Eleven months after the Vishwanath Pratap Singh government announced the implementation of the Mandal Commission report in August 1990 (which led to reservation for OBCs), the PV Narasimha Rao government moved towards liberalizing the country’s economy. Take initial steps.
Employment opportunities in the private sector increased and government jobs were no longer the primary driver for social and economic progress.
Certainly economic liberalization helped in increasing government revenue. It provided more funds for social welfare to the central and state governments.
For example, the present government says that the beneficiaries of many of its welfare schemes like Mudra Yojana are Other Backward Classes, Dalits and women.
Economic liberalization has also created skill-based employment for people belonging to Other Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes.
After the Mandal Commission report, the presence of Other Backward Class leaders in top positions increased in various incarnations of the former socialist parties.
The Bharatiya Janata Party showed more speed in adopting the change than the Congress.
Mandal changed the politics of North and West India. The states of South India had been watching this process since the 1960s.
However, the influential castes of Other Backward Classes mainly benefited from the Mandal Commission.
The poor condition of the country’s education system meant that even the marginalized among these castes could not acquire the skills to reap the benefits of economic liberalisation.
Meanwhile, there has been a significant increase in the state and central lists of Other Backward Classes since 1990.
In recent years, many castes like Marathas took to the streets to join this list. Leaders advocating social justice have demanded that reservation should be implemented in the private sector as well or that the time has come to break the 50 percent limit set by the Supreme Court for reservation.
In fact, in 2017, the Central Government constituted the Justice G Rohini Commission to re-examine the reservation formula and recommended creating sub-categories of Other Backward Class castes.
But due to lack of reliable data of backward class population, policy decisions were affected.
The last caste census was conducted in the year 1931 census. On the basis of that figure, the Mandal Commission had estimated that the backward class population in the country would be around 52 percent.
The caste survey conducted in Bihar removes that deficiency. There is a possibility that this will be emulated in other states also or caste census will be conducted.
Bihar caste survey has revealed that the share of backward classes in the population there is 63 percent.
More importantly, the extremely backward classes, composed of dozens of divided small castes, constitute 36 percent.
12.9 percent of the backward classes are Muslims. Of the 15.52 percent general population, 4.8 percent are Muslims.
Politically, there is a risk that the problem in caste counting could lead to further polarization and have long-term consequences.
However, with time, as Mandal politics has shown, all parties including BJP and Congress will have to change their political strategy according to the new scenario.
In this context, there will definitely be controversy regarding the 50 percent limit on caste-based quota.
The castes which did not get the benefit of Mandal Commission will demand their share.
But as Indian history shows, real progress can only come through rapid economic growth and investment in education and technology to achieve demographic dividend.
The political class should not focus on empowerment only through reservation.
Real empowerment of backward classes will happen only when the state can provide quality education and gainful employment.
Caste survey or more reservations cannot be an aim in itself.