fronts due to the reservation system in their respective socio-economic setups. Most of these disadvantages of reservation system have already been experienced by India. These include strengthening of the caste (race in the US case) system, compromising on the quality of work, increased poverty and unemployment rates, and violation of some basic Fundamental Rights of citizens like Right to Equality. But since reservations have remained for a bigger period of time in US, South Africa and Brazil, there are much more that India can learn from their mistakes, hardships and losses that emanated from the system of reservations. The adverse effects of reservations in the United States starts with the issue of Stigmatisation and stereotyping. The beneficiaries of the reservation system are considered to be incapable of doing anything on their own. They are not given credit for their ability and work. This further prevents their ability to participate in the society and mix well with other people. Hence, reservations have created social stigma which has led to enhanced social segregation of the beneficiaries and their exclusion from the mainstream.
Although, India also experiences this situation currently but as the country achieves higher growth and development in the years to come, this stigmatisation will also grow with it. This is because with higher growth the skill gap between the reserved and the unreserved categories is expected to increase. In order to prevent this stigma from developing further in the Indian Society, reservations need to be phased out which will ensure that the backward classes develop their skills and are merged into the mainstream. The second issue with the US reservations is that experts are of the opinion that, ‘Diversity, just for the sake of it’ is of no use. In fact, it is counter-productive. For example, if an IT firm is started and due to reservations, employees are hired from all classes in the country irrespective of their skills-sets and levels, the company in all probabilities is going to fail. Hence, Diversity is of no use if it doesn’t serve the higher purpose.
Instead of giving reservations, development of skills in people should be focussed upon. India also needs to make its people skilled through greater allocation of financial resources and rolling out skilling programmes along with its sound implementation. To ensure prevalence of diversity in different professions, dissemination of adequate skills among all people is a pre-requisite. Hence, the cry for reservations should be replaced by the will to develop skills. The third drawback of the system of reservations suffered by the US and other countries is that the ‘Accountability Standards’ have taken a hit. If a person is hired through reservations, there is a sense of leniency with him by his bosses as they presume that the employee is inefficient or less efficient. Also, the employee himself is ‘easy’ on himself for any mistakes or glitches done by him. This has weakened the Accountability Standards and have made people inefficient due to which the quality of work has also suffered. In a country like India where corruption is rampant, accountability standards need to be at its best to eliminate it. Also, if we want to achieve a double-digit economic growth rate, the quality of work needs to be enhanced for which accountability standards should be strengthened. Hence, for accountability standards to improve, reservation system needs to be abolished in India. It was also noticed by experts in the US that reservations were ineffective in removing personal biases. You can give jobs to people through reservations but you can’t change the prejudices about them in the minds of other people. In fact, these prejudices and anger is enhanced by a system like reservations which sometimes translates into unfortunate violent outburst incidents and Hate Crimes. Similarly, the system of reservations has also ignored the efforts and performances of the genuinely efficient people among the reserved class. This has led to the dis-incentivisation of efficiency and promotion of laxity and inefficiency.
In order to prevent the development of personal biases against the backward sections in the minds of people and to give due recognition to the good performances of the people in the reserved categories, India needs to learn from the mistakes of the US and other countries and hence it should remove the system of reservations from the country. Reservations in the US, South Africa and Brazil has proved to be a time-bomb, which with time has created divisions in their society to the extent that a reversal seems difficult. India should learn quickly and well from these experiences of other countries if it wants to safeguard its ‘Unity in Diversity’ mantra which is central to its stability and prosperity. Hence, India should destroy the twin systems of castes and reservations prevalent in its society.