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

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Reservation Policy for Backward Classes

Extent and Determinants of Support

This paper examines the extent and determinants of popular support for reservation policy for the Scheduled Castes and the Other Backward Classes in India, using an individual-level opinion survey data set. It argues that the reservation policy, as well as its longitudinal extension and expansion into the private sector, is more supported than opposed, even though public opinion is polarised regarding its expansion to the private sector. Aside from the control variable of reservation status, those who are highly educated, female, rich, caste conscious, or have inter-caste friendships are likely to support reservation, whereas upper castes are less likely to support it.

The authors would like to acknowledge that this work was supported by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2017S1A52A01024239).

Reservation policy is a characteristically Indian affirmative action programme that has been implemented for several decades. Its target groups are three weaker sections of Indian society, that is, the Scheduled Castes (SCs), the Scheduled Tribes (STs) and the Other Backward Classes (OBCs). The SCs were formerly untouchable groups, and the STs are those backward tribal groups residing largely in mountainous and forest areas. The OBCs are a contentious category; they officially include both socially and educationally backward groups. The reservation or Indian quota system applies to three specific arenas of policy: recruitment to public offices; higher education admission; and election of representatives to the Lok Sabha (the lower house), state assemblies, and local self-government bodies, including panchayats. Elected seats in the lower house and state assemblies, however, are reserved for SCs and STs, but not for OBCs. Further, reservation does not extend to the private sector, unlike the United States (US) affirmative action programmes. This Indian reservation policy is one of the oldest and most comprehensive affirmative action programmes in the world.

Some studies examine in detail the content of the policy and its implementation problems in one of or all the three areas of reservation.1 It is beyond the scope of our research to discuss the details of the reservation policy. To better understand the policy, it is sufficient to mention two of its notable features here. The first feature is that SCs and STs do not have a so-called creamy layer category, whereas OBCs do. The creamy layer refers to the relatively rich or powerful upper layer families in the OBC community. They are excluded from reservation, even though they belong to the same OBC community as others.

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Published On : 27th Dec, 2019

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