The State government under Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao has accorded special emphasis on the development of the Backward Classes as a part of Golden Telangana. He has, in fact, been true to his promise of ‘inclusion’ of the Backward Classes.
The first Commission on Backward Classes in Telangana was asked to comprehensively re-examine the issues and status related to Backward Classes, Most Backward Classes and other nomadic people in order to draw a meaningful road map for welfare schemes to mitigate their economic distress. When the Chief Minister addressed his first-ever meeting of the Backward Classes Commission, he spelt out his dream and vision to uplift these communities.
In other words, K Chandrashekhar Rao’s vision for the Backward Classes became the guiding point for the working agenda of the Commission. The increased political representation of the Backward Classes would enhance the quality of their public participation and social status.
Before 1956, there were about 60 communities in Telangana and 80 in Andhra belonging to the Backward Classes. Without properly considering the scientific basis of backwardness of these communities in 1963, the government of Andhra Pradesh had issued GO No. 1861, allocating reservations for the Backward Classes in professional colleges.
The GO was challenged in the High Court on the ground that it violated Articles 19 and 29 (2) of the Constitution. The High Court set aside the GO and made critical remarks that the issue of economic backwardness relates to individuals and not caste.
Post this judgment, the government in 1964 cancelled the existing list of Backward Classes through GO No. 301 and decided to appoint a Cabinet Sub-Committee to draw up a fresh list based on poverty, education and housing parameters.
In July 1966, the government brought out a fresh list of 112 Backward Classes to make provision for reservation in professional colleges. The decision was again challenged in the Court of Law and the High Court quashed the order citing the unscientific approach to the issue of reservation. The Supreme Court too upheld this decision of High Court in 1968.
Faced with a series of setbacks, the Andhra Pradesh government in 1968 officially announced the formation of the first-ever Backward Classes Commission under the Chairmanship of Justice Manohar Parivar. However, Justice Parivar resigned within a year and KN Anatha Raman succeeded him.
The Commission submitted its findings to the government in 1970, in which it strongly recommended categorisation of the castes based on their backwardness and batted for reservations for them in education and employment.
In 1982, the K Muralidhra Rao Commission made some far-reaching recommendations such as increasing Backward Classes Commission reservation quota from 25% to 44% and strongly argued for reservations in constitutional bodies. It even suggested Articles 15 and 16 could be used to bring a positive change and pitched for an Administrative Tribunal for effective operationalisation. However, the succeeding governments did not show much interest in effective implementation.
Against the backdrop of these developments, the present Commission has decided to study the framework of the earlier commissions, their policies and recommendations.
Along with Kelkar, Mandal and Ambareesh commissions, it is also seriously evaluating the practices and policies of the commissions of other States in order to standardise and identify the methods of categorisation as well as establish appropriate protocols. These are aimed at arriving at a scientific approach to functionality and recommendations.
Apart from this, the Commission interacts with intellectuals and social scientists on a regular basis to discuss the policy framework to get their inputs.
The Commission also holds discussions with leaders of Most Backward Classes and other nomadic castes to understand their arguments, status and concerns with a view to accommodating them in the policy framework. It is closely following the reports and recommendations of various committees on nomadic castes to strengthen its formulations towards them. This kind of direct exposure to the domain knowledge has never taken place before and the Commission follows the spirit of Supreme Court Judgment (SC 1375) in this regard.
The findings of the integrated family survey, which was taken up by the Telangana government, immensely benefitted the Commission. It could understand the social dynamics and roots of backwardness of nearly 52% of the population who belonged to Backward Classes.
The Commission is, in fact, collaborating with ICSSR, CESS and other academic Institutions. The Commission would shortly be examining the question of backwardness vis-à-vis the performance of castes or dependent castes, de-notified tribes, nomadic castes and other unrepresented castes.
The Chief Minister has reiterated that his government is committed to making the Backward Classes happy and said their welfare was a top priority. Such words inspire and guide the deliveries of the Commission.
(The author is Member – Telangana State Commission for Backward Classes)