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Three decades of Mandal Moment

  • IASbaba
  • August 12, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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SOCIETY/ MODERN INDIAN HISTORY/ GOVERNANCE

Topic: General Studies 1 and 2

  • Significant events in Modern Indian history & Social empowerment
  • Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections

Three decades of Mandal Moment

Context: Thirty years ago, on 7th August 1990, the VP Singh government decided to implement the recommendations of the Mandal Commission, and providing 27% reservations for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in government jobs 

Mandal Commission 

  • In exercise of the powers conferred by Article 340 of the Constitution, the President appointed a backward class commission in December 1978 under the chairmanship of B. P. Mandal. 
  • The commission was formed to determine the criteria for defining India’s “socially and educationally backward classes” and to recommend steps to be taken for the advancement of those classes. 
  • The Mandal Commission submitted its report in 1980 and generated an all-India other backward classes (OBC) list of 3,743 castes and a more underprivileged “depressed backward classes” list of 2,108 castes. 
  • The Commission concluded that India’s population consisted of approximately 52% OBCs, therefore 27% government jobs should be reserved for them. 

What were the factors which led to the historic moment in Modern Indian Politics? 

The decision was in the wake of the gradual political rise of the backward communities, which was due to a set of complex factors. 

  • Political Outcome of Past Policies: The impact of the Green Revolution led to economic empowerment of OBCs and increased their desire for upward professional mobility through reservation in government jobs 
  • Electoral Compulsion: The demographic weight of the backward communities amplified their aspirations. In a Democratic society like India, the demands of such large sections of society could not be neglected both electorally & democratically. 
  • Political Compulsions: To counter the Mandir politics of late 1980s which sought to prioritise religion over caste, the government of the day promoted Mandal Politics 

Was OBC reservation opposed and if so on what lines? 

  • The Mandal moment saw ferocious backlash by sections of upper castes, particularly in northern & western regions of India 
  • This opposition was articulated on two axes  
  • That reservations compromised merit 
  • If at all reservations should open up beyond what was offered to SC & STs, it should be on economic lines (and not on caste basis) 

What has been the Supreme Court’s verdict on OBC reservation? 

  • The Supreme Court dealt with Constitutional Validity of OBC reservation in ‘Indira Sawhney’ Case or Mandal Case.  
  • The SC upheld the 27% reservation for OBCs but also stated that only caste was not an indicator of social and educational backwardness.  
  • SC also said that the ‘creamy layer’ among the OBCs should not be the beneficiaries of the reservations. 
  • Supreme Court in the same case also upheld the principle that the combined reservation beneficiaries should not exceed 50% of India’s population. 

What has been the major Criticism of OBC reservation? 

  • Backlash by left out sections: The resentment of those communities which did not have a share in the reservation pie increased. Mandal Politics launched an era of open hostility between upper castes & backward communities, particularly in the Hindi heartland 
  • Appeasement Politics: Political parties, in order to appease their constituents, continued to expand reservation. This has undermined the entire purpose of reservation, envisaged as a tool to address historic injustice 
  • Demand for Subcategorization of OBCs: Within OBCs, some communities benefited more than others, which led to a political divide and demands for sub-categorisation, a process currently underway. 
  • According to the Rohini Commission, out of almost 6,000 castes and communities in the OBCs, only 40 such communities had gotten 50% of reservation benefits for admission in central educational institutions and recruitment to the civil services. 

Way Ahead 

  • Making Agriculture Economically Viable: As the small landholders, tenants, agricultural labour, impoverished village artisans, unskilled workers, forms the bulk of the OBCs community, it becomes imperative to make agriculture (the backbone of the rural economy) economically viable. 
  • Strengthening Private Sector: A revived private sector that offers jobs to unemployed youth reduces the demand for jobs in the public sector and reservation. 
  • Review of Reservation Policy: The entire architecture of reservations needs a review, with the aim of creating a just, inclusive and equal society, without pandering to populist movements 

Connecting the dots:

  • Rohini Commission 
  • Constitutional (103rd Amendment) Act of 2019 — Reservations for Economically Weaker Sections in Unreserved Category 

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