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Glamourization of “Backwardness” in India

-Introduction

There was a time, when the Government at national level consistently refrained itself to calling any section of Indian Society as backward. Even foreign rulers at that time considered that it would be unfair to stigmatize any group by official acknowledgement of their low status. It was considered it unfair because, Owing to social disabilities, to which members of the depressed classes are exposed, it would be in the highest degree undesirable that any official authorization might appear to extend to such qualification. The fluidity of social distinctions and the efforts of the classes, lowest in the scale, aided by social reformers, to improve their status, make it more desirable, that Government should abstain from doing anything, which would tend to give rigidity to these distinctions.i Therefore, they attached importance to the educational advancement of the depressed and Backward classes.ii

Why attraction towards backwardness? – Policy of preferential treatment through Reservation in employment and other spheres is responsible for such development. However, after Independence, political acceptance of Reservation as a tool of social/political engineering has glamorized backwardness. The time when people thought it a stigma to be called Backward has gone with the wind. No more, is there any need for a Shudra or a Chamar to desire for a higher status in the hierarchy of caste system or to be called a Brahmin or upper caste. Now in the 21st century with fundamental rights to all, many stringent laws and strong political parties to pursue and protect sectional  interests of backwards or Dalits and ample of opportunities to enter into the corridor of power structure through reservations, many privileges bestowed on backward castes for their empowerment has reversed the trend.

 Backwardness’ becoming a as status symbolBackwardness has become a status symbol. Numerous caste groups, which clamored for higher caste status in Census operations of 1901, 1911, and 1921 and justified their claims with different arguments and factors, now vie with each other to be included, preferably in SC list, failing which in OBCs list. The percentage of enumerated OBC population in early 50s was 18.9% and their estimated population was 31.8%. Kaka Kalelkar Commission identified 2399 castes as backward in 1956 and Mandal 3748 castes in 1980. Still many more claim for inclusion into either SCT lists or OBC list. The trend indicates that after fifty years of the Independence, India generated more backwards than before.

Efforts by various sections to be included in beneficiary’s list of Government – Policy of Reservations on caste basis has created a vested interest in remaining or posing to be backward. Inclusion or any change in SCT list involves a difficult process, therefore, it is very difficult to find a place there. However, OBC list is flexible enough to accommodate more and expand indefinitely. Any caste-group, which could influence or pressurize local, state or central authorities, can succeed in getting OBC status easily. It is not very difficult to pressurize the authorities, in a set up of electoral politics, where only numerical strength counts.

Dominant castes included in the list of beneficiaries – Many times, the State authorities have reversed the suggestions made by various Commissions. In Karnataka Veerappa Moily has included politically dominant caste Vokaliggas and Lingayats in OBC list in contravention of the recommendations of all the earlier State Commissions (Nagar Gowda Commission, 1960, LG Havanur Commission, 1975, T Venkataswami Commission, 1985 and O Chinnappa Reddy Commission, 1990) or in AP, the sudden inclusion of Kapus and Muslims in OBC list by an Executive Order on 23.4.1994. against the recommendations of the earlier State Commissions (1968 and 1982) is an example. The Yadavs community, which comprises are sixth of the Indian population and has attributed three fourth of the contribution to India’s rich cultural heritage, sought its inclusion in the most backward caste list.iii

Increasing demand for backward status – More the Government includes new groups in the OBC list, more is the demand from left-over. Most of the castes included in OBC list are those, which had been a part of the traditional ‘jajmani-system’, not as a client, but as patrons. They have often been the ruling class and have enjoyed the access to the resources of the society. At present, most of them own land and other resources. The data of land holdings, sale-purchase of land and leasing of land makes it evident that much earlier, during 60s and 70s, upper castes have been replaced by the intermediate castes in the rural power structure. They are neither dependent on nor exploited by upper castes. The extension of Reservation to them is unjust.

Creating law and order problems – Job-Reservation for such communities, which have developed vested interest in retaining the title of backwardness, has created bad blood and unrest in students leading to violence. The student community feels threatened, demoralized and betrayed by the hollowness of slogans of the leaders like “the injustice of thousands years has to be wiped out through Reservation,” or “administration will be carried on not by the head but by the heart,” or “only 27% of 1% of all jobs are in question,” or “Reservations will be confined to recruitment and not promotions.” The youth of today is clear enough to visualize the constant pressure on authorities for more Reservations for more categories and in more areas.

i Indian Statutory Commission 1930 VI, p 341.

ii Mukherji P, Indian Constitution.

iii Times of India, dated, September 27, 1994, p7.

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June 5, 2010 - Posted by | Reservation/Affirmative action program |

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