To achieve greater social justice, our constitution provided for reservations for certain weaker sections of the society such as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Vote-bank politics saw reservations being extended to the “other backward classes.” Today, most seats in educational institutions and government jobs are reserved. Worse, the clamor for reservation has reached a crescendo with even well-to-do communities, such as the Patels in Gujarat, seeking reservation. This is a dangerous trend that must be checked. We propose an income-based reservation system to replace the caste-based system. Reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes should continue for a finite period.

Poverty knows no caste, religion
Caste-based reservation tends to benefit a very small section in a community as most of the benefits are cornered by the “better off” within the community. The worst affected are the poor, especially those living below the poverty line and estimated to be over 40 percent of the state’s population, including Muslims.

Income-based reservation better
Uttar Pradesh should recognize the rights of the poor and provide them reservation in government institutions and jobs. But reservation should not apply to promotions as performance alone should be the criteria for that if we are to build a merit-based society.

Gender-based reservation
We should also introduce 30 percent reservation for women in government institutions and jobs. This will help unleash the power of our women force and give them economic confidence to contribute at par with men.

Additional income tax to be paid by beneficiaries of reservation
Beneficiaries of reservation should be thankful to the community for being provided this special incentive. They should be asked to pay a reservation benefit tax on their taxable income as a payback to the community. The funds raised would be ring-fenced and used by the state solely for helping others in the same community.

Affirmative action plan for the private sector
Without imposing the reservation system, the private sector should be encouraged to pursue affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment to the poor and women. The private sector players would be recognized and rewarded through targeted “salary and/or Provident Fund” subsidy and/or “on the job” training grants.