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Social and political Values and Systems in India.

Kaka Kalelkar on assessing of backwardness on caste-basis

When you are in the light, everything follows you. But when you enter into dark, even your own shadow doesn’t follow you.” Hitler

Introduction – There was a time when people thought it a stigma to be called Backward.  Numerous caste groups clamored for higher caste status in Census operations of 1901, 1911, and 1921 and supported their claims with different factors. But now in 21st century casteism in politics and its use as a tool of social engineering has reversed the trend.   Different groups are vyeing with each other to be included, preferably in SC/ST list, failing in OBCs list. Caste-politics through protectionist/preferential policies have created a vested interest in remaining or pretending to be backward.  It has glamorized ‘backwardness’.

In accordance with the provision in Article 340, the first Backward Commission, with Kaka Kalelkar as its Chairman, was appointed in Jan 1953 by the Government of India, to recommend measures for the advancement of backward sections of Indian society.  It submitted its Report in March 1955.  The decision to de-emphasize caste in 1951 Census led the Commission to face paucity of data (caste-wise) on literacy, income, occupation of various communities.[i] The Commission depended mostly on the existing lists of states based on castes and communities as units and   the list of Ministry of Education while prescribing following four criteria to identify Backward Castes/communities –

  • Low social position in traditional caste hierarchy.
  • Illiteracy among the majority of a caste
  • Inadequate or lack of representation in Government service, and
  • Inadequate representation in trade commerce and industry.

Wayback in 1955, eight years after the Independence and five years after the constitution of India came into effect on 26 January 1950, the Commission had suggested –

  •  Education for all.
  • As an Economic and industrial measure, reorganizing Village economy like development of livestock, minimum wages, development of rural and cottage industries, hand-loom industry, village oil industry, coir industry.  Village handicrafts etc.
  • Improving communication system.
  • Stress on public health and rural water supply.
  • Taking care of rural housing.
  • Awareness to fight social evils and superstitions.

Had the successive governments focussed their attention on these suggestions instead of focussing their attention on abstract issues like linking caste as the basis of backwardness, social justice, empowerment of weaker sections through caste-based quota system, secularism etc, India would have been a developed nation by now. It is now that The present Modi Government has drawn the attention of the government and the people towards the schemes like of ‘Skill India’  and ‘Start-up India’ etc. depends how sincerely and honestly these ideas are implemented at ground level.

In the last minute, the chairman himself (Three of its members had already opposed linking caste as the basis of backwardness) repudiated its acceptance of caste as basis of backwardness and his recommendations for Reservations in public service. In his note of dissent Mr. Kalelkar noted-

  • It would have been better, if we would determine the criteria of backwardness on principles other than caste. [iii] According to him, caste test was repugnant to democracy and the objective “To create a casteless and classless society by perpetuating and encouraging caste divisions.[iv]
  •  It is not enough to prove that one community is regarded inferior by another.  The Christians may look down the Jews and the Jews may retaliate with the same feelings.  The Brahmins may regard Banias as inferior and the Bania, in his turn, may regard the Brahmin as a mere social dependent.  Such opinions and prejudices do not come in the way of the full growth of the backward communities either educationally or economically; if backward communities have neglected education, it is because they had no use for it.   Now they have discovered their mistake. It is for them to make necessary efforts for their prosperity.  They will naturally receive whatever help is available to all citizens. [xi]
  • Backwardness could be tackled on a basis or a number of bases other than that of caste.  Once we eschew the principle of caste, it will be possible to help the extremely poor and deserving from all communities… This would also enable us to remove the bitterness, which the extremely poor and helpless amongst the upper class Hindus feel that they are being victimized for no fault of their own.[v]
  • The special concession and privileges accorded to Hindu Castes acted as a bait and bribe inciting Muslim and Christian Society to revert to caste and caste prejudices and the healthy social reforms effect by Islam and Christianity were being thus rendered null and void. [ix]
  • We are not blind to the good intentions and wisdom of our ancestors, who built the caste structure.  It was perhaps the only way, through which they could teach the nation to forget and rise above racial clanship, tribal and similar biological groupings of society and to accept a workable arrangement of social existence based on cultural hierarchy and occupational self-government. [vi]
  • It would be well, if representatives of the Backward classes remembered that whatever good they find in the Constitution and the liberal policy of the Government, is the result of the awakened conscience of the upper classes themselves. Whatever Government is doing by way of atonement is readily accepted and acclaimed by the nation as a whole.  The upper classes have contributed their share in formulating the policies of the Government Removal of untouchability, establishment of equality and social justice, special consideration for backward classes, all these elements found place in the Constitution without a single voice of dissent from the upper classes. [ii]
  • Communalism and casteism are bound to destroy the unity of the nation and narrow down the aspiration of our people[vii]
  • “National solidarity in a democratic set up demands Government to recognize only two ends – the individual at one end and the nation as a whole at the other.  Nothing should be encouraged to organize itself in between these two ends to the detriment of the freedom of the individual and solidarity of the nation.  All communal and denominational organizations and groupings of lesser and narrower units have to be watched carefully, so that they do not jeopardize the national solidarity and do not weaken the efforts of the nation to serve the various elements in the body politic with equity.  Mutual help, mutual respect and mutual trust are the touchstone, on which all communal and denominational activities will be tested and anything that undermines it, will be expected and brought to book.[viii]
  • It is only, when a community or a group is proved to be working under a special handicap and is not allowed to freely function as a citizen, that the state may intervene and make a special provision for the advancement of such under privileged and handicapped communities or persons… A general formula for helping all persons to whatever caste or community, they may belong, should be made. [x]
  • n his letter forwarding the report, Kalelkar remarked I am definitely against Reservation in Government services for any community for the simple reason, that services are not meant for the servants, but they are meant for the service of society as a whole.

Mr. Kalelkar concluded that giving an additional weapon in weak hands is no remedy. The remedy of empowering the weaker section is worse than the evil, they were out to combat. I

GB Pant, Minister of Home Affairs, while presenting the Report in Parliament.    had commented “If the entire community, barring a few exceptions, has thus to be treated as backwards, the really needy would be swamped by the multitude. They would hardly receive any special attention or adequate attention. Nor would such dispensation fulfill the condition laid down in Article 340 of the Constitution, [xii]

It is quite unfortunate that even 71 years of self-rule, almost all political parties in India and their leaders use the ladder of caste to propagate their ideas and influence the opinion of poor illiterate masses in their favour just to create vote-banks for themselves.  Why are they not able to see the ill-effects of politicization of castes. The post – Mandal era is witnessing the hysteria over job Reservation and other such protectionist policies. Other sections of society are demanding Reservation with insistence.

Inter and Intra-Caste rivalries have been increasing continuously. Every caste is a conglomeration of sub-castes and sub-sub-castes. For political actions, they come together, bearing the same caste tag. But they do not forget their separate identities.   The unity of backward castes under the label of Dalits is an illusion created by vested interests. Neither the term Schedule caste”, nor OBC nor Dalit makes them a homogenous class. In-fights between these categories and created social disorder, making the task of governance difficult.

In the opinion of MSS Pandian, an academic with Madras Institute of Development Studies, the current inter caste rivalries are part of a series of periodic revolt, whose prime object is self assertion.[ Sunday, pp. 12-13, and 8-14, June, 1997]

 

[i]  71 First Backward Class Commission, 1955, P 17.

[ii]         BCCI, para III.

[iii]        BCCI, para XIV.

[iv]        BCCI, para XIV.

[v]         BCCI para VI.

[vi]        BCCI para IV.

[vii]        BCCI, para 59.

[viii]       BCC I, para IV.

[ix]        BCCI, para IV.

[x]         BCC I, para VIII.

[xi]        BCCI, para  VII & VIII.

[xii]        Report of the Ministry of Home Affairs, 1956, p4.

August 7, 2018 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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