Answer by Tejasvita Apte:
Rigt to Equality as defined under Articel 14 of the Constitution reads as follows –
"The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law and equal protection of the laws within the territory of India."
Now, if you closely observe, there are two apects of this definition.
1. Equality before the law – This means that all people will be treated equally by the laws. So, the law which makes it a crime to steal will be applied to everyone equally. Here there will not be any discrimination on any ground. This is equality before the law.
Now coming to
2. Equal Protection of the Laws – This concept is based on the fact that in reality people are not inherently equal. Men and Women are not equal, rich and poor are not equal, so on and so forth. So, when there is so much of inequality, would treating everyone equally then be really just? No. From this concept reservations (or special laws for any community) come forth.
~ Due to the abovementioned reason, (that not all are inherently equal), we have Articles 15 and 16 which carve out exceptions to the general rule of equality.
These articles state that the State can make laws for the advancement of women and children, SCs and STs, and Socially and Educationally Backward Classes.
Therefore, laws providing reservations are perfectly valid legally.
Coming to your Second Question –
Are reservations based on caste necessary? What are other effective means?
To give you my opinion, they were necessary at one point of time, i.e. when they were introduced. Let me tell you why. Although providing reservations on economic grounds may seem more logical, but it was not practical. Simply because of the sheer number of poor people at the time of Independence. So, the leaders thought it best to provide reservations on the ground of caste because that was easier to define and it had some ground given that most of the uneduated and poor masses came from lower castes.
Today though i believe reservations are still not reaching the people for whom they were intended.
So, i dont think that Reservations should be totally removed, not yet.
Rather, we should have a law which says that if two generations have availed reservations, they should not be able to able to avail it further.
Let the policy reach out to others. To that the last Scheduled tribe which is still living as a tribe. That way, it will be more effective in bringing people of lower castes in mainstream.
And we will take one step further in reaching towards the desired ideal equality!