Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Social Empowerment, The Mandal Way


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Madal report ,Social Empowerment,Resevations-advantages and Disadvantages



  • The social justice discourse in modern India can be traced to the initiatives of social revolutionaries such as Jyotiba Phule, Savitribai Phule, Shahu Maharaj and Periyar, B.R. Ambedkar during colonial rule. But the Mandal politics completely changed the social empowerment of depressed classes.

What is the Mandal way?

  • The Mandal Commission: The Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Commission (SEBC), was established in India in 1979 by the Janata Party government under Prime Minister Morarji Desai with a mandate to “identify the socially or educationally backward classes” of India.
  • To address Caste based discrimination: It was headed by B.P. Mandal, an Indian parliamentarian, to consider the question of reservations for people to redress caste discrimination, and used eleven social, economic, and educational indicators to determine backwardness.
  • Recommendation of Other backward classes: In 1980, based on its rationale that OBCs (“Other backward classes”) identified on the basis of caste, social, economic indicators made up 52% of India’s population, the commission’s report recommended that members of Other Backward Classes (OBC) be granted reservations to 27% of jobs under the Central government and public sector undertakings, thus making the total number of reservations for SC, ST and OBC to 49%.
  • What Constitution of India says: As per the Constitution of India, Article 15 (4) states, “Nothing in this Article or in clause (2) of Article 29 shall prevent the State from making any provision for the advancement of any socially or educationally backward classes of citizens or for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled tribes”. Hence the Mandal Commission created a report using the data of 1931 census which was last caste wise census and extrapolating same with some sample studies.
  • Affirmative action taken: VP Singh was accused of using the Mandal Report which was ignored by the Janta government. It was a social revolution and affirmative action. Earlier 25% population of India which is SC ST was covered and now more than 50% of Other Backward Class came under reservation.
  • Witnessed violent protest: The youth went for massive protest in large numbers in the nation’s campuses, resulting in many self-immolations by students.
  • What is Mandal 2.0: In 2006, reservations were extended to OBC candidates in institutionsof higher learning popularly known as MandalII.


How mandal politics empowering the social groups?

  • Helped to ensure the brotherhood: “Fraternity” as enshrined in the ‘Preamble’ of the Constitution, entails instilling confidence and camaraderie in the all communities. Reservations raised the hope of OBC communities to actively become the part of Government functionaries.
  • Increased spending on socially backward group: Public spending is considered a reliable way to measure development. Governments can choose to distribute their limited resources in either economic or social sectors. Economic sectors, like industry, ports, highways, etc., generally support economic growth by attracting private investment. Social sectors like education, healthcare, and social security promote the welfare of the masses. Influential theories in social science argue that working-class coalitions support social welfare (Acemoglu and Robinson 2006, Rueschemeyer et al. 1992). In the Indian context, OBC and SC politicians should be expected to support social spending.
  • Increased sensitivity towards backward classes: It is found that places with higher OBC political representation in combination with higher OBC reservation in the bureaucracy are more likely to spend more in social sectors.
  • Removing the elite culture: Appointment of lower caste officials at the local level can help in breaking down long-established upper-caste patronage networks and hence potentially reduce ‘elite capture’ of government programmes.
  • Built confidence and empowerment: According to IAS officer from Bihar cadre Lower castes would not have dared to enter the office of the DM (district magistrate) or BDO (block development officer). They thought that if they said something, they would be punished. That changed. Now they have the confidence to raise their voice against the DM. They don’t know if their job will get done, but they can enter his office without fear.”


What are the issues with reservation?

  • Statistics: The central list of OBC has 2,633 entries. According to the commission, many of the 2,633 entries comprise several classes, communities and sub-communities, etc, which means the total number of individually named classes/castes in the central list is between 5,000 and 6,000.
  • Skewed benefits: 25 per cent of the reservation benefits were availed of by communities listed in 10 entries of the central list. Another 25 per cent were availed of by communities listed in another 38 entries.
  • Few communities never got the benefit: The commission also found that 20 per cent of the communities, listed in 983 entries, could not avail of any benefits. Those in another 994 had a share of just 2.68 per cent.
  • 1% but 50% reservation: Just about 40 of 5,000-6,000 castes/communities among the OBCs (other backward classes) — which constitute less than 1 per cent — have cornered 50 per cent of the reservation benefits in admissions to central educational institutions and recruitment to central services, a panel constituted by the government has found.



  • Reservation is definitely an affirmative action to end the social discrimination. But it cannot continue forever. It’s high time that we should strictly enforce the creamy layer categorisation both in OBC and SC, ST reservations.

Mains Question

Q.How reservation helps in social empowerment of backward class? Describe the powers and functions of National Commission for backward class in India.

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