Mandal Commission

Mandal Commission

The Mandal Commission 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."[1] It was headed by Indian parliamentarian Bindheshwari Prasad Mandal to consider the question of seat reservations and quotas for people to redress caste discrimination, and used eleven social, economic, and educational indicators to determine backwardness. In 1980, the commission's report affirmed the affirmative action practice under Indian law whereby members of lower castes (known as Other Backward Classes (OBC) and Scheduled Castes and Tribes) were given exclusive access to a certain portion of government jobs and slots in public universities, and recommended changes to these quotas, increasing them by 27% to 49.5%.[1] In a historical context, the Mandal Commission was one of the many aspects of the social justice movement in post-Independence India. Mobilization on caste lines had followed the political empowerment of ordinary citizens by the constitution of free India that allowed common people to politically assert themselves through the right to vote.


Setting up of Mandal Commission

The plan to set up another commission was taken by Mr. Clooney and the Morarji Desai government in 1978 as per the mandate of the Constitution of India under article 340 for the purpose of Articles like 15 and 16. The decision was made official by the president on 1 January 1979. The commission is popularly known as the Mandal Commission its chairman being B.P. Mandal.

Criteria to identify OBC

The Mandal Commission adopted various methods and techniques to collect the necessary data and evidence. The commission adopted 11 criteria which could be grouped under three major headings: social, educational and economic in order to identify OBCs.


  1. Castes/classes considered as socially backward by others.
  2. Castes/classes which mainly depend on manual labour for their livelihood.
  3. Castes/classes where at least 25 per cent females and 10 per cent males above the state average get married at an age below 17 years in rural areas and at least 10 per cent females and 5 per cent males do so in urban areas.
  4. Castes/classes where participation of females in work is at least 25 per cent above the state average.


  1. Castes/classes where the number of children in the age group of 5–15 years who never attended school is at least 25 percent above the state average.
  2. Castes/classes where the rate of student drop-out in the age group of 5–15 years is at least 25 percent above the state average.
  3. Castes/classes amongst whom the proportion of matriculates is at least 25 per cent below the state average.


  1. Castes/classes where the average value of family assets is at least 25 per cent below the state average.
  2. Castes/classes where the number of families living in kuccha houses is at least 25 per cent above the state average.
  3. Castes/classes where the source of drinking water is beyond half kilometer for more than 50 per cent of the households.
  4. Castes/classes where the number of households having taken consumption loans is at least 25 per cent above the state average.

Also known as "Creamy layer," this criteria of separation is ignored by the government which is known as the most controversial issue of reservation.

Weighting indicators

As the above three groups are not of equal importance for the purpose, separate weightage was given to indicators in each group. All the Social indicators were given a weightage of 3 points each, educational indicators were given a weightage of 2 points each and economic indicators were given a weightage of 1 point each. Economic, in addition to Social and Educational Indicators, were considered important as they directly flowed from social and educational backwardness. This also helped to highlight the fact that socially and educationally backward classes are economically backward also.

It will be seen from the values given to each indicator, the total score adds up to 22. All these 11 indicators were applied to all the castes covered by the survey for a particular state. As a result of this application, all castes which had a score of 50% (i.e. 11 points) were listed as socially and educationally backward and the rest were treated as 'advanced'.

Observations and Findings

The commission estimated that 54% of the total population (excluding SCs and STs), belonging to 3,743 different castes and communities were ‘backward’.[1] Figures of caste-wise population are not available beyond. So the commission used 1931 census data to calculate the number of OBCs. The population of Hindu OBCs was derived by subtracting from the total population of Hindus, the population of SC and ST and that of forward Hindu castes and communities, and it worked out to be 52 per cent.[2] Assuming that roughly the proportion of OBCs amongst non-Hindus was of the same order as amongst the Hindus, population of non-Hindu OBCs was also considered as 52 per cent.[1]

  • Assuming that a child from an advanced class family and that of a backward class family had the same intelligence at the time of their birth, it is obvious that owing to vast differences in social, cultural and environmental factors, the former will beat the latter by lengths in any competitive field. Even if a backward class child’s intelligence quotient was much higher as compared to the child of advanced class, chances are that the former will lag far behind the latter in any competition where selection is made on the basis of ‘merit’.
  • In fact, what we call ‘merit’ in an elitist society is an amalgam of native endowments and environmental privileges. A child from an advanced class family and that of a backward class family are not ‘equals’ in any fair sense of the term and it will be unfair to judge them by the same yard-stick. The conscience of a civilized society and the dictates of social justice demand that ‘merit’ and ‘equality’ are not turned into a fetish and the element of privilege is duly recognised and discounted for when ‘unequal’ are made to run the same race.[3]
  • To place the amalgams of open caste conflicts in proper historical context, the study done by Tata institute of Social Sciences Bombay observes. “The British rulers produced many structural disturbances in the Hindu caste structure, and these were contradictory in nature and impact …. Thus, the various impacts of the British rule on the Hindu caste system, viz., near monopolisation of jobs, education and professions by the literati castes, the Western concepts of equality and justice undermining the Hindu hierarchical dispensation, the phenomenon of Sanskritization, genteel reform movement from above and militant reform movements from below, emergence of the caste associations with a new role set the stage for the caste conflicts in modern India. Two more ingredients which were very weak in the British period, viz., politicisation of the masses and universal adult franchise, became powerful moving forces after the Independence.[4]


The report of the commission was submitted in December 1980. The following are the recommendations as stated in the report:[5]

It may appear the upliftment of Other Backward Classes is part of the larger national problem of the removal of mass poverty. This is only partially correct. The deprivation of OBCs is a very special case of the larger national issue: here the basic question is that of social and educational backwardness and poverty is only a direct consequence of these two crippling caste-based handicaps. As these handicaps are embedded in our social structure, their removal will require far – reaching structural changes. No less important will be changes in the perception of the problems of OBCs by the ruling classes of the country.


All the recommendations of the report are not yet implemented. The recommendation of reservations for OBC's in government services was implemented in 1993. As on 27 June 2008 there is still a backlog of 28, 670 OBC vacancies in government jobs.[6] The recommendation of reservations in Higher educational institutes was implemented in 2008.


**NFHS Survey estimated only Hindu OBC population. Total OBC population derived by assuming Muslim OBC population in same proportion as Hindu OBC population

The National Sample Survey puts the figure at 32%[2]. There is substantial debate over the exact number of OBC's in India, with census data compromised by partisan politics. It is generally estimated to be sizable, but lower than the figures quoted by either the Mandal Commission or and National Sample Survey [3].

There is also an ongoing controversy about the estimation logic used by Mandal commission for calculating OBC population. Famous Indian Statistician,Mr.Yogendra Yadav who supports Reservations agrees that there is no empirical basis to the Mandal figure. According to him "It is a mythical construct based on reducing the number of SC/ST, Muslims and others and then arriving at a number.”[citation needed]

National Sample Survey's 1999-2000 round estimated around 36 per cent of the country's population is defined as belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBC). The proportion falls to 32 per cent on excluding Muslim OBCs. A survey conducted in 1998 by National Family Health Statistics (NFHS) puts the proportion of non-Muslim OBCs as 29.8 per cent[7]

L R Naik, the only Dalit member in the Mandal Commission refused to sign the Mandal recommendations.[8] He said that there are two social blocks among the OBCs: upper caste (Jat and Gujjar) and upper OBCs (Yadavs, Kurmis, etc.) and Most Backward Classes (MBCs). He feared that upper OBCs would corner all the benefits of reservation.

Here we shall present the study of the Mandal Commissions’s list of the OBC for the state of West Bengal only for the sake of brevity. In this list, Urao (along with its synonyms Bandot, Haro, Karkata, Luidu, Shitheo, Tigga and Tirki) has been listed as an OBC (OBC No.176). On the other hand, it is already in the list of Scheduled Tribes for the state with a slight difference of spelling “Oraon” (ST 33). Similarly, Scheduled Tribes Kharia (OBC 105; synonym of Lodha, ST 23 in the ST List), Kherwar (OBC 107; ST 17, with a spelling Kharwar), Koda (OBC 113; ST 20, spelled Kora), Bhotia (OBC 33; ST 5, spelled Bhutia), Brijia (OBC 39, ST 7, with a spelling Birjia), Gonda (OBC 68; ST 12, spelled Gond) and Lakra (OBC 123, and Lakar OBC 122, which is actually a surname adopted by many members of the Scheduled Tribe Munda), which are already declared STs for the state. Tharu (OBC 171) is a widely studied scheduled tribe. Thapa (OBC 170) is a synonym of ST Sherpa (ST 5, same as Bhutia, Tota, Dukpa, Kagatay, Tibetan, Yolmo). Many famous ST surnames have been listed as OBC Mahato (OBC 129), etc. Other anthropologically famous scheduled tribes listed as OBC are Kuki (OBC 118), Lushei (actually Lushai; OBC 124), Koli (OBC 116) and Rohangia.

Similar manipulation has been done with many Scheduled Castes also. For example in the state of West Bengal, Bhangi has been listed as OBC (No. 26), with a rider “excluding those in the Scheduled Caste”. On the other hand the SC list for West Bengal shows that Bhangi (at place no. 22 in the SC list) is an unconditional SC for the whole of the territory of the state. Halalkhor has also been listed as an OBC (No. 73) with a similar condition as above, but this caste is also an unconditional SC (No. 21, spelled Halelkhor). A sub-caste of Dom (Maghaiya-Dom) has been listed as OBC at place No. 126. Dom as a whole has been a Scheduled Caste (No.17 in West Bengal SC list) for ages. Bahelia (SC No. 2) has been listed by its synonym Chirimar (OBC 45). Bagal (OBC 11) is already there in the SC list at place number 1, with a spelling Bagll. Although Nat is an SC (No. 47), its sub-caste Karwal-Nat has been made an OBC (OBC 97). Jaliya Kaivartta (SC 23) is just the Sanskritized name of Machua listed as OBC (OBC 125). All the Nav-Buddhists (Neo-Buddhist) have been include in the OBC list, which is again an anomaly, because the Nav-Buddhists enjoy their SC status.

Not only synonyms or alternative spellings of the SCs and STs have been recorded as OBC, but also there are other types of manipulations like same OBC caste has been listed twice or sometimes thrice in the list of the same state. An example of this type of manipulation is Kahar in Bihar list (No. 23 as well as No. 70), Kewat (at no. 115 as well as 84.)

At any rate the list is vitiated by such inclusions. The Kuki tribes (ST) actually live in Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura, none of which are neighboring to West Bengal. Even if any member of the tribe migrates to West Bengal or anywhere else in India, either it retains its ST status of the mother state or becomes General population. It is difficult to believe that some Kuki tribes live in West Bengal as OBC. Lushai tribe (ST) live mainly in Mizoram and are the principal Mizo tribe. They are also found in Manipur as ST. Koli (ST) are found in a widespread area ranging from Orissa to Rajasthan up to Karnatak. Rohangia ((OBC 158) are actually a distant tribe which mainly live in Myanmar but are also found in Bangla Desh-Myanmar-Tripura border areas). Introduction of such castes to the West Bengal OBC list seems to be an act of fertile brain and raises doubt whether any actual survey was done at all. At any rate a small number of these tribes could be present in the former East Bengal (now Bangla Desh) in areas adjoining former state of Assam and Myanmar before partition.

The principles and norms set in the very beginning regarding the criterion for the Non-Hindu communities have been violated flagrantly, hence now the Roman Catholic is not a religion but a caste in the eyes of the Mandal Commission (Latin Catholic, OBC 106, Kerala). Anglo-Indians, who are the off-springs of the British rulers, have also been made an Other Backward Caste (OBC 6, Kerala). Although it has been decided at the outset that only occupational castes among the Muslims and Christians and the castes bearing the same name as a Hindu OBC or SC will be included as a Muslim or Christian OBC caste, the set rule was violated wherever political expediency dictated. For example Kayastha (Muslim) has been made an OBC (OBC 93, Uttar Pradesh) which does not fulfill the criteria set for inclusion of non-Hindu castes. A last word about credibility of the Mandal survey. Presence of obsolete and archaic caste names like Taga (for Tyagi in Haryana, Delhi and UP), Bhui-har (for Bhumi-har in Bihar), Domb (for Dom in all the southern states), listing of Kuki, Lushai, Rohangia tribes in West Bengal which are not found in West Bengal today but actually some of each of them lived in East Bengal in undivided India neighbouring Tripura, Meghalaya etc., and many such factors cannot be explained unless it is assumed that the Mandal list is not result of a recent survey, but it has been compiled by editing the caste list of 1931 census. But the editing was most inefficient. These names could not have crept in unless the old united Bengla caste list of 1931 was just copied and some named SC & ST, as well as well known forward caste names were just deleted, to arrive at the current OBC list of Mandal.

Every state’s OBC list has the same story. The entire list seems to be manipulated, but most carelessly and inefficiently manipulated. Most famous scheduled castes like Dusadh (Dhari), Mochi, Domb (Dom) and Bhangi have been put as OBCs in many states. If the Government does not reject this whole Mandal list, all the SCs and STs listed as OBC will have to be deleted from the respective SC and ST lists. Because the Mandal Commission was a constitutional body which had done a survey and this survey was done at a later date than the surveys for the SC and ST, which were done during the British period without the authority of our present Indian Constitution. Indeed any act (or survey) done under the authority of Indian Constitution automatically supersedes any act (or survey) of the British administration if there is an overlap or confusion.


A decade after the commission gave its report, V.P. Singh, the Prime Minister at the time, tried to implement its recommendations in 1989. The criticism was sharp and colleges across the country held massive protests against it. Soon after, Rajiv Goswami, student of Delhi University, committed self-immolation in protest of the government's actions. His act further sparked a series of self-immolations by other college students and led to a formidable movement against job reservations for Backward Castes in India. First student to die due to self immolation was Surinder Singh Chauhan on Sep 24, 1990.

Arguments against reservations

The opponents of the issue argue:

  • Allocating quotas on the basis of caste is a form of racial discrimination, and contrary to the right to equality. Although the exact relation between caste and race is far from well established
  • As a consequence of legislating to provide reservations for Christians and Muslim, religious minorities in all government education institutions will be introduced[9] which is contrary to the ideas of secularism, and is a form of anti-discrimination on the basis of religion.
  • Most often, only economically sound people (and rather rich) from the so-called lower castes will make use of most of the reserved seats, thus counteracting the spirit of reservations.[10] Political parties know reservations are no way to improve the lot of the poor and the backward. They support them because of self-interest of the “creamy layer”, who use the reservations to further their own family interests, and as a political flag of ‘achievement’ during election campaigns.[11] In fact, several studies show that the OBC class is quite comparable with the general caste in terms of annual per capita consumption expenditure, and the top strata of OBC is ahead in a host of consumption areas.[12]
  • The quality of these elite institutes may go down, because merit is severely being compromised by reserving seats for certain caste-based communities.[13]
  • There are no efforts made to give proper primary education to truly deprived classes,[10] so there is no need to reserve seats for higher studies. The government schools in India have absolutely no comparison to the public schools in the developed countries, and only about 65% of the Indian population is literate,.[14] The critics argue that "reservation" only in higher institutions and jobs, without improving primary and secondary education, cannot solve this problem.[11]
  • The government is dividing people on the basis of castes for political advantages.[13]
  • The caste system is kept alive through these measures. Instead of coming up with alternative innovative ideas which make sure equal representation at the same time making the caste system irrelevant, the decision is only fortifying the caste system.
  • The autonomy of the educational institutes are lost.[11]
  • Not everyone from the so-called upper classes are rich, and not all from so called lower classes are poor.[11]
  • The reservation policy of the Indian Congress will create a huge unrest in the Indian society.[13][15] Providing quotas on the basis of caste and not on the basis of merit will deter the determination of many educated and deserving students of India.[13]
  • Multi-national companies will be deterred by this action of the government, and foreign investment in India may dry down, hurting the growth of the Indian economy.[11] Doubtless, urgent actions to improve the lot of the majority, which has not benefited from development—not achieved after 55 years of reservations for scheduled castes—are essential. But this must not hazard improving the economy’s competitiveness in a very competitive world.[11]
  • There are already talks of reservations in the private sector.[11] If even after providing so many facilities to reserved categories during education, if there is no adequate representation of those people in the work force, there must be some problems with the education system.

Critics of the Mandal Commission argue that it is unfair to accord people special privileges on the basis of caste, even in order to redress traditional caste discrimination. They argue that those that deserve the seat through merit will be at a disadvantage. They reflect on the repercussions of unqualified candidates assuming critical positions in society (doctors, engineers, etc.). As the debate on OBC reservations spreads, a few interesting facts which raise pertinent question are already apparent. To begin with, do we have a clear idea what proportion of our population is OBC? According to the Mandal Commission (1980) it is 52 percent. According to 2001 Indian Census, out of India's population of 1,028,737,436 the Scheduled Castes comprise 166,635,700 and Scheduled Tribes 84,326,240, that is 16.2% and 8.2% respectively. There is no data on OBCs in the census.[16] However, according to National Sample Survey's 1999-2000 round around 36 per cent of the country's population is defined as belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBC). The proportion falls to 32 per cent on excluding Muslim OBCs. A survey conducted in 1998 by National Family Health Statistics (NFHS) puts the proportion of non-Muslim OBCs as 29.8 per cent.[17] The NSSO data also shows that already 23.5 per cent of college seats are occupied by OBCs. That's just 8.6 per cent short of their share of population according to the same survey. Other arguments include that entrenching the separate legal status of OBCs and SC/STs will perpetuate caste differentiation and encourage competition among communities at the expense of national unity. They believe that only a small new elite of educated Dalits, Adivasis, and OBCs benefit from reservations, and that such measures don't do enough to lift the mass of people out of backwardness and poverty.

Arguments offered in support of reservations

  • People who support reservations keenly invite all the anti-reservationists to lead the life of a backward class citizen and live within the means that they have for themselves. It is their contention that in a experimental set-up like this the differences in achievement/performance would disappear or reduce down to experimental errors/random error. Underlying idea being that everyone is born equal but into an unequal circumstances. And when the circumstances have been a result of a social system then the system either needs to be abandoned or reformed.
  • Reservations are a political necessity in India because vast influential sections of voting population see reservations as beneficial to themselves. All governments have supported maintaining and/or increasing reservations. Reservations are legal and binding.
  • Although Reservation schemes do undermine the quality of education but still affirmative Action schemes are in place in many countries including USA, South Africa, Malaysia, Brazil etc. It was researched in Harvard University that Affirmative Action programmes are beneficial to the under-privileged.[18] The studies said that Blacks who enter elite institutions with lower test scores and grades than those of whites achieve notable success after graduation. They earn advanced degrees at rates identical to those of their white classmates. They are even slightly more likely than whites from the same institutions to obtain professional degrees in law, business and medicine. They become more active than their white classmates in civic and community activities.[19]
  • Affirmative Action has helped many - if not everyone from under-privileged and/or under-represented communities to grow and occupy top positions in the world's leading industries. Reservation in education is not the final solution, it is just one of the many solutions. Reservations is a means to increase representation of hitherto under-represented caste groups and thereby improve diversity on campus.
  • Although Reservation schemes might effect, to some degree, the quality of education but they are needed to provide social justice to the most marginalized and underprivileged is our duty and their human right. Reservation will really help these marginalized people to lead successful lives, thus eliminating caste-based discrimination which is still widely prevalent in India especially in the rural areas. (over 70% of Indian population stays in Villages).
  • Meritrocracy is meaningless without equality. First all people must be brought to the same level, whether it elevates a section or delevels another, regardless of merit. Only after that merit becomes meaningful. Privileged people have never known to go backward due to reservations or lack of "meritrocracy". Reservations have only slowed down the process of the 'forward' becoming richer and backward becoming poorer.
  • The government of India, is bound and empowered by the constitution of the country to secure for all citizens equality in social, economic and political sphere.[20]
  • Reservations will go a long way in capacity building with regard to the human resource of the country. In the long run, it has tremendous economic benefits as it will raise the productivity of the majority of the potential workforce of the country
  • In a perfectly functioning society the institutions and various walks of life must represent the many sections roughly in proportion to their share in population. In India it is clearly not the case and hence the need for reservations.
  • India does not have the economic or institutional capacity for undertaking a grassroots based solution to the problem, so reservations remain the only practical solution for social anti-discrimination


  1. ^ a b c Bhattacharya, Amit. "Who are the OBCs?". Archived from the original on 2006-06-27. Retrieved 2006-04-19.  Times of India, 8 April 2006.
  2. ^ Ramaiah, A (6 June 1992). "Identifying Other Backward Classes" (PDF). Economic and Political Weekly. pp. 1203–1207. Archived from the original on 2005-12-30. Retrieved 2006-05-27. 
  3. ^ Mandal Commission report, Vol I, pp 23
  4. ^ Mandal Commission report, Vol I, pp 31
  5. ^ Mandal Commission Report, Vol I, Chapter XIII, RECOMMENDATIONS, pp 57-60
  6. ^ Daily Times of India
  7. ^ 36% population is OBC, not 52%. South Asian Free Media Association (8 May 2006). Retrieved on 2006-05-27.
  8. ^ "Mandal's True Inheritors". The Times of India. 2006-12-12. Retrieved 2006-12-12. 
  9. ^ Quota for Tamil Nadu religious minorities
  10. ^ a b Srinivas, M.N. (August 1997). "The pangs of change". Frontline (The Hindu) 14 (16). Retrieved 2006-05-24. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Rao, S.L. (5 June 2006). "TOO MANY BOSSES - The UPA has a cabinet with many insubordinate ministers". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2006-06-05. 
  12. ^ Dobhal, Shailesh (2 June 2006). "In consumption, OBCs are no longer backwards". The Economic Times, Times Internet Limited. Retrieved 2006-06-02. 
  13. ^ a b c d "Divisive quota: Education alone can empower". The Tribune. 28 April 2006. Retrieved 2006-05-24. 
  14. ^ "Literacy Rate: India". Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 2006-06-02. 
  15. ^ Ramchandran, S (25 April 2006). "India Inc., liberalisation, and social responsibility". The Hindu. Retrieved 2006-06-02. 
  16. ^ "Population". Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Archived from the original on 2006-05-26. Retrieved 2006-05-27. 
  17. ^ "36% population is OBC, not 52%". South Asian Free Media Association. 8 May 2006. Retrieved 2006-05-27. 
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^

See also


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