Iim calcutta indian social structure - caste, social backwardness and obc reservations – mandal – i and ii
Caste, Social Backwardness and OBC Reservations – Mandal – I and II -- Zoya Hasan (2009) Search for Equality and Justice – A4
Reservation- Equality and Justice• In the last few decades, both Central and State governments have implemented reservation policy that aim to increase opportunities for backward classes/ castes in government employment and education.• Since 1950, the SCs and STs have been entitled to reservation.
Reservation Policy• 1994 : Reservation extended to the OBCs in public employment by PM V P Singh of the Janata Dal – MANDAL - I• 2006 : Instituting Reservation for OBCs in institutions of higher and professional education by the UPA Government - MANDAL II
Issues• Two issues have dominated policy debates regarding reservation of OBCs–i) On the identification of the category OBC- Whether caste or economic and occupational criteria is an indicator of disadvantage ?ii) Regarding the conception of backwardness itself.
Who are the Backward Classes?• OBCs constitute a more heterogeneous category than the SCs and STs.• Not estimated in the decennial censuses, but OBC population is estimated to range from 25 to 52 percent.• Most of the OBCs belong to peasant and agrarian communities, not untouchables, considered backward because of their low peasant status.• Traditionally lack education and access to public institutions.
Backwardness ?• No clarity in the definition and criterion of social backwardness with regard to the term OBCs• ‘Backward Classes’ retained a multiplicity of meanings-• - ‘lowly’, those comparable to SC/STs, ‘less well- off’• - reference to a middle stratum• - those who suffered discrimination historically
Backwardness- ? - II• Constituent Assembly there was a debate regarding identifying OBCs- whether ritual exclusion, or economic criteria of backwardness or in terms of low status in the caste system?• The purpose of reservation for the SCs- to right the historical wrongs, hence to enhance equality of opportunity• For the OBCs- to increase representation and power sharing.
“Other Backward Classes” - Origin• The term Backward Classes had appeared for the first time in 1870 in Madras Presidency.• Despite ambiguity the provinces of Bombay, Madras and Mysore had instituted reservations of jobs and seats for them in education before independence.
Other Backward Classes- II• After independence, Nehru coined the term, “Other Backward Classes” – implying classes other than the untouchables and the tribes.• The Constitution refers to ‘Backward Classes’ in Articles 15 (4) and 16 (4), under which the state is empowered to make special provision for those socially and educationally backward.
Kalelkar Commission -1• In 1955, the First Backward Class Commission led by Kaka Kalelkar (a disciple of Gandhi) submitted its report.• It drew up a list of 2329 castes (about 32 percent of the population) as socially and educationally backward classes.• - characterized by (1) low social position in the caste hierarchy, (2) lack of general education, (3) poor representation in government services, as well as (4) trade, commerce and industry.
Kalelkar Commission -2• Caste was used as the criteria for identifying beneficiaries, though Kalelkar gave a dissenting note. He favoured identification based on economic criteria, not caste.• Report tabled, but its recommendations were not implemented by the Central government.
Kalelkar Commission - 3• Govt. in favour of economic criteria, feared that the Report will deepen caste divisions.• Home minister Govind Ballav Pant argued that it would hinder efficiency in the administration and business.• Nevertheless, several states set up Backward Classes Commissions and instituted reservations for castes.
Political alignments• Congress leadership- dominated by the upper castes, backward classes found no space• Economic interests do not become the basis of mobilization, caste categories did• Congress- reluctant to regard caste as the criteria for reservation of OBC category, yet caste was the primary criteria for defining backwardness !
Political alignments - II• At the State level several states granted them reservations in government employment and education.• States in the South among the first to do so, have been responsive to them since 1920s…• The long standing political mobilisation of the backward castes in the regions could not be ignored at the national level.
Political alignments - III• Opposition to reservations did not rule out power sharing with other castes,• Backward class politics played a crucial role in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra in supporting political formations• In UP backward caste groups supported by the non Congress parties, esp after the defeat of the Congress in 1977, were mobilised.
Political alignments - IV• Progressive realization that the backward classes need to be accommodated in the political system.• The Backward Class Commissions in the States too identified backwardness on the basis of caste.• When Mandal Commission came up the economic criteria was almost forgotten!
Mandal Commission - 1• Non-Congress parties took up the backward- caste issues in a major way from the late 1960s and more forcefully after the defeat of the Congress in the post-Emergency 1977 elections.• The Second Backward Classes Commission (Mandal Commission) constituted in 1978 (Janata Party regime), fully embraced ‘caste’ as the defining criteria for backwardness.
Mandal Commission - 2• Headed by B P Mandal, the Commission estimated the population of OBCs to be around 52 percent.• Recommended a reservation of 27 percent for OBCs in all services and public sector undertakings, in addition to 22.5 percent.• Report was submitted in 1980, the Congress Party was in power, unwilling to act on the report. “It’s a can of worms, I won’t touch it”. – Rajiv Gandhi.
Mandal – I (1)• In 1990, non-Congress coalition government led by Prime Minister V. P. Singh proposed the implementation of Mandal Commission recommendations (Mandal – I).• Widespread disturbances and violence in the country, an upper-caste backlash, especially in Delhi, Orissa, Bihar and UP including instances of self immolation by upper caste students.
Mandal – I (2)• For its proponents, Social Justice (rectification of social inequalities in status and power, not primarily economic inequalities) was the goal.• Mandal CRITERIA of Backwardness: ELEVEN INDICATORS: Social Backwardness – 4, Educational Backwardness – 3 and Economic Backwardness – 4 indicators.• Historical discrimination rather than current inequalities got more importance.
Mandal 1 (3)• Caste based social backwardness was crucial, educational and economic backwardness linked to it.• Main principles :- Caste membership rather than individual class- Low social ranking rather than individual income- Inadequate representation in government services, in trade, commerce, industry- Religious and linguistic groups cannot qualify for inclusion
Mandal 1 (4)• Main difference was in the conception of social justice.• In the pre-independence Constituent Assembly debates, disadvantage was conceived in terms of reduction of socio-economic disparities between groups.• Now emphasis would be on reducing power and inequalities of status between groups.• Political power primary engine of social transformation.
Mandal –I (5)• Legal disputes over the primacy of caste vs class, whether caste stands for class• Lack of clear guidelines regarding definition, composition, identification, scheduling- triggering discontent
Mandal – I (6)• Congress favoured excluding the privileged among OBCs and to accommodate the underprivileged amongst the upper castes; proposed 10 percent reservation for ‘other economically backward sections of people’.• However, the Supreme Court upheld the 27 percent reservation for OBCs, not the 10 percent for ‘other economically backward sections of people’. The Court upheld caste as a criterion.
Mandal – I (7)• In 1990, the OBCs had a negligible presence of about 2 percent in government employment, when the Mandal – I recommendations were accepted.• By 2000, the SCs, STs and OBCs together accounted for more than 55 percent of the total recruitment in the Union Civil Services.• However, dominant groups and castes (within the OBCs) have monopolized benefits.
Mandal – II (1)• In 2006, the Central government planned to extend reservations to OBCs in Central educational institutions (Mandal – II).• A huge public debate began. Supporters believed it would promote social justice and inclusion in upper-caste dominated system of higher education. Opponents warned that India’s edge in the knowledge economy would dwindle, competitiveness erode, MNCs move away.
Mandal – II (2)• Official argument offered two principal justifications:• First, extending quotas in higher education was the continuation of preferential treatment in public employment to the OBCs.• Second, it came up in 2006 mainly in the context of the legislation on private unaided institutions.
Mandal – II (3)• Unlike the Mandal – I decision, which was rushed through without adequate consultations, this legislation was the result of wide-ranging consultations with MPs and political parties and was also routed through the Cabinet and various government departments.• However, controversies and countrywide protests followed led by the doctors at the AIIMS, students from IITs and IIMs and Youth for Equality – a newly formed protest group.
Market Reforms and Socio-economic changes• Change in political and economic landscape since Mandal – I.• Market reforms have broken down the Nehruvian consensus on a mixed economy and the Congress social coalition of upper castes, minorities and SCs.• High GDP growth and high consumption.• Growth of Media, IT revolution, service sector, knowledge economy – affluent middle class.
Shifts in Public Debate• A large section of Indian public now believe that market reforms have leveled out social distinctions and disadvantages.• Recent dimensions of OBC reservation politics: – A) Justice versus merit issues – B) All parties now accept the logic of quotas – C) A consequent disengagement of Reservation issues from the political process. – D) Increasing reliance on judiciary and the media.
Emerging Issues - 1• By the time of Mandal – II, caste and class has become inseparable.• Exclusion of creamy layer or privileged within the OBCs, despite fear of political reactions.• Affirmative action for religious minorities.
Emerging Issues - 2• Why Reservations – pursuit of justice or pursuit of votes?• A need to revisit the framework of affirmative action, need for regular review, need for foundational changes, more sophisticated affirmative action than reservations.• Freedom of equality and justice issues from the mechanical caste and class concerns.