ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Politics of Reservation Categories in Uttar Pradesh

Some of the Other Backward Classes in Uttar Pradesh want to be classified as scheduled castes, while some of the latter want to be reclassified as scheduled tribes. Despite the politics behind these demands, most of the castes demanding reclassification have good reason to feel that the benefits of reservation have passed them by. It is the invisibility of the numerically small castes with little education and no voice that has to be ended before the fruits of development can reach them. 

When the renowned social scientist M N Srinivas studied the process of sanskritisation, he noted that the lower castes were eager to move into the upper-caste categories.1 Society, at that time, was not an institution that was inferior to the nation state in any way. Possibly the allure of the nation state was not as powerful then. An adage of Indian villages was, Uttam kheti madhyam baan, nisidh naukri bheek saman. Translated this means that farming was the most respectable profession and service the least honourable. But now the reverse is true. Private or government service lends position and respectability, while farming is lacklustre and non-profitable.

The tussle among many middle and most backward castes to be included in government and state-created institutions is very keen. This is because the backward classes enjoy the benefits of reservations and quotas, which translate into assured government jobs. The question is whether the positions of the poor, the marginal, the backward, and the dalit will improve if they are included in the categories created by the state and the government.2 Will it bring about social justice, empowerment and emancipation? These processes must be seen as non-sanskritisation and linked-with-power reservation quotas. Some of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) wish to acquire scheduled caste (SC) status, while a section of the SCs desire to be included as scheduled tribes (STs) since they are not getting the benefits of the SC quota. The political economy of these shifts of categories and quotas is most interesting.

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