TCN special: Misra Commission report excerpts- Part 8

By news desk,

Misra Commission report excerpts – home page

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Procedure for Inclusion/Exclusion

The procedure prescribed for inclusion/exclusion is unscientific, ad-hoc and subjection. Procedure prescribed for inclusion of SCs/STs differs from that applied to the OBCs. The common factor, perhaps is that in both cases it rests more on subjective assessments than scientific principles. In the absence of any large scale surveys, it needs to be mentioned that the only caste based data on backward classes is available 1931 Census only. No record on the basis of caste is available thereafter and in the absence of caste based data it is difficult to accept any enumeration, on the basis of caste as a criteria for backward classes, as foolproof. Similarly it would be difficult to accept the projections of the percentage of population made on the basis of data which is not available.

A review of the criteria laid down for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes reveal many inconsistencies, some of which may be summarised as follows:
(i) Whereas identification of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is made by the Parliament and Notification issued as a Constitutional Order, in the case of Other Backward Classes, the resolution is notified as an Executive order.
(ii) Whereas the lists of SC and ST can be modified by the Parliament only, in case of OBC, changes can be recommended by the Commission, known as Backward Classes Commission.
(iii) Whereas SC and ST lists are State/UT specific, there are two lists for OBCs, one state specific, and the other known as central list. A community could be specified for a part of the State also.

The National Commission for Backward Classes was asked to review communities for exclusion as required under the Act, every ten years. The Chairman, National Commission for Backward Classes in his letter dated 5.8.2003 addressed to the Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment observed:

“in the absence of the data the Commission requires to identify castes/communities that have ceased to be backward, none of the caste/communities notified in the Central lists may be deleted at this stage.”

The point to be noted is that the number of OBCs has increased manifold. No assessment of population which is likely to be added is made while recommending inclusion. It is a fact that the number of backward classes in the lists has increased despite the investments in developmental activities and special provisions, initiatives and policy for positive discrimination in favour of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and Minorities followed by the Government in the last several decades.

Political considerations clubbed with vested interest in remaining backward due to advantages available is perhaps largely responsible for this situation. Ordinarily, more ‘classes’ or castes and tribes becoming ‘Backward’ should raise serious doubts about the efficacy of the strategies, policies, programmes… It is indicative of failure to reach out to the deserving.

Anomalies in Identification of Backwards

The first Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Government of India, Shri L.M. Shrikant had pointed out that the process adopted for listing the communities as Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes was not rigorous enough to ensure that the communities included in the schedule did satisfy the criteria or had the requisite characteristics in the entire State in which they were scheduled. He also wrote that if the ultimate goal of classless and casteless society is to be attained, the list of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and even of Other Backward Classes will have to be reduced from year to year and replaced in due course by a list based on the criteria of income-cum-merit (1957-58).

Estimates Committee (Forty-eighth Report for the year 1958-59) of the Parliament also observed that preferences be given to the less advanced among the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in provision of all facilities. The tendency of the part of some castes and tribes to get themselves listed as backward merely to get concessions is undesirable and must be discouraged.

Lokur Committee (Shri B. N. Lokur was Secretary to the G.O.I., Ministry of Law) considered the revisions of SC and ST list and submitted a report to the Government of India in 1965.

The report pointed out that in several States, we have come across a multitude of organisations of castes and tribes whose main object is to secure or retain a place in the lists of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and that the more advanced communities regard the reservation of seats in the Legislatures as the most attractive of these facilities.

He also pointed out it has been in evidence for some time that a lion’s share of the various benefits and concessions earmarked for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is appropriated by the numerically larger and politically well-organised communities. Time has come to do away gradually with these privileged classes.

Emphasis should be on the gradual elimination of the larger and more advanced communities from these lists, and on focusing greater attention on the really backward sections, preferably by applying an economic yardstick.

Weaker sections of society should be defined and criteria for special assistance laid down on the basis of economic status and educational and social backwardness.

The time has come when the question of de-scheduling of relatively advanced communities should receive serious and urgent consideration.

State-wise 171 Scheduled Castes and 131 Scheduled Tribes were identified by the Lokur Committee for exclusion.

Similarly the Study Team on Tribal Development Programmes Committee on Plan Projects, (Planning Commission 1969)- P. Shilu Ao suggested be taken to deschedule on the one hand the more advanced tribal communities and on the other, to exclude communities which ought never to have been included in the list of Scheduled Tribes.

The Committee suggested that a high powered Commission, consisting among others, of anthropologists, social workers, administrators and legislators may be appointed, as and when necessary, to draw up a revised list of Scheduled Tribes on a scientific basis.

Problems of False Caste/Community Certificates

In many parts of the country members of certain Hindu Castes and classes, religious minorities try to identify themselves as SCs or STs person and thereby fraudulently avail of the benefits intended for the categories to which they are actually not entitled.

Use of area nomenclatures in the lists of SCs and STs has created other serious problems. For example, the list of the Scheduled Tribes of Himachal Pradesh includes Kanaura/Kinnara based on the name of Kinnaur District. Besides any permanent resident of that district, even if he is a non-tribal, can claim to be Scheduled Tribe person on account of the vulnerable nomenclature used in the list.

Of late issue of false SC/ST certifacates has assumed alarming proportions in several States. This is also due to the fact that there is a stake in ‘backwardness’.

It is apparent from modifications carried out in the SC, ST and OBC lists, that Government gave weightage for inclusion of communities rather than excluding them.

It would be difficult to justify increase in the number of ‘backward classes’ after decades of concerted action for improving their lot through interventions for their development. It is apparent that in making additions to this category, the causes have been other than their social and economical backwardness. Vested interests and political considerations have been responsible for inclusion.

The practice of untouchability is forbidden under Article 17 of the Constitution. There is adequate evidence to establish that in the last 60 years the nature and extent of untouchability as a practice in cities and towns has considerably changed and is visible in a diluted form.

The SCs, STs and OBCs have benefitted from developmental programmes, particularly in the field of education, health, agriculture, rural development and income generation programmes.

Inclusion as a Class/Group/Caste/Tribe

Additionally, the inclusion of an entire case, tribe or class in the list, is contrary to the principle of social justice. No ‘caste’, or class or tribe suffer from social, economic and educational deprivations as a whole.

… it is no longer possible to identify any group or class as a homogenous group in terms of social, economic and educational backwardness or the basis of criterion adopted for identifying them. Class or caste or tribe as a criterion identifying the socio-economic backward has become totally irrelevant. The only option is to identify families that are socially and economically backward and devise criteria that are implementable.

Observations of the Commission

The reliability of the lists prepared is highly questionable as it is not based on any scientific data. In the absence of reliable data, a large-scale survey should perhaps have been undertaken before the lists were prepared.

The procedure adopted for ‘inclusion’ has been unduly easy specially in the case of OBCs and has had little to do with the social and economic backwardess of these included. Both at the Central level and in States instances can be cited to establish that political considerations have largely guided ‘inclusions’. The dynamics for inclusion suggests that whether it be ‘Jats’ or Vokkailngars’ contingencies arising out of political compulsions have guided inclusion rather than the concern for the backward or the need for reaching out to that segment of the community.

Non-exclusion of the ineligible has marginalised the poorest and most backward amongst various categories including the minorities.

The better off or socio-economically better have taken advantage of the opportunities provide through programmes.

Poverty is not religion or caste based and the socially, economically backward should be identified on uniformity applicable criterion throughout the country irrespective of caste, creed/religion affirmatives.

As against 21.66 percent Hindus living Below Poverty Line, 36.92 percent of Muslim living in urban areas belong to the Below Poverty Line group.

The causes for poverty and socio-economic backwardness vary between the Rural and Urban areas.

In the Rural areas the families depend more on agriculture related activities and poverty line is determined by assets owned by way of land etc. or otherwise.

It is therefore, necessary to have different scales for identifying the socially and economically backward, in the Rural and Urban areas.

…the criterion for identifying the socially and economically backward should satisfy the following norms:
(i) Religion, caste or class do not determine ‘Backwardness’ and therefore, there is a need for evolving a uniform criterion.
(ii) Caste, religion, class are no longer homogenous groups. They include both the backward and forward categories literate and illiterate, socially and economically advanced and backward also. Hence, the socially and economically backward amongst all categories should be identified on the basis of a uniform criteria.

The Constitution under Article 46 provides that the state shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of all the weaker sections. The weaker sections are caste and religion neutral.

Identification of Families below Poverty Line

The Expert Group set up for BPL Census 2002 recommended the methodology of Score Based Ranking of each household indicating their quality of life. For this purpose, 13 socio-economic parameters … were adopted.

The 13 parameters are (1) Land, (2) House, (3) Clothing, (4) Food security, (5) Sanitation, (6) Consumer durables, (7) Literacy, (8) Labour force, (9) Means of Livelihood, (10) Status of children, (11) Indebtness, (12) Migration and (13) Preference of Assistance. Each of the 13 parameters has been given four points making a total of 52. One who scores the least is the poorest.

In order to ensure that ‘benefits’ reach the poorest and weakest, it is necessary that those who have reaped advantage from Government programmes are excluded on a regular basis and criteria evolved which takes into account the local condition, the family’s social and economic status and responsibilities and in no way either encourages a stake in backwardness or adversely impacts on an individual or household’s initiative or investments necessary for enhancing status.