Affirmative Action in India : Across these years

Introduction of the Affirmative Action in India

The first backward classes had appeared in India in 1870’s in Madras Presidency. It was under the British they the ‘shudras’ and ‘untouchables’ grouped together as the backward classes. This lead to an increase in the number from 39 to 131 in 1920. In 1925 the depressed classes were separated from the untouchables. After independence Nehru gave them a new name the “other backward classes”, classes other than the untouchables and tribes. The constituent Assembly of that time initiated article 340 which stipulated the president to appoint a commission in charge of identifying the socially and educationally backward classes and suggest measure to improve the condition of OBC’s.

Under Article 340 the first backward commission which is known as the ‘Kaka Kalelkar Commission was appointed in 1953. It submitted it report in 1955. And they included 4 major criteria for classifying the OBC’s

  •  A degraded status
  • Lack of education
  • Under representation in the civil service
  • Under representation in the secondary and tertiary sector

But this report was rejected by the chairman saying that it went against the objective of creating a classless society. The quota system which was introduced by the British in the British India and Princely state based on caste was questioned after independence. The socialist party which was found by Ram Manohar Lohia passed a resolution in favor of reserving 60% of civil services jobs in the OBC. He is an ardent advocate of affirmative action. He called it as positive discrimination. Chaudhary Charan Singh also played a crucial role in mobilizing OBS’s in Uttar Pradesh and formed a party called as the Bharatiya Lok Dal. It had its support among the middle caste peasants and jats.

1967 elections marked the successful win of the backward classes over the congress in 8 states. Even though it won it couldn’t stay in power for a long time since the party was a coalition.

Article 341 and 342 of the constitution had listed a number of castes and tribes who were to get the affirmative policies and they are listed as the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes. As a result of this a positive discrimination such as reserving seats for these classes were done at the national and state level in university positions and public service commission. In 1979, a commission under the chairmanship of B.P.Mandal – popularly known as the Mandal Commission – was established by the ruling Janata Party under the Prime Ministership of Morarji Desai with the objective of identifying the Other Backward Classes. In 1980, it published its findings, placing a total of 3428 ‘communities’ in the OBC category, comprising 54.4 percent of the country’s population.

 The Mandal Commission recommended that there should be employment quotas in public sector organizations (including nationalized banks and private sector undertakings which received financial assistance from the government in one form or the other) and reserved places in higher educational institutions of 27 percent for OBC in addition to the 25.5 percent job quotas and seats in higher educational institutions that were already in place for SC and ST . The figure of 27 percent was arrived at as the Supreme Court limited total reservations to under 50 percent.

As a matter of fact the need for Affirmative action for the SC/ST was always accepted since the post-independence period by the congress because these people were not a threat to the dominance but this couldn’t be said in the same for OBC since they were in large numbers across the country. The constituent Assembly did not enter into debate over this. Instead it added the Article 340.

The importance of implementing affirmative action laid in its after effects. If this was successfully implemented then the lower castes and classes would be brought into the limelight and would also get the same opportunities as the rich and higher classes do. They will be having equal opportunities in the government sectors. These people who had historically faced discrimination would now be having equal opportunities. This can lead to improved lifestyles for the lower caste people. When more representation is given in the electoral sector, their voices will also be heard. This can serve justice to their unheard voices of the past years. Now with their leader in power they could also come forward.

Government under the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai. The Commission was chaired by an MP, B P Mandal. The chief mandate of the Mandal Commission was to identify the socially or educationally backward classes of Indiaand to consider reservations as a means to address caste inequality and discrimination. The Commission submitted its report to the President on 31st December 1980.

After India achieved independence, affirmative action started for the “Depressed Classes” or the Scheduled Castes and Tribes providing benefits to the most backward and socially ostracised of India’s communities. However, there were no benefits or even a list of the country’s other backward classes, which although not as politically and socially backward as the ST/SCs, but were still marginalised in society, and behind forward castes in fields of education, employment and economic development. To address this problem, the country’s first Backward Classes Commission was set up headed by Kaka Kalelkar in 1953. This was also called the Kalelkar Commission. In 1955, the commission submitted its report which stated that there were 2399 backward groups in India out of which 837 were ‘most backward’ and the major evidence of backwardness cited was caste. However, the Union Government, in its pursuit of ultimately creating a casteless society, rejected its recommendations.

Affirmative Action Policies

Various policies have been taken under Affirmative Action. Some of the important ones are as follows

  • In 1935 itself under the Government of India Act, various castes were listed deserving special treatment. And extensions in the list were made in 1990’s to the OBC’s
  • Reservations in the State and Central legislatures, in the government jobs across all the sectors and in educational institutions too.
  • Caste Disabilities Removal Act of 1850
  • Article 17 of the Indian Constitution
  • Prevention of Atrocities(against SC/ST communities)  Act of 1989.
  • 93rd amendment act provided for reservation

Success of Affirmative Policies

Over time there has been a considerable increase in the share of SCs and STs in government employment and educational institutions. Reservations in the legislature have also provided a space for SCs and STs in the executive and in the decision-making process. The formal reservation policy in the government sector, and the general developmental and empowerment measures in the private sector, have also contributed to an improvement in the human development of SCs and STs. However, during the course of the implementation of India’s reservation policy some problems have become apparent. First, the success of the policy has been uneven across sectors and departments. Second, the policy is limited to the government sector, while more than 90 percent of SC and ST workers are employed in the private sector. Finally, despite the improvement in human development among SCs and STs, disparities in attainment with non-SCs and non-STs persist even to this day. This indicates that addressing social exclusion is often a far more difficult challenge than anti-poverty policy.Reservation is accompanied by other provisions designed to increase the ability of SCs and STs to compete for government jobs. These include the relaxation of minimum age for entry into the service, relaxation in the minimum standard of suitability (subject to a required minimum qualification), the provision of pre-examination training, separate interviews for SCs and STs, and representation of people with SC or ST backgrounds on selection committees.

The Central Government has developed an administrative mechanism for regulating, monitoring and implementing the reservation policy. The main institutions involved are the Department of Personal and Training, the National Commission for SCs and STs, the Committee of Parliament on Welfare of SCs and STs, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. The DOPT regulates and monitors the reservation policy in government services. Its main function is to enforce the rules and monitor the fulfilment of the quotas. It is supported by administrative units within each Ministry and/or government supported organisation. The National Commission for SCs and STs has responsibility for investigating specific complaints received from SC or ST employees regarding appointment and promotion matters. The Commission has the power of a Civil Court, and can call employers for enquiry. It also prepares an annual report which has been discussed in the national Parliament in every year since 1950. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs are responsible for the all-round development of SCs and STs, and carry out various schemes related to education and economic development. The Committee of Parliament on Welfare of SCs and STs, which is comprised of the SC and ST members of parliament, is entrusted with examining progress regarding the legislative representation of SCs and STs, and also makes recommendations for effective implementation of policies and programmes.

 The number of SC and ST employees has also increased significantly in public sector undertakings, nationalised banks, and public insurance companies. There are, however, variations between different type of jobs, and quotas are much closer to being met in lower categories of jobs. Reservations in political representation are accompanied by a time limit. They were initially provided for a ten-year period, with a provision for extension every ten years (the present extension is up to 2010). By contrast, in the areas of government services and education it is left to the government to use reservations up to the point where it is considered that discrimination against SCs and STs is no longer a major problem. There is a minority view which expresses concern about the extension of reservation policies without a time limit. Nevertheless, the majority view is in favor of extension as long as discrimination and social exclusion of SCs and STs persists, and there is general support in government for

Over time there has been a considerable increase in the share of SCs and STs in government employment and educational institutions. Reservations in the legislature have also provided a space for SCs and STs in the executive and the decision-making process. The formal reservation policy in the government sector and the informal affirmative action policy in the private sector have also contributed to an improvement in the human development of SCs and STs. However, the rate of improvement has been rather slow, and disparities in human development attainment between SCs and STs on the one hand, and non-SCs and non-STs on the other, continue even today. During the course of the implementation of India’s reservation policy, some problems have become apparent. First, its success has been uneven across sectors and departments. Generally speaking, participation of SCs and STs is close to their population shares in lower categories of jobs, but much lower than their shares in high-grade positions. Due to indirect resistance, the extension and spread of reservation policy to several government sectors has also been slow. Another issue is the demand by SCs and STs to extend formal affirmative action policy to private sector employment and private educational institutions. This is currently under active consideration by the government. reservation policies without explicit time limits.

At the end of the end it is not just in the hands of the government to help them but also they should take initiatives an come into the limelight. Many backward classes people have published books detailing their experiences and so on. More or less people are treated equally but even so sometimes we can hear news of people being discriminated and so on. India has a long way to go in this matter