The debate about reservation and caste-wise census in the country is intensifying afresh. In such a situation, those who are actually backward castes should be alert because the so-called big castes have entered the OBC list of the central and state governments. They are taking advantage of the reservation which should be given to economically and socially backward classes.
Upper Caste Infiltration
The infiltration of upper castes in the list of OBC states and central governments did not happen overnight. Mandal commission had recommended 27 per cent reservation in government jobs. Almost since the VP Singh government implemented that recommendation, the upper caste infiltration started in the OBC list. For example, in Karnataka, there are many economically backward castes in the state’s OBC list for reservation. Among them there are also Gaur Saraswat Brahmins. The Gaur Saraswat Brahmins are actually part of the Saraswat Brahmins. My mother used to tell that the position of Saraswat Brahmins in society was so high that they were considered worthy of worship. If you look at the list of Other Backward Classes in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, it is known that upper castes like Saurashtra Brahmins are included in them.
Because of their status in the caste system, the life of Brahmins was easier than others. As a business, his work was to read and teach religious things and to do worship and recitation etc. In return they were given food items, clothes and other gifts. Accommodation was also made either in or around the temple. According to the Mandal Commission, OBCs are considered to be those who are socially and educationally backward. In such a situation it is a puzzle that when, how and why Brahmins became socially and educationally backward.
Rajputs are also in the OBC list of states. Lodhi Rajputs in Uttarakhand and Kashyap Rajputs in Punjab. Rajput means son of the king. Seen as a caste, Rajputs ruled all the areas of India for many centuries. His status as a warrior and ruler was always highest in the caste hierarchy. So how can the ruling caste be called ‘backward’? The Maratha community, which claims to be a descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji in Maharashtra, wants to come in the OBC list. There are also many such castes in the OBC list of states, which have a significant amount of land. Such is the Patel community in Rajasthan. The Jat community is also similar.
The biggest irony is for the so-called lower castes. These include not only Marathas, but also Dalits. By transforming himself into fighters, he escaped his historical backwardness and became the ruler. For example, Scindia and Gaikwad. Then who dared to call these castes as OBCs?
Many castes were left behind because of Brahmins, Kshatriyas and castes having substantial land holdings. The social system created by these upper castes and the customs they imposed, resulted in the loss of opportunities at the hands of the real OBCs. The life of these real OBCs got stuck in petty businesses. The upper castes set social, economic and occupational boundaries and these true OBCs were not allowed to cross them.
Once upon a time, being born in a low caste was a curse in itself. But many castes in modern India are demanding that they be treated as ‘backward’. They really want to take advantage of reservation. In the social circle, they are taking advantage of the upper caste status and in the economic circle they want to avail the benefits of reservation.
On August 10 this year, both the houses of Parliament passed the 127th Amendment Bill unanimously. This bill restored an authority of the states. Now they can decide which caste will be in their list of OBC and who will not. This will start a new ruckus. Upper castes will insist that they be placed in the OBC list. The leaders will obey him for votes.
The list of OBC must be prepared at the state level because a caste may be backward in one state and not in another state. But for making the list, independent institutions are needed at the state level, which are not under the influence of politicians. Also, those with the creamy layer should also not be kept in the list. This is also the ruling of the Supreme Court.
Anyway, the issue of enumeration of castes has become quite complicated. In the 1901 census, it was told that there were one thousand 646 castes in India. By the time of the 1931 census, this number had increased two and a half times. It was told that there are 4 thousand 147 castes in the country. The number of castes in the country has increased a thousand times since the 1931 census.
mistakes in census
The social, economic and caste census was conducted for the first time in 2011 in the country. That census revealed 46 lakh categories as castes, sub-castes, surnames, gotras, clans etc. There are more than eight crore errors in the details of castes that were recorded in that census. State governments have corrected about seven and a half crore mistakes, but still 1.5 crore remain the same. We do not know, however, on what grounds the government officials considered certain details to be incorrect and on what grounds they were corrected.
On August 10 this year, the government finally declared the 2011 Census as impure. He has promised that when the census to be held every ten years is completed, then another caste-wise census will be conducted. But the Government of India should ask what is the need of caste wise census? And wouldn’t that be biased?
(The author is Professor of Social Policy at Columbia University, USA)
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are those of the author.