What is the Mandal Commission?

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The Mandal Commission stands behind one of the most debated and controversial topics of the nation: Reservation. India, being a secular nation, is home to multiple numbers of religions with thousands of castes and sub-castes under those. Earlier the caste system stereotyped the castes into four major castes and now into two Upper or General caste and Other backward castes including Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes. Discrimination on the basis of caste wasn't a new thing as pre-independent India did face the evils of the caste system which eliminates the right to equality to its base.

The role played by the Mandal Commission in India towards the upliftment of backward classes of the society is still a matter of discussion. 

What is the Mandal Commission?

The Mandal Commission which was established on the 1st of January, 1979 was an efficient team of 5 members headed by B.P Mandal from whom the commission derived its name. The initiative for a commission to address the problems faced by the backward classes of India was taken by  Morarji Desai of the Janata Party. As were his words, the main motive of the commission was "to identify socially or educationally backward classes of India" and the commission was also known by the name of Socially and Educationally Backward classes commission or SEBC. 

The Mandal Commission conducted studies and surveys on the lives of the people and used certain indicators that enabled them to categorise people who are going to be benefitted the most in case after reservation. 
Even though the commission submitted its findings and conclusions regarding the reservations in 1983 due to political and social unrest the government took nearly 10 years to decide on the commission report. It was only implemented in 1990; a temporary stay was put in 1992.

Setting up of the Mandal Commission

As some of the states in South India had already implemented their own reservation policies for the backward classes in Government jobs and the Public Sector hadn't burst into protests and strikes, unlike the North Indian states, the activities of the Mandal Commission were concentrated majorly in the states of North India. 

The commission was formed under Article 15 of the Indian Constitution which proposed prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, and place of birth.

The commission was authorized to investigate the conditions and well being of the backward classes on the basis of every 10 years. 

The man behind the Mandal Commission

Bindheswari Prasad Mandal or B.P Mandal was the chairman of the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Commission (SEBC) or else The Mandal Commission. 

B.P Mandal hailing from Bihar was also a member of the Parliament of India and the 7th chief minister of Bihar. He belonged to the Zamindar Yadav community who were considered as being members of a backward caste. He was the second chief minister of Bihar who belonged to a backward class. The Government of India honoured him by releasing a stamp of B.P Mandal in 2002 and an Engineering College was named after him in 2007.

Reservation: Determinants and Policy

The Mandal Commission used a variety of criteria in order to make sure the ones who are going to be benefitted with a reservation are the same who deserve it completely. Thus, the reservation policy was designed under three major heads which were considered as determinants for making the decision of inclusion or exclusion of a specific caste from the reservation. They were-
Social determinants
Educational determinants
Economic determinants

Social Determinants

The social determinants of reservation had the highest weightage for categorising the classes. Some of the major criteria considered under social determinants include- 
  1. The specific caste which is considered as a backward class or not in the society among the general public.
  2. Most of the castes were determined on the basis of the form of labour they performed for their living and most of the people engaged in manual labour were considered as members of backward classes.
  3. The women belonging to the upper classes of society had restrictions to work and earn but lower classes didn't. Thus the participation of 25% or above of women in performing labour was considered as a criterion of backward sections.
  4. Last but not the least, as the lower sections of society had their children married at a very young age, 25% of females and 10% of males under the age of 17 who get married above the state average were considered as belonging to backward sections.

Educational Determinants

Just after the social determinants, Educational determinants of reservation had equal weightage which consider the education level of the population as the children from backward castes were denied the right to education before. Here, the major criteria considered are-

  1. Children between the ages of 5 to 15 who have never attended school.
  2. The dropout rate of students between the ages of 5 to 15. 
  3. The matriculate level education proportion.
(All of these factors which cover 25% above the state average and for matriculation 25% below the state average.)

Economic Determinants

These determinants are given the least weightage and these determinants were considered with the following criteria-
  1. Individuals and families living in Kutcha houses.
  2. The consumption of external loans by the household.
(25% above the state average)
  1. The value of assets owned by the individual or family at least 25% below the state average.
  2. The pure source of drinking water which is beyond ½ a kilometre from the household considering 50% of them.

11 factors were given weightage and the total points converted to 22. The castes/communities’ number above 50% or 11 points were considered as upper castes or General Category and those castes/communities who numbered below 50% or 11 points were categorised as Other Backward Castes (OBC) and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Mandal Commission findings, Implementation, and Protests

As was the report submitted by the Mandal Commission, 52% of the castes were categorised into OBC, SC, and ST. Among them, 3743 castes were considered backwards other than SC and ST. 

The final report of the Mandal Commission was submitted in 1980 along with the required data on the criteria used, factors considered and suggestions regarding the issue that backed up the findings. But unfortunately the report wasn't recognised as Ex PM Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi weren't ready to work against the public will as it could have led to political and social unrest. 
But later in 1990, PM V.P Singh declared that there would be a 27% reservation provided for the backward classes who were categorised in the report in central government services and other public undertakings. 

Even though cases were registered against the report of Mandal Commission and declaration on reservation the process met a temporary stay order, the violations weren't strong enough to be banned. 

But this led to a lot of protests and strikes mainly in the states of North India. Students led these protests and it caused civil unrest. Shops, schools, colleges, offices, government buildings were destroyed as the student wing of both BJP and Congress provoked them.

Even after three decades, the issue of reservation is still a debate. It talks of the basic rights of equality and fraternity which should be given to all. Though the caste system has been abolished, castes haven’t. Reservation plays a major role in the workings of this country and whether a time will come when we won’t need it, is like always, up for question.

- Ajay Sreeram

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What is the Mandal Commission? What is the Mandal Commission? Reviewed by EMN on June 26, 2019 Rating: 5

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