A student aspiring to get into a prestigious Indian B-school scored ninety two percentile. You may think that is a very good score. But, the sad truth is, it isn’t good enough. This is because the cut-off for that student was ninety five percentile, simply because he belonged to the general category of students. Had he belonged to a reserved category, he would have had no issues getting into the institute of his choice, since the cutoff for the reserved category was a mere seventy percentile!

In India, the government had introduced the concept of reservation sixty years back to ensure that there would be equal progress of all sections of the society. This is because, back then, discrimination due to caste was rampant in the society. But the situation today, sixty years later, is completely different. Today, no one will ask you what caste you belong to, unless you are applying for a degree in an educational institution. Because, even though caste-based discrimination has been significantly reduced from the society, the concept of reservation still prevails.

According to current statistics, the reserved category of students is entitled to more than 20% of the seats available in government institutions. Some of the perks of being a student from the reserved category are significantly lower cutoffs, free tuition, cheaper exam fees, more travel allowance, etc. to name a few. But here comes the catch. Even after lowering the admission standards for the students from the reserved category, a significant number of these seats remain vacant every year.

Due to all of these factors, the students belonging to general category often have to resort to education from private institutions or to study abroad. But this is an option only for those who can afford; those who cannot are caught in a limbo. These students have no other option but to keep reappearing in their exams hoping to get a seat in a government institution.

And now, to add fuel to the fire, the government has decided to bring upon a legislation that would reserve an additional 27% of seats for the reserved category. If this gets implemented, then more than half of the seats at the country’s top-funded government educational institutions will be reserved! As a result, there have been many instances of students belonging to the reserved category being ridiculed or looked down upon by their colleagues and even prospective employers simply because they got in through reservation.

In a free and fair, secular democracy, a student should be able to achieve quality education based solely on merit. Although it is true that the progress of some sections has been hindered due to discrimination, reservation based on caste is not a solution. This is because while this solution may benefit some of the hindered sections, it is at the cost of denying quality education for a large faction of students. Access to quality education is a fundamental right of every citizen and no government has a right to deny this.

By Ayswarrya Ganapathiraman