UPSC MAINS 2019 : Quota politics

Quota politics

Topic : Quota politics

Topic in Syllabus: General Studies Paper 2: Indian Polity



Quota politics

The government of Uttar Pradesh has included 17 communities belonging to the Other Backward Classes(The additions are — Nishad, Bind, Mallah, Kewat, Kashyap, Bhar, Dhivar, Batham, Machua, Prajapati, Rajbhar, Kahar, Pottar, Dhimar, Manjhi, Tuhaha and Gaur.) in the Scheduled Castes list. This move is claimed to be an attempt by the U.P government to provide these socially and economically backward classes with the benefits of reservation after removing legal irritants that have stalled the issue in the past. The move is expected to leave greater space in the OBC quota for the remaining OBC caste groups.



Procedure to declare a caste

  • On the basis of the 1931 censusthat the British government had conducted, the Government of India 1935 Act was promulgated. The reservation for the “Depressed Classes” was incorporated into the act, which came into force in 1937.
  • This “Depressed class” later came to known as the Scheduled Caste. After India got its independence, the Constitution continued the affirmative action for the ‘depressed class’ which were now termed as ‘Scheduled Caste’ and ‘Scheduled Tribe’.
  • According to the Constitution of India, under article 341(1), the President of India, after consultation with the Governor, may specify, “the castes, races, tribes or parts of groups within castes or races, which shall be deemed to be Scheduled Castes”.
  • Accordingly, the President has notified the Scheduled Castes in the order called ‘Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order-1950’ and the ‘Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes List (Modification) Order-1956.
  • However, under article 341(2), the Parliament of India by law can include or exclude the above-mentioned groups from the list of the Scheduled Castes.
  • Part 3 of the Presidential order of 1950states that “no person who professes a religion different from the Hindu [the Sikh or the Buddhist] religion shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste.” This clearly lays down a religious barrier which states that any person who is not a Hindu, Buddhist or a Sikh, will not be entitled to reservation on the basis of being a Scheduled Caste.


Instances where state tried to declare some backward class as SC

  • Uttar Pradesh has unsuccessfully tried to get some backward castes declared as Scheduled Castes in the past,
  • Once during the tenure of Mulayam Singh, and again during the rule of Akhilesh Yadav.
  • In 2016, a notification was issued stating that 17 castes were to be treated as Scheduled Castes. The matter reached the Allahabad High Court, but in an interim order in March 2017, the court observed that in case any certificates were issued on the basis of the notification, these would be subject to the outcome of the litigation.
  • More than two years later, this order has been utilised by the Yogi Adityanath government to restore the proposal in an oblique manner.


Issues with this provision

  • No doubt, these 17 castes comprise the most disadvantaged among the backward classes.
  • Categorising the backward classes into two or three sections has been seen as one way to apportion the benefits of reservation among many social groups.
  • In such an exercise, these castes may qualify for a compartment within the OBC quota.
  • However, treating them as Scheduled Castes is beset with problems. For one thing, they may not qualify to be treated as SCs because they may not have suffered untouchability and social discrimination.
  • Given the legal limitations on the State government’s power to expand the SC list, it is not difficult to discern a political motive behind any move to confer SC status on sections of the OBC


Why is it politically significant?

  • According to an estimate by the UP Backward Classes Welfare Department, these 17 castesmake up around 15% of the state’s population.
  • A caste in the SC list gets more government benefitsthan one in the OBC list.
  • Also, since the OBC population is large, there is close competition among OBC groups for reservation benefits. If these 17 castes are moved to the list of SCs, they will face less competitionbecause the SC population is smaller.
  • For the present regime, the move could help carve out a vote bank from the newly declared SC groups.



The move could help carve out a vote bank from the newly declared SC groups. The U.P. government would be well-advised to avoid misleading vulnerable sections with the promise of SC status. Union minister pointed out that the power of Parliament cannot be usurped by a state. Mr. Misra said the Union government should issue an advisory, clearly stating that the State government’s order was “unconstitutional” and should be withdrawn with immediate effect.


Sample Question:

Is reservation system a programme for poverty-removal.? What are the true objectives of reservation system? (200 Words)



Quota politics infograph