The Indian constitution provided reservations to some weaker sections in the society.

Once I used the sentence on Linked In and an English scholar said that the use of reservations in the sentence is wrong and I went on explaining its meaning. He understood the word in the sense of doubt

India is a country of reservations like women's reservation bill. In India there are reservations for the scheduled castes, backward castes, physically handicapped. Even women are fighting for reservations in the parliament. The bill has been pending because of male dominance. Reservations means special priveleges provided to some sections of people because of birth, gender, handicap etc.

I would like to know whether the usage in the above sentence is right or wrong.

If it is wrong, what is the proper word here?

I herewith provide the link too.


I have provided the Wikipedia too




3 Answers 3


Yes, it's correct—in India

When I first read your sentence, I thought that it misused the word reservations. But I was wrong. I am an American native speaker, and I just did some googling and learned that the sense of "reservations" in your sentence is standard in India but not in Britain or America. It is not mentioned in the Merriam-Webster article that you linked to, though there are some closely related senses.

Outside of India, the closest word for this sense of "reservations" is quotas. But even the word "quota" is ambiguous. The relevant sense is the third listed by Merriam-Webster. But there are common senses of "quota" not listed by Merriam-Webster, that have the opposite meaning, such as a goal for a quantity of something to be produced (as in "meet your quota") or even a maximum quantity of something that you are permitted to consume (as in "exceed your quota"). See Wiktionary. You could not use the word "quotas" for India's constitutional reservations without explaining it and expect to be understood.

You might need to explain it

As always, Know Your Audience. If the audience for your writing is people from India, then your use of reservations is correct, standard, and needs no explanation. If you are writing for people in Britain or America, then you should still use the word "reservations"—no other word will do—but you must explain it, just as you would explain any specialized or esoteric terminology when writing for a general audience. This article by the British Broadcasting Corporation illustrates how to do it:

India's constitution, adopted in 1950, inaugurated the world's oldest and farthest-reaching affirmative action programme, guaranteeing scheduled castes and tribes—the most disadvantaged groups in Hinduism's hierarchy—not only equality of opportunity but guaranteed outcomes, with reserved places in educational institutions, government jobs and even seats in parliament and the state assemblies.

These "reservations" or quotas were granted to groups on the basis of their (presumably immutable) caste identities. The logic of reservations in India was simple: they were justified as a means of making up for millennia of discrimination based on birth.

After this definition, the article freely uses the word reservations in the sense that you have in mind. The reader can now be expected to understand when "reservations" denotes this new concept.

In this context, the quotation marks around reservations help indicate that the author does not expect the reader to already know this sense of the word, and is now defining it. Putting the word in italics is another way to indicate that you are defining a new word or a new sense of a familiar word. Notice also that the article provides some background information before defining the term and states the rationale for the reservations. This makes the definition easier to understand. The background paragraph even uses the word reserved, which helps the reader see why the word "reservations" was chosen.

More sources of confusion

By the way, this word will be especially prone to confusion in America, where an Indian reservation means a land area reserved to native Americans, where they enjoy rights similar to those of an independent nation. So, you should not use the phrase "Indian reservation" to refer to the distinctively Indian sense of "reservation".

Lastly, weaker sections is suggestive but not clear. The phrase disadvantaged groups makes clear what kind of people reservations in India are intended to benefit, without going into detail about the castes and social classes.


Your use is technically correct, but the meaning of "reservations" is totally ambiguous. In your sentence, it could mean doubt, a plot of land, a scheduled meeting, or something set aside for someone else.

The context of the sentence may help provide clues to your meaning, but it is better to avoid using overloaded words if the meaning is not immediately clear.

You could say:

The constitution causes doubt among weaker sections...

The constitution provides special services to weaker sections...

The constitution sets aside land for weaker sections...

The constitution allots times or positions specifically for weaker sections...

  • The constitution causes doubt among weaker sections may have negative connotations. Indians usually the constitution provided or guarenteed reservations to weaker sections.Even the constitution says that.Dr Ambedkar was a great scholar who drafted the constitution Sep 26, 2019 at 17:12
  • If your response is you adding additional context, then I ask that you edit it into your original question.
    – JRodge01
    Sep 26, 2019 at 17:15

I think, from what you say, that in India 'reservations' has a special, local meaning, when applied to government.

I think the word you need, to use instead, to convey this meaning in English when speaking to people from other countries, is 'concessions', which means 'special adjustments or allowances' (made to any particular group, eg. women.

I think that will eliminate the confusion.


  • The word reservation is a nationalised word.No word can substitute that in India. Oct 6, 2019 at 15:41
  • Oh, I thought you had asked about using the word 'with an English scholar'. And you went on to say 'I would like to know whether the usage in the above sentence is right or wrong. If it is wrong, what is the proper word here?'. So I think you'd better define where you mean by 'here'. Because if the answer to 'here' is 'India' then the answer to that appears to be 'reservations'. So then I am wondering, what are you asking, exactly?
    – Jelila
    Oct 6, 2019 at 15:50
  • I talked to the English Scholar.I do not say that is right.Bur Indians are accustomed to the usage. Oct 6, 2019 at 16:03
  • So, what are you asking, exactly?
    – Jelila
    Oct 6, 2019 at 16:09

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