Sunday, March 21, 2021

Did Reservations really help the SC and ST in India?


This question is posed by many, with the assumption that Reservations-based-on-caste is merely a tool in the hands of politicians to create vote banks, but that it does not really help the SC and ST populations in India. 

So, let’s a take a look at some of the results. 

The most important objective of the preferential treatment policy of reservations-based-on-caste has been to attain higher representation of the SC and ST (some of the lower castes in India), in education and employment. 

Why education and employment and not other fields, like sports and cinema?

That is because the biggest problem faced by the lower castes in India is that of socio-economic status, their inability to break the caste barrier to improve it.  This can be achieved only through a rigorous improvement in their representation in both education and employment, considered the vital and critical methods to improve one’s socio-economic status.   In this article, let’s focus on one aspect of education, the higher education, and another aspect of education, the overall literacy. 

Representation in Higher Education

In India,

The percentage of SC population is: 16.6% (the reservation for SC is 15%)

The percentage of ST population is 8.6% (the reservations for ST is 7.5%)

Because of reservations-based-on-caste, there has been a steady increase in enrolment of SC and ST to higher education since 1950s.

Percentage of SC representation in higher education in late 1970s was 7%, which increased to 7.8% by late 1990s, and increased from 12.2% in 2012 to 13.9% by 2016.

Percentage of ST representation in higher education in late 1970s was 1.6%, which increased to 2.7% by late 1990s, and increased from 4.5% in 2012 to 4.9% by 2016.

This is one of the greatest achievements of reservations-based-on-caste policy of India, to have increased the enrolment of SC and ST into higher education, slowly but substantially.

Of course, there is more work to be done.  To improve the enrolment of SC and ST population into school education, and to improve the enrolment of SC and ST into Masters and PhD education, and to improve infrastructure of schools, give more facilities and amenities, including books, toilets, awareness programs.

Population Growth of SC/ST

The proportion of SC/ST population in India has been steadily increasing.  This is true of communities or identities which have lower socio-economic status.  On a general note, lower socio-economic status groups have had shown bigger population growths, while the most privileged groups have shown a decrease in population growth.

In India,

SC Population was 14.7% in 1961, but has grown to 16.2% in 2001, and is now approximately 16.6%.

ST population was 6.9% in 1961, but has grown to 8.2% in 2001, and is now approximately 8.6%.

Literacy Rate of SC/ST

The literacy rate of SC and ST population has grown over the last 70 years, and thankfully to the current policies of affirmative action which include many welfare schemes, one of them being reservations-based-on-caste, it has grown faster than the general population, but in absolute numbers it is still below the national average. 

SC Literacy Rate was 10.27% in 1961, but has grown to 45.2% by 2001, and is now approximately 66% (Indian national average is 74%).

ST Literacy Rate was 8.53% in 1961, but has grown to 38.41% by 2001, and is now approximately 67% (Indian national average is 74%).

Conclusion

Reservations-based-on-caste and other welfare schemes have definitely improved the literacy rate of SC and ST population in India, but have also resulted in higher representation in higher education.  Though the proportions still fall short of their share in population, it shows the reservations-based-on-caste and other welfare schemes are yielding results.  All the more reason to make the current mechanisms effective, and not dilute them.

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