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Quota policy whereby a proportion of government jobs, educational places, and elected posts are set aside for members of particular groups. Extensively used in India, where the Constitution provides for reservation for the Scheduled Castes (Untouchables) and Scheduled Tribes (aboriginals). These two groups currently make up just under a quarter of the population, and should receive a proportionate share of reserved positions (although job and educational quotas often remain unfilled). Frequent attempts have been made to extend the scope of reservation, most notably in 1990 when the V. P. Singh government attempted to implement the recommendations of the Mandal Commission (1978) which would have extended reservation to 49.5 per cent of the population. The resultant political uproar brought down the government, and the clamour for special treatment amongst caste and religious groups has pervaded political debate. In the 1990s the reservation of seats in local government was extended to women, although caste‐based interventions have undermined attempts to introduce legislation to secure a one‐third quota for women in the Indian parliament. Reservation policy can be seen to have given opportunities to those who would otherwise have been excluded, but they have also perpetuated caste divisions, and their effectiveness in improving the social and economic position of the wider population, rather than just a ‘creamy layer’ of beneficiaries, is likely to be limited.

Subjects: Politics.

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