Is Quota Within Quota For North East STs Justified?

( The original article was written by TS Haokip)

The Supreme Court has recently allowed sub-categorization of Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Scheduled Castes (SCs) by states. This has raised an uproar and a question that has emerged is whether this is justified. The result of the Union Public Service Commission (USPC) Examination, 2019 has highlighted that nearly 40% of the seats which are reserved for the STs are acquired by a particular ST community. Interestingly, this is not the first time that a particular community has dominated such an examination. Similar instances are visible in different government examinations like IBPS, Railway exams and SSC which land an individual a prestigious government job. After giving Sarkari Exam, one can become part of either government or public sector enterprises. 

Why Are Seats Reserved?

While the constitution was being drafted, a need for equality was felt in terms of opportunities, employment and even political representation. With the mission to encourage equality, the constitution came with a provision to reserve seats in the state for different sections and mostly it included the underprivileged and backward sectors who faced discrimination for centuries which hampered their economic, political and social development. Many people raised their voices against this positive discrimination and called it out to be against equality. However, the same was implemented to ensure that equality prevails on a larger scale. 

Even though the purpose of it was met for many sectors, the same cannot be said holds true for the job opportunities which are experiencing a systematic flaw. It is because it does guarantee equitable opportunities to many ST communities and as a result, most of these people do not see their name in the list of Sarkari Result

What Is The Performance Of STs In 2019-2020

From North-East India, last year, only four ST candidates managed to clear the exam. In fact, there are zero candidates from Mizoram, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh who could qualify for the examination. Nagaland and Tripura managed to have one successful candidate. Sadly, Manipur, a state where 40% of the state are STs had zero success rate and not a single ST candidate could clear the examination. The reports of the performance have highlighted that few members of the tribal communities of North East India are able to clear the UPSC exam and this is an issue that has been raised now. 

The performance of the STs of North East India indicates that the equality which was promised in the Indian constitution under Articles 15 and 16 has failed to uplift the underprivileged group of this society and the representation of them in politics, education and jobs is not satisfactory. The added issue is that many other communities are being added to the ST list making the competition tougher for the community. The problem sometimes arises because more advantageous groups find their name in the ST list making it difficult for the backward community of the ST list to mark their representation, which ultimately defeats the entire purpose of the reservation. 

Should There Be A Creamy-Layer In STs?

Many people suggested introducing a creamy layer in STs, just like the Other Backward Class (OBCs). Even though the suggestion sounds logical for the tribals of the mainland, the same cannot be said holds true for the tribes of the North East. It is because the creamy layer category of STs of North-East will simply include the first-generation achievers. This creates the problem that if the children of such a generation fail to avail the opportunities of ST reserve, they will be again pushed back to the condition from where they are trying to emerge and therefore, this eliminates the possibility of a creamy layer in STs for the North-East people. 

The Solution 

The only feasible solution of the current scenario is reservation within the reservation. Currently, around 7.5% of the vacancies are reserved for the STs and at least 20% of this should be reserved for the STs of the North East. This reservation within reservation will ensure that not a single affluent community bears all the fruit of the reservation simply because they come under the umbrella terms of ST. Reservation within reservation will ensure that the fruits of the reservation are also eaten by the people who need them the most. Currently, the gap between the general communities and tribal people are widening in spite of the existing tool and therefore, it becomes very important to use other strategies to lessen the gap between the two.