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Social and political Values and Systems in India.

Historical background of ‘Preferences’ to certain social groups in government jobs

Huge social churning A huge social churning is going on the margins of the society. It is a humanitarian obligation to think about weak and plan for their uplift. The whole history of twentieth century is full of the concerns and efforts of the nations to uplift the underclass Theories like Communism, Socialism, Marxism etc. were propounded to benefit marginalized sections of society.  The main fight started for land, employment/jobs, education and other opportunities to ensure security, progress and social status. Later on the fight has moved from the margins to center stage of politics and aimed to provide them a wider base in the power structure of a nation.

Reservation Policy or Affirmative Action Program or giving preferences to certain social groups in government jobs is one such policy, which was initiated during late nineteenth century in India. It was envisaged by British rulers to balance the power by giving opportunity to unrepresented or underrepresented groups, to participate directly in administrative work.

After independence government of Independent India continued the practice to include all sections of society into nation building activities. Through reservation policy government gives opportunities to under-represented social groups and attain positions of power in the government on equal terms with the advantaged and advanced groups.  Reservations are regarded as the highest form of special provisions, while preferences, relaxation, concessions and exemptions are the lesser forms. [i] Following are the three policy goals: –

  • To remove social and religious disabilities of the deprived people, on account of their social segregation and cultural isolation.
  • To facilitate and promote equal participation of all in the nation building activities.
  • To protect underclass from all forms of social injustice and exploitation.[ii]

Start of Reservation policy – The start of Reservation policy can be traced back as early as 1874, then known as Communal Award. Since then, it has traveled a long distance.

  • Anti-Brahmin currents laid foundation – Spree of Reform Movements of early 19th century had awakened certain powerful non-Brahmin groups, who resented Brahmin’s domination in government services and desired to secure a place for themselves. Anti-Brahmin currents gained momentum. The two numerically dominant intermediate castes – Vokkaligas and Lingayats, which were economically strong but educationally backward, raised the demand for Reservation in the state Government jobs.
  • Laying the Foundation informallyInformally, the foundation of Reservation Policy for Backward Classes was laid down in Tamil Nadu and Mysore 1874 to restrict Brahmins domination in Government jobs.
  • Soon spread in region and every sphere of national activity From Government jobs, it spread to educational field, in order to prepare non-Brahmins for Government jobs.
  • Supported by other sections of society They were supported by other backward castes – Muslims, Indian Christians, untouchables and tribal in their demand for Reservation and succeeded in compelled the Maharaja of Mysore to reserve posts for them at provincial level.
  • Attaining partial SuccessThese groups succeeded and during 1874 and 1885, Mysore state reserved 20% of middle and lower level jobs in the police department for Brahmins and 80% for Muslims, Non-Brahmins Hindus and Indian Christians. From 1914, it introduced a system of nominations of qualified backward class, including untouchable and tribal candidates to the posts of Assistant Commissioners.
  • Led to ‘Sons of soil policy’ Between 1881 and 1910, the demand for jobs for locals was inspired by a sort of “Sons of the Soil” theory, when Tamil Brahmins displaced from Madras, went to Mysore in large numbers and occupied most of the Government jobs there.
  • Foundations laid down formallyThe foundation of Reservation Policy was formally laid down by Sir Leslie Miller, Chairman, of the First Backward Class Commission of Mysore Government in 1918.
  • Attention towards the educational advancementRepresentatives of Minorities/backward classes for Indian Constitutional reforms, in 1919 had commented that the British authorities attached importance to the educational advancement of the depressed and Backward classes.[iii]
  • British Government refrained to stigmatize any section as ‘Backwards’ – Earlier British Government refrained to classify any section of Indian Society as backwards and stigmatize it at national level by official acknowledgement of their low status. Till 1932, Reservations/Preferences to various sections of society were confined to Provincial and local levels.
  • “Equality and no privileges” – All India Women’s Conference, a premier NGO, along with Women’s Indian Association and the National Council of Women in India, submitted a Memorandum to the First Round Table Conference saying, “Equality and no privileges, a fair field and no favour”. “By merit and merit alone do we wish to find – and we are confident we shall find – a place in the Councils and Federal Legislatures of our country.”
  • Communal Award of 1932Deep disappointment was felt when the Committee ignored the demands of national leaders and finalized its recommendations. Reservations were for the first time of national  appeared on national scene formally with the Communal Award of 1932. In July 1934, instructions were issued by Government Order to schedule a list of people entitled for preferential treatment in matter of education and appointments in Government and special electoral representation.
  • Difficulties in deciding criteria for ‘Backwardness’ The Government faced many difficulties in deciding to whom and by what standard, must the people be included in the list of beneficiaries.
  • Caste as a primary basisThe selection of castes had been done primarily on Hutton’s 1931 Census criteria, The British Government opted for caste instead of individual as the primary basis for inclusion in the list. Caste appeared to British rulers a social unit, which included more or less similar kind of individuals in attitude, behavior, literacy rate and socio-economic conditions.  They found caste as easier way to find out their rank in the socio-economic hierarchy.
  • Categorization of Indian social-structure – the Imperial authorities recognized the following as weaker sections of society, which need special care of the Government for their development–
    • Scheduled Castes
    • Scheduled Tribes
    • OBCs – Other Backward Class
    • Women and Children, and
    • Minority Communities.
  • Scheduled Caste Order of 1936 Scheduled Caste Order of 1936 officially recognized through a legal process the castes belonging to lower strata of Indian Society under the name of scheduled caste”. Initially there were about 40 million people, belonging to 432 castes in SC’s list. No Indian Christian or Buddhist or tribal was included in that list.
  • After IndependenceA major change came after independence. All political parties advocated Reservation Policy vehemently for marginalized sections of society almost in all government jobs.
  • Equal opportunity as fundamental rightConstitution of India through Article 16 guarantees equal opportunity and equal protection to all in employment or appointment to any office under the State, irrespective of caste, creed or gender, descent, place of birth or any of them.
  • Directive PrinciplesSimultaneously in its Directive Principle chapter directs the government to provide within 10 years free and compulsory education to all children below 14 years and to promote with special care educational and economic interests of weaker sections.
  • Emergence of strong pressure groups on caste basisGroups of different castes and sub-castes had already emerged as strong pressure groups to serve their sectional interests. They now and then use blatantly caste-identity to put pressure on governments for inclusion in beneficiary’s list.
  • First & Second Backward Class commissions To find out issues responsible for the backwardness and find out its solutions in 1955 and in 1980. The first Backward Class commission had identified 2399 communities as backward comprising (about 32% of the total population). Second one, Mandal Commission identified 3743 castes (about 52% of the total population) as backwards.
  • Doubts efficacy of reservations More the government and regional political parties yield to the demand of caste-based pressure-groups for continuing reservation in jobs and promotions and inclusion of more castes in beneficiary list for Reservations, more resentment is generated against Reservation Policy during 1970’s and 80s. Doubts have always been raised from time to time in the minds of non-beneficiary section of society about the efficacy of reservation policy.
  • Left deep scars in public mind In 1990’s, after the decision to implement Mandal Commission Report and then in 2006, agitation against reservation took a major turn by forming a shape of national movement, affecting many parts of the country. Though the authorities were able to suppress it somehow, it left deep scars.
  • Led to Brain-drain – In search of greener pastures, cream of the nation was forced to leave their own motherland and move to foreign lands. Indian society has been partitioned again for the second time after 1947, talented youth settling abroad, leaving their old parents alone back home. The trend of brain drain has created many social problems for twenty first century people –
    • Cut-throat competition amongst different sections of society for seats of power and to be one-up – Such a development has divided indian society into numerous water-tight compartments on lines of caste and community.
    • Separated families – Lacks of families got separated and suffered after the partition of the India and Pakistan in 1947. But worse type of separation has happened now, when talented and meritorious youth have migrated to foreign lands in search of greener pastures, fatter salaries and better work culture. The old parents have been left behind, as they are unable to cope with the economic, emotionally and physically because of their failing energies with age.
    • With the age longevity with the advancement in medical science arena, the number of senior citizens is increasing continuously. Making proper arrangement for their welfare, safety and security, in the absence of their younger generation family members is posing a big problem before the government.
    • Need of protectionist policies forever – It appears that SCs, STs and OBCs will never be able to stand on their feet and survive without protectionist policies like reservation, and other privileges.

Conclusion – Time has come when government should re-evaluate its policies about giving protection to certain social groups. Instead of giving them short term benefits, government should focus on giving all sound education and well-planned income-generating skills for the sustainable development of downtrodden.

June 22, 2018 - Posted by | Reservation/Affirmative action program |

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