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After the OBC Judgment

It is now time to interrogate orthodoxies on both sides of the reservations debate.

Backward Castes Census: An Outmoded Idea

While backward castes need to be profiled, the census is not the best method to do so. For, objective data is difficult to come by due to the concept of caste changing according to the context and the impossibility of enumerating small but significant changes when attempting to take a large, overall picture.

Caste Census

While the censuses in colonial India categorised and enumerated the various castes, the censuses in independent India only enumerate the population of castes and tribes according to the central government list. With the Supreme Court requiring fresh data on the other backward classes, how will the identification of the OBC from the 4,000 castes in the country be undertaken?

On Backwardness and Fair Access to Higher Education

Against the backdrop of the policy of reservation of seats in higher education for the Other Backward Classes in India, this paper examines two inter-related yet distinct issues: (i) the use of economic criteria for assessing the backwardness of different social groups, and (ii) assessment of fairness of access to higher education of an identified "backward" social group. On an analysis of the NSS 55th round surveys for 1999-2000 we show that, on a range of economic criteria, there is a clear hierarchy across (essentially) caste-based social groups, with the scheduled castes (in urban India) and the scheduled tribes (in rural India) at the bottom, the OBCs in the middle, and the non-SC/ST "Others" at the top. However, for the poor among them, there is more of a continuum across caste-groups, with surprisingly small differences between the OBCs and the non-SC/ST Others. It is also shown that for the OBCs as a group, and especially for over 70 per cent of them who are above the poverty line, the extent of their under-representation in enrolments at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels is less than 5 per cent. Therefore, a 27 per cent quota for the OBCs, which would effectively raise their share in enrolments to over 50 per cent when their share in the eligible population is 30 per cent or less, is totally unjustified.

Merits of Mandal II

ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY Merits of Mandal II The controversial proposal to institute reservations for the other backward classes (OBCs) in institutions of higher and professional education

Backward Caste Politics in Uttar Pradesh

The several political parties espousing the cause of the backwards in UP have played a part in reconfiguring the political agenda in the country and providing a platform for transformative politics. But on important issues, the performance of the backward movement in the state has been less than satisfactory. It has failed to address the issue of 'backward identity' and has been unable to develop a class politics.

The 'Creamy Layer'

Several times in post-independence India, questions have been raised on reservations and whether its true benefits have percolated to sections that really need them. The reality is that reservations have served essentially as tools to absorb privileged sections of the lower castes into the ruling classes. Moreover, the politics of caste 'identity' also founded on reservations, has helped push real economic problems facing the poor away from the centre stage.

BJP and Reservations

The issue of reservation has more often than not formed an important electoral issue for every party, especially on election eve and the BJP has not been an exception to this. But its harping on the 'economically backward classes' has meant a complete about-turn from the politics of 'Kamandal vs Mandal' that it preached through most of the early 1990s.

Other Backward Classes: Then and Now

Recent decades have marked a notable shift in the backward class movement marked by a move away from the clamour for kshatriya status towards a demand for greater access to state resources, representation in civic institutions and state recognition of numerous sub-caste identities that exist at a local level. With the issue of reservation acquiring a greater salience in electoral politics, however, the question remains whether the other backward classes as a category for public policy in contemporary India is still a measure for social and educational empowerment or has it dovetailed to a mere political trump card.

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