Report of the Backward Classes Commission (Volumes III to VII)
“There is equality only among equals. To equate unequals is to perpetuate inequality” – so begins the first part (Volumes I and II) of the Report of the Backward Classes Commission, released on December 31, 1980. This is the second part, containing Volumes III to VII, of the report.
The commission was
appointed by Morarji Desai – then prime minister of India – on December 20,
1978, with B.P. Mandal as its chairman. At the time, Mandal was Member of
Parliament from the Madhepura constituency in Bihar.
The commission was set
up to determine the criteria for defining socially and educationally backwards
classes, and providing recommendations for their advancement. The rest of its
members included S. S. Gill (secretary), Dewan Mohan Lal, R. R. Bhole, K.
Subramaniam, and Dina Bandhu Sahu – who left in 1979 and was replaced by L. R.
The commission was given
the task of formulating ‘objective criteria’ to identify Other Backward
Classes (OBCs). The Supreme Court, the report states, emphasised the need for
objective tests and field surveys for such identification. For these, data on
social backwardness was collected from seminars with sociologists,
questionnaires to central and state governments and the public, and by
analysing census data – specifically, Census 1961 – among other sources.
In this second part
of the report, Volume III contains an analysis of court cases and
legislative debates leading to the insertion Article 15(4) into the
Constitution of India through the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951. It
also studies the Constituent Assembly Debates leading to the inclusion of
Article 16(4). Volume IV contains a study by the Tata Institute of
Social Science (TISS), Mumbai, which examines the reactions to job reservations
for OBCs in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Volume V
contains tables relevant to the ‘Socio-Educational Survey’ conducted by the
commission, explained in the report’s first part. Volume VI includes the
comprehensive lists of OBCs in all states and Union Territories that were
prepared by the commission. Volume VII contains a ‘Minute of Dissent’ by
L. R. Naik, a member of the commission.
The report states that due to provisions in Articles 15(1) and 29(2) – both come under Part III (Fundamental Rights) of the Constitution – there had been several court cases challenging “government programmes aimed at making special provisions for weaker sections of society in the fields of education and housing.” Article 15 (1) says that “The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.” Article 29 (2) states that “No citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the State or receiving aid out of State funds on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them.”
Two judgements – the Supreme court decision in State of Madras v. Champakam Dorairajan, and the Bombay High Court decision in Jagwant Kaur v. State of Bombay – led to the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951. Among other changes, this amendment inserted Article 15(4) into the Constitution, which states: “Nothing in this article or in clause (2) of article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.”
In the ‘Points arising out of the Analysis of Judicial Decisions’ pertaining to Article 15(4) of the Constitution, the report states that it is valid to fix an income limit to ascertain whether people belong to a socially and educationally backward class.
In the same ‘Points…’ the report states that “Rural population as a whole cannot form socially and educationally backward class. However, population in hilly backward areas form such a class.”
The Backward Classes Commission invited TISS, Mumbai, to conduct a study that was titled ‘Reactions to the Reservations for Other Backward Classes: A Comparative Study of Four States’. This was submitted to the commission in May 1980. It sought “to explain why the introduction of such reservation in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka was accepted by the adversely affected population without violent protests, and why similar measures in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh provoked a violent backlash.” This study comprises Volume IV of this report.
The TISS study states that in Karnataka, “the Harijan and OBCs find themselves in one camp due to their resentment of the Brahmins in the beginning, and Lingayats later on.” In Tamil Nadu, “the DK movement welded the non-Brahmin upper castes and the Harijans into one camp.” In Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the Harijans and other landless castes do not share “mutuality of economic, social and political interests” with landed backward castes. “This fundamental cleavage between the upper peasant castes and the Harijans has rendered the backward class movement weak and hence has facilitated the forward castes backlash.”
Regarding Karnataka, the TISS study states: 70 per cent of the Lingayat castes find themselves forward and the rest backward. The 15 per cent reservation for the special weaker group irrespective of caste has also divided the Lingayat community. The forward Lingayats are the only group highly agitated over the issue. But, they cannot convert their disaffection into political clout.”
The same study notes that the economies of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka had been expanding relatively faster than those of Bihar and U.P. “The private tertiary sectors in Bihar and U.P. are stagnant. The forwarded caste youths in these two states have to depend heavily on government jobs. Driven to desperation, they have reacted violently [to job reservations for OBCs].”
Focus and Factoids by Sruti Penumetsa.
Backward Classes Commission (Chairman: B. P. Mandal)
Government of India
31 Dec, 1980