By conferring the Constitutional status to Backward Class Commission the Modi Government has realised the long cherished dream of Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar
It has widely been publicised and commonly believed that the (only) reason why Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar resigned from the Union Cabinet was Nehru Government’s reluctance to introduce the Hindu Code Bill. However, if one were to go by facts, the first and the most prominent reason assigned by Dr. Ambedkar (in his resignation letter dated October 10, 1951) for his decision to severe from Nehru Cabinet is the treatment accorded to the the Backward Classes. This is the exact quote from the resignation letter:
“I was very sorry that the Constitution did not embody any safeguards for the Backward Classes. It was left to be done by the Executive Government on the basis of the recommendations of a Commission to be appointed by the President.”
Dr. Ambedkar, in his resignation letter, narrates the lone battle he fought (and lost) right from time of the Constituent Assembly to confer Constitutional status to the Backward Classes Commission and the social safeguards. Thus, as against the popular perception that he espoused the interests of Schedule Caste, Babasaheb was a great champion of the cause of the Backward Classes.
Judiciary had to pitch into the fray for this cause as successive Central Governments, right from the year 1947, did precocious little. The apex court, in 1993 in the case of Indra Sawhney and others Vs. Union of India and others – AIR 1993, SC 477, directed the Union Government to constitute a permanent body for the Backward Classes, as against the transient commissions being constituted intermittently, at the will of the Executive. This permanent body was to recommend requests for inclusion and complaints of over-inclusion and under-inclusion in the Central List of Other Backward Classes (OBCs). As per this Judgement, the National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993 was enacted in April, 1993 and National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) was constituted on August 14, 1993. In fact, National Commission for the Scheduled Castes (NCSC) itself had recommended in its Reports for the year 2014-15 that the handling of the grievances of the socially and educationally backward classes under Clause (10) of Article 338 be given to NCBC. However, there was no constitutional status to this body nor an enabling provision was created in the Constitution for grievance redressal of OBCs.
“I was very sorry that the Constitution did not embody any safeguards for the Backward Classes. It was left to be done by the Executive Government on the basis of the recommendations of a Commission to be appointed by the President.” — Dr. Ambedkar in his resignation letter from Nehru Cabinet
Now, in a befitting tribute to the chief architect of the Constitution, the Modi Government, by bringing in the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Third Amendment) Bill, 2017, has now conferred the constitutional status to NCBC. Thanks to these welcome constitutional amendments NCBC will now be vested with the important functions of:
(a) investigating and monitoring all matters relating to the safeguards provided for the socially and educationally backward classes under the Constitution or under any other law for the time being in force or under any order of the Government and to evaluate the working of such safeguards;
(b) inquiring into specific complaints with respect to the deprivation of rights and safeguards of the socially and educationally backward classes.
The prime challenge faced by the Backward Classes today is the approximation surrounding the demographics. No census could reach a consensus on the population of OBCs. Mandal Commission report of 1980 had quoted OBC population at 52%, though National Sample Survey Organisation survey of 2006 quoted OBC population at 41%.
Second and most uphill challenge before the OBCs is the criminal neglect of several years to ameliorate their conditions and address their socio-economic challenges. Given OBCs’ unflinching Hindu commitment, Congress party has always wrecked its vengeance against the backward sections. An overwhelming majority of OBCs were systematically detested, isolated and finally alienated from Congress fold right from the inception of Socialist movement. Even those OBCs, who are not with BJP, are not averse to Hindu worship traditions, deities, ethos and value systems. This is the precise problem that Congress has continually harboured an unimaginable quantum of hatred for OBCs. If Congress has not succeeded in its nefarious designs in dividing the Hindu unity, it is largely because of the unflinching Hindu commitment of OBCs.
So, Congress has always strived to inter se divide OBCs and also pit against other Hindu castes, especially the Scheduled Castes and Tribes. Entire legislative structure of our agrarian, land laws was designed to break the Hindu unity. Even the most benevolent social legislations were tweaked to lead to conflict and disunity in the Hindu society and nation at large. Most of the social conflicts, even to this date, have their basic edifice in these divisive legislative structures. However, in past three decades, OBCs could not only intelligibly decipher the designs but also conclusively defeat Congress and its ecosystem. This further frustrated Congress and led to its complete alienation with OBCs along with all other major sections of the Hindu society. Congress’ frustration was writ large recently, as Shashi Tharoor termed Hindus as ‘Talibanis’ and near integration of OBCs for the cause of nation as “Hindu Pakistan”. Be that as it may, a reference is made to these historic and current aspects only to press to service the point as to why the case of OBCs was criminally neglected by successive Congress regimes.
The other challenge before the OBCs comes from their own fold. Certain familial groupings, created to protect their own corporate interests, have camouflaged themselves as political parties and claim to champion cause of OBCs. A section of OBCs have perceived their joint family ventures (sometimes nuclear family too) as panacea to their problems. In fact, OBCs have not realised that these groupings are de facto controlled by the Muslim interests. It is high time that OBCs realise that having isolated themselves from the Hindu mainstream, Mulayam or Lalu or Deve Gowda have to heavily bank on the hardcore elements within Muslim fold to keep themselves politically relevant. While understanding Congress’ designs is much simpler, it takes a bit of internal due diligence to decipher these vested interests from within. The new law now liberates the OBCs from the whims and fancies of their political satraps. This kind of a near dependence on a feudal vestige in now institutionalised and is made system driven. Once an institutional structure is created for the Backward Classes, their subjugation to familial feudal lords masked as caste satraps, gets phenomenally reduced. Equitable treatment to OBCs conferring constitutional safeguards at par with other social groups will certainly reduce social conflicts and will foster national integration.
(The writer is Bengaluru based lawer and managing partner of Navayana Law Offices)