- Dalit community took to the streets against a Supreme Court order on the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
- Centre filed an appeal against the SC order and also assured the community that caste-based quotas will continue.
A look at how these quotas came into being in the first place and why they are such a sensitive matter..
How did the concept of Scheduled Castes evolve?
During colonial rule, the British classified historically disadvantaged sections in India’s rigid caste hierarchy as depressed classes.
- In the August 4, 1932, Communal Awards, they extended their proposal of separate electorates for Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, etc. to the depressed classes as well.
But Indian leaders saw it as part of the British ploy of divide and rule.
- Mahatma Gandhi staged a fast, broken after B R Ambedkar agreed to the Poona Pact, whereupon it was accepted that instead of separate electorates, there will be reserved constituencies for the depressed classes. The first listing (scheduling) of these castes was started in preparation for the 1937 elections.
How was the term ‘Scheduled Tribe’ born?
Most of the tribal population was not included among depressed classes.
- According to the historian Ramachandra Guha, the first report on minority rights made public in August 1947 provided for reservations for untouchables only.
- Jaipal Singh Munda, who was representing the tribal community in the constituent assembly, called for reservation for tribals too.
- The proper task of scheduling tribes and making an inclusive schedule for deprived classes happened in 1950 when the Constitution of India came into force, providing also for reservation in government service and education to redress the historical under-representation of these sections in these institutions.
What are Other Backward Classes (OBCs) ?
The Constitution had a provision to allow, in the future, reservations for other backward classes.
- Thus, the Second Backward Classes Commission (Mandal Commission) was constituted and it submitted its report in 1980, recommending reservation for persons from socially and economically backward classes (also known as other backward classes), which came into force on August 13, 1990.
What is the population of OBCs?
India saw its last caste census in 1931, after which it was discontinued and, hence, unlike for SCs and STs, there is no census data for OBCs.
- The Mandal Commission estimated that OBCs constituted about 52% of the population.
- The National Sample Survey Organisation’s 2004-05 survey had put their share at 41%.
The Socio-Economic Caste Census (2011) was supposed to ascertain the caste-wise population. But its final report is awaited.
What do social and economic indicators tell us about the various social groups?
The indicators do point to the deprivation among SC, ST and OBC communities.