Which boxes fall under SC ST

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Even if the importance of the caste system has declined, especially in urban areas, belonging to the caste is still the central attribute of every individual for the vast majority of the population.

So the Indian government sees it as its task to take measures to achieve a balance between the various groups. In this context, India continues to favor the measure of reserving state-financed jobs for members of certain castes.

These quotations are of immense importance, since 80% of the organized sector, which includes public institutions as well as private companies with more than ten employees, fall into this area.

Even before independence, it was customary for the British administration to reserve posts for members of certain castes. After independence, the Indian constitution then provided the basis on which 22.5% of all government agencies initially gave members of the disadvantaged castes and tribes (Scheduled castes (SC, too Dalits) or. Scheduled Tribes (ST)) were guaranteed. Thus it says in Article 15 (2):

"Nothing in this article ... is intended to prevent the state from making special provisions for the development of social or educational backward classes of citizens, or of the Scheduled castes and the Scheduled Tribesto enact. "(1)

The reservation policy is dealt with in Article 16 (4):

"Nothing in this article ... is intended to prevent the state from making special provisions for reserving appointments or posts for backward classes of citizens who, in the state's opinion, are not adequately represented in civil service." (2)

So it wasn't just for them Scheduled castes and the Scheduled Tribes the possibility of a special treatment provided, but also for other as "backward" to be described castes. To identify these other "backward" boxes (OBC - Other backward classes) two commissions were convened: the "Kaka Kalelkar Commission" (1953) and the "Mandal Commission" (1979), each named after its chairman.

Kaka-Kalelkar Commission

The Kaka-Kalelkar Commission, convened in 1953, developed four criteria for identifying the OBCs:

  1. low social positioning of the caste in the traditional caste hierarchy,
  2. low level of education of the majority of caste members,
  3. insufficient representation in the public sector and
  4. insufficient representation in trade and industry.

Despite these vague and flexible criteria and the very fragmentary Indian census data, the commission came to 2,399 "backward communities", of which 837 were classified as "very backward". To encourage this, reservation rates of 25% to 40% for various levels of the public sector and 70% for most educational institutions have been proposed.

After the report was published, however, several of the commissioners, including their President Kalelkar, surprisingly issued statements in which they distanced themselves from the results of the report. For this reason and because of the weak methodology and the large number of castes to be supported, the Commission's proposals have not been implemented.

As a result, a large number of divergent criteria and quotas were implemented in the individual Union states.

Mandal Commission

The Mandal Commission, set up by Prime Minister Morarji Desai in 1979, first carried out a social and educational survey to identify the other 'backward' castes and groups across the country. For this purpose, data from the regional groups were collected in two villages and one urban quarter per district. A scheme was used in which four indicators were set for the social situation, three for the level of education and four indicators for the economic situation. These included, among other things:

  • The caste is historically viewed as backward by other castes,
  • its members are mainly dependent on manual labor,
  • 25% of women and 10% of men (above the national average) marry in rural areas before they reach the age of 17, or 10% & 5% in urban areas,
  • the labor participation of women is 25% above the national average,
  • the nearest water point is more than 500 meters away for 50% of the members.

These indicators were weighted according to the category: with four points for social backwardness, three for educational and two for economic backwardness. This was based on the view that the Commission took the view that social backwardness was the decisive element, the educational situation the connecting factor and the economic situation the resulting element.

The “backward” castes determined regionally using these criteria were then summarized in an India-wide list. In total, the commission came to 3,743 castes that could be classified as backward, which together make up around 52% of the Indian population (i.e. far more castes than identified by the Kalelkar commission).

In addition to the proposal to reserve 27.5% of state posts and positions and places in universities and other state educational institutions, the commission made proposals on own OBC ministries, land reforms, separate financial institutions and separate educational programs.


When completed in 1980, the Mandal Commission report remained under the governments of Indira and Rajiv Ghandi (Congress (I)) untouched until 1990. Only on August 7, 1990, Prime Minister V.P. Singh (Janata Dal) The implementation of the Mandal recommendations surprisingly and probably mainly for reasons of election tactics. This triggered violent protests among members of the higher castes, especially in northern India, which even led to self-immolations in Uttar Pradesh.

However, before concrete laws were drawn up, the Singh government dissolved and (after a brief interim government) was replaced by a minority government under Prime Minister Narasimha Rao (after a brief interim government) in the next elections.Congress (I)) replaced. Rao drove, also on an instruction of the Supreme Courts move forward with the Mandal matter and on September 25, 1991 brought an extensive package of legislative proposals to the public.

These even went beyond the Mandal proposals and, on the one hand, provided for reservations of an additional 10% for the economically weaker among the castes, which were actually above the OBC criteria. Not only was the original objective of compensating for historical social disadvantage in India taken ad absurdum, but also the 50% reservation limit that prevailed according to the prevailing opinion was broken. (3) On the other hand, economic criteria were provided for applicants from the OBCs in order to attract the wealthier from these castes (creamy layers) to be excluded from privileges.

Some parts of the public sector were not reserved for reservations; so among other things armed forces, nuclear power plants and the space program, higher ministerial positions as well as professorships at most universities. However, a detailed list of the non-reserved areas has not yet been published.

The constitutional review by the Supreme CouOn November 16, rt produced the following results, among others:

  • The reservations on the basis of the Mandal lists are permitted,
  • the introduction of criteria to exclude the wealthier from the "backward" castes is also constitutional,
  • Reservations of 10% for boxes other than those identified as OBC are not allowed,
  • the reservations for the SC / ST remain unchanged.

The implementation of the Mandal ruling in concrete regulations and laws is ongoing until now and is proceeding at very different speeds in the individual states of the Union.

In practice, the reservation process is usually carried out in such a way that advertised positions are equipped with two different requirement profiles, whereby members of the OBC may refer to the lower of the two.

Criticism of the methodology of the Mandal Commission

To identify the OBCs, the Mandal Commission created a catalog with eleven criteria. As a result, the catalog contains criteria with reference to historical conditions as well as those with reference to the current condition, which above all gives rise to problems of coherence. Examples are the indicators of the low age at marriage and the proportion of working women: It is by no means the case that marriage at a young age was a characteristic of lower castes in the traditional caste system, but was and is mainly practiced by higher castes (and today is partly imitated by low castes). Conversely, a high proportion of working women may have been a characteristic of low castes in the past, but today it is often also the economically more advanced castes in which women increasingly take advantage of the opportunity to enter professional life.

It is also interesting that several of the criteria relate to illegality or the omission of state measures. Criteria reflect the poor provision by the state in the education sector or testify to the inadequate implementation of the Child Marriage Acts or the drinking water supply laws. Criteria of this kind make it comparatively more difficult for the disadvantaged castes in states like Kerala, which tend to play a pioneering role in providing basic services to their citizens, to fall into the categories mentioned.

Ultimately, due to the multitude of criteria and thus of ways to achieve OBC status, the commission identified many more groups than just those in need. Not only historically disadvantaged castes, which have meanwhile overcome the disadvantages, but also, conversely, formerly higher castes, which are now rather impoverished, found their way. Overall, 52% of the Indian population have received OBC status. The proportion of those really in need is estimated at no more than half as many people.

The subsequent application of the criteria in the surveys, which were only carried out in two villages and one urban district, is also worthy of criticism. Since the composition of the castes fluctuates extremely regionally and locally, just like their respective reputations or their economic prosperity, an investigation of such a small extent could hardly produce a realistic picture.

Surely the India-wide collection of the relevant data is extremely time-consuming, but for massive welfare programs such as the reservations of this kind, an arbitrary distribution basis is rather counterproductive. This minority was carried out by the administrative officials of the respective districts, the results of which were summarized in the India-wide list, without taking regional differences into account. This is worrying, since it is ultimately also about reservations in the so-called Central Services goes, e.g. in the state administration or India-wide companies such as the railway company.

In the final report of the commission, an exact list of the boxes including the data collected is searched in vain; the entire elevation thus remains extremely opaque.

Political dimension

Both at the first announcement of the planned implementation of the Mandal proposals in 1990 by V.P. Singh, as well as in the draft law of the Congress-Government a year and a half later, political tactical considerations cannot be overlooked.

Singh came under heavy political pressure in the summer of 1990. The Yat- Leader and intra-party rival Devi Lal resigned from the government under harsh criticism of Singh after his son, the Prime Minister of Haryana, was charged with corruption. Lal announced a large farmers' demonstration in Delhi on August 9th to demonstrate political strength.
At the same time, the controversy surrounding the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya intensified. Although Singh's minority government has been tolerated by the BJP (and the Left front) was dependent, the prime minister refused to accept the request for the temple to be built. The BJP increased its agitation by doing preparations for the Ram Rath Yatra began a propaganda tour that BJP boss L.K. Advani was to run 10,000 kilometers through India from September.

On August 7th, two days before Lal's show of force, Singh surprisingly declares that he wants to implement the 10-year-old recommendations of the Mandal Commission. With this move, the prime minister hoped to kill two birds with one stone: with the promise of the Other backward castes To grant easier access to administration and education, Singh sought his followers for the power struggle Janata Dal–To mobilize Patriarch Devi Lal. At the same time, with the mandal propositions, he relied on a policy of caste identity around the Hindutva-Wave (of which the agitation around the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya was a part), which swept more and more lower castes with it.

On November 7, Singh's government fell after the BJP withdrew its support. His successor, Chandra Shekar, stayed in office for only four months. Singh's attempt to distinguish himself as a "Mandal Messiah" in the upcoming elections failed. The following Congress-Minority government under Narasimha Rao (like Singh before) carried out a 180-degree turn from mandal opposition to supporter of the proposals. Here are the reasons in upcoming regional elections and the struggle of the CongressParty to seek their political survival. In the from Congress proposed (and from Supreme Court refused) an additional 10% reservations for the economically weak among the higher castes may be a concession to the traditional electorate CongressParty to be seen.

So one can ask oneself whether the overall goal is really to overcome the caste system, or whether the focus is more on election tactics and clientelism.

Need for reservations

Reservations of any kind are a strong encroachment on the equality of opportunity for every individual, which is guaranteed in Article 16 (1) of the Indian Constitution. In the Indian context, however, the prevailing opinion is that equal opportunities cannot exist anyway, since the caste system imposes unequal opportunities on the citizens. The overall goal of creating a classless and caste-free state is also set higher than individual freedom. Individual equal opportunities are even viewed as counterproductive, as they tend to exacerbate existing inequalities.

In the difference between the individual right to equal opportunities and the reservations, which are aimed at groups, one can read the balancing act between modern objectives and historical realities that continue to have an impact, to which the Indian state has to face for better or for worse.

In the Indian context one can distinguish three justifications for the reservation policy: the compensation argument, the argument of proportional equality and the argument of power distribution.

Compensation or reparation is based on the idea of ​​compensating for disadvantages in the past. The problem with this is that neither the current beneficiaries are the previously disadvantaged, nor are the formerly superior now those who have to foot the bill. The argument is based on the idea of ​​group membership that continues through the generations - but this is precisely what one would actually like to overcome in India.

The second argument, proportional equality, addresses the current representation of the population in government functions. The allocation of positions on the basis of performance and merit can exacerbate extreme inequalities. An attempt is made to counteract this through the proportional distribution to groups that are formed according to certain criteria (here: caste membership or socio-economic status). The idea that post-independence benefits are "new acquis" goes in the same direction. Their distribution must therefore not take place on the basis of historical social structures, but must be distributed evenly among the population groups or strata. The consequences, however, are obvious: on the one hand, the caste boundaries are strengthened instead of being dissolved; on the other hand, the efficiency of the public sector suffers considerably.

The last argument, that of power distribution, is based on the fact that positions in the public sector have not only an economic but also a political dimension. Distribution to the various groups is intended to ensure that everyone also participates in the power that the occupation of government posts inevitably entails.However, disadvantages can result from the indirect support of caste-related clientelism.

Broadcast effects

In the evaluation of the implementation of the mandal proposals, two further effects should be included, which are summarized under the keyword 'mandalisation' and which will probably have far stronger effects on the Indian population than the reservations themselves.

The most important effect, be it unintentional or even benevolently accepted, is certainly the strengthening of caste consciousness within the Indian population. On the one hand, the topic of "caste" has again a high media presence and is the subject of discussion across all social classes. On the other hand, Kaste has also received a new practical dimension - it decisively determines the prospects for a job. Symptoms of this development include caste-related violence, which is particularly common in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

The second effect is that the granting of a special status of backwardness to certain castes, which has positive consequences, has led to a kind of race for backwardness. The trait "backwardness" now has an attraction, which is expressed, for example, in adoptions and marriages. For example, it was clarified in court in which cases the partner by marriage or the adopted child, who come from a higher cast, can assert the OBC status of his partner or his parents. In the case of adoption, there are even signs of adoption trafficking.


By reserving state posts and places in education, the Indian government is pursuing the goal of compensating for the economic inequalities that exist between caste groups. Two commissions were set up to identify the castes to be favored. The methods of both commissions must be described as unsatisfactory under scientific criteria; nevertheless, the results of the second commission have been implemented since 1991.

There are several arguments in favor of making reservations. Among other things, these include the preference given to historically disadvantaged groups for the purpose of compensation, the more equitable distribution of power and the strengthening of weaker groups through participation. The disadvantages that have to be accepted, however, are above all a deterioration in efficiency due to the lower qualifications of the employees and the possible indirect promotion of caste-related clientelism. The most serious disadvantage, however, is that the caste boundaries are strengthened. The impression arises that the reservation policy is driving the Beelzebub out with the devil. Because in order to eliminate the existing caste structure, it is used as the basis for the measures taken - which as a consequence must result in its confirmation and reinforcement.


(1) "Nothing in this article ... shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially of educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes."

(2) "Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provisions for the reservation of appointments or posts in favor of any backward class of citizens which in the opinion of the State, is not adequatly represented in the services of the state. "

(3) 22.5% for SC / ST, 27.5% for OBC, 10% for other economically backward castes plus 3% for the disabled.


  • Radhakrishnan, P. (1997): Mandal Commission Report. Sociological Critique, in: Srinivas, M. N. (Ed.): Caste. Its Twentieth Century Avatar, New Delhi: Penguin Books India, pp.203-221
  • Sivaramayya, B. (1997): The Mandal Judgment. A Brief Description and Critique, in: Srinivas, M. N. (Ed.): Caste. Its Twentieth Century Avatar, op cit, pp 221-244