Article 46 which comes under the Directive Principles of State Policy contained in Part IV of the Constitution of India, are although not enforceable by any court, but the principles laid down therein are considered fundamental in governance of the country, making it the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws to establish a just society in the country.
The principles have been inspired by the Directive Principles given in the Constitution of Ireland and also by the principles of Gandhism; and relate to social justice, economic welfare, foreign policy and legal and administrative matters.
In particular Article 46 states, ‘The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.’ At the earliest in the case of Srimathi Champakam Dorairajan vs. The State of Madras the apex Court held that admissions to the college is not invalid, because under Article 46 of the Constitution, the State is bound to promote and carry out the principle adopted by the Constitution.
In the purview of weaker section Other Backward Class (OBC) is a collective term used by the Government of India to classify castes which are educationally and socially disadvantaged. In the Indian Constitution, OBCs are described as socially and educationally backward classes and the Government of India is enjoined to ensure their social and educational development.
Further according to Article 340 the President may by order appoint a commission, consisting of such persons as he thinks fit to investigate the conditions of socially and educationally classes within the territory of India.
Initiation in Independent India
In line, First Backward Classes Commission was established by a Presidential order on 29 January 1953 under the chairmanship of Kaka Kalelkar and it submitted the report on 30 March 1955. It had prepared a list of 2,399 backward castes or communities for the entire country, of which 837 had been classified as the “most backward”. Some of the most notable recommendations of the commission were:
The commission in its final report recommended “caste as the criteria to determine backwardness. The report was not accepted by the government, which feared that the backward classes excluded from the caste and communities selected by the commission might not be considered and those in most need would be swamped by the multitudes, thus receiving insufficient attention. The first backward commission observed that although untouchability or tribal character may not be found, the backwardness persists.
Finally, this report was rejected by the Central Government on the ground that it had not applied any objectives tests for identifying the backward class and thus there was a need of second backward classes commission.
Developments under Janata Government
After a long gap in 1979 the Janata Party government under the Premiership of Morarji Desai established Mandal Commission to identify the socially or educationally backward. It was headed by Indian Parliamentarian B.P. Mandal to consider the question of seat reservations and quotas for the people to redress caste discrimination, and used eleven social, economic and educational indicators to determine backwardness. In between the years, since the formation of first commission in 1953, a great many things have in fact changed both in our political perceptions and in social reality.
The leaders of the nationalist movement who successfully fought for India’s freedom from colonial rule believed that India may have been a society of castes and communities in the past but would become a nation of citizens with adoption of a new republican constitution. They were too optimistic.
The Constitution did create rights for the citizen, but it did not eradicate caste from the hearts and minds of the citizens it created. India’s historical failures aborted land distribution, neglected agriculture, except during the period of Green Revolution 1960s-70s and a soft approach in attacking caste iniquities, have helped to maintain these structures. By the time universal franchise has brought into the political fold groups which for centuries existed on the peripheries of the Indian political order.
Extensive study of Indian society
While identifying the Mandal Commission adopted various methods and techniques to collect the necessary data and evidence. In order to identify who qualified as an “other backward class”, the commission adopted eleven criteria which could be grouped under three major headings: social, educational and economic.
In sphere of each several points were made considerable. All the social indicators were given a weightage of 3 points each, educational indicators were given a weightage of 2 points each and economic indicators were given a weightage of 1 point each. Economic, in addition to social and educational indicators, were considered important as they directly flowed from social and educational backwardness.
Thus, the Mandal Commission judged classes on a scale from 0 to 22. These 11 indicators were applied to all the castes covered by the survey for a particular state. As a result of this application, all castes which had a score of 50% of 11 points were listed as socially and educationally backward and the rest were treated as “advance”.
The commission estimated that 54% of the total population belonging to 3,743 different castes and communities, excluding SCs and STs were “backward”. It used 1931 census as base because beyond that no caste-wise data to calculate the number of OBCs was available and it finally concluded the population of OBCs to be 52%.
In identifying the backwardness, the commission thoroughly assumed that a child from an advanced class family and that of a backward class family had the same intelligence at the time of their birth, it is obvious that owing to vast differences in social, cultural and environmental factors, the former will beat the latter by lengths in any competitive field. It was of the view that what we call “merit” is an amalgam of native endowments and environmental privileges.
Even if an advanced class child’s intelligence quotient was much lower compared to the child of backward class, chances are that the former will still beat the latter in any competition where selection is made on the basis of ‘merit’.
The report of the commission was submitted in December 1980 which stated, ‘It may appear the upliftment of Other Backward Classes in part of the larger national problem of the removal of mass poverty.
Author is Professor and Head, University Department of Political Science, B. N. Mandal University, Bihar