Reservation .... Surjit Bhalla PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 10 May 2006 00:00
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Data supported by both NSS and NFHS.


Around 36 per cent of the country's population is defined as belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBC) according to the National Sample Survey's 1999-2000 round, and not 52 per cent as defined by the Mandal Commission, a number that most politicians still use while asking for reservation.


If you exclude Muslim OBCs, the proportion falls to 32 per cent according to the NSS, 1999-2000. Indeed, Yogendra Yadav, professor at the Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Studies, who is in favour of reservation for OBCs, agrees that there is no empirical basis to the Mandal figure: "It is a mythical construct based on reducing the number of SC/ST, Muslims and others and then arriving at a number."


One of the reasons for the much higher Mandal number is that it defined OBCs in socio-economic terms, and so included, for instance, "castes/classes considered as socially backward by others". If, to cite another of the 11 criteria used, the percentage of married women below 17 years is a fourth above the state's average in rural areas (and 10 per cent in urban areas), the community is considered to be OBC.


Similarly, if castes/classes where the proportion of working women is 25 per cent higher than the state's average, the castes/classes are considered OBC "" today's double-income families, if living in areas where women do not work, would then be considered OBCs using the Mandal definition.


In the NSS case, respondents were asked to indicate their caste, and this was then tallied with the list of castes that each state defines as OBC.


The NSS data is also corroborated by the National Family Health Statistics (NFHS), a survey conducted in 1998 by the DHS, which has conducted 200 such surveys in 75 countries.


The NFHS data show that the proportion of non-Muslim OBCs is 29.8 per cent, a figure quite close to the NSS' 32.1 per cent. For SC/ST, while the NSS shows this is 28.3 per cent of the population, the NFHS estimates this at 27.9 per cent. The 2001 Census estimated the SC/ST population at 24.4 per cent, though the Census did not canvass any information on OBCs.


The share of the Muslims (including OBC Muslims) in all three data sets is quite similar, ranging from 11 to 13 per cent.


So far, the Supreme Court ceiling of 50 per cent on all reservations has been justified by arguing this covers only the non-creamy layer OBCs, since 22.5 per cent of all reservations are for SC/ST, leaving 27.5 per cent for the OBCs "" that is, only around half the OBCs would be entitled to reservations.


If, you use the NSS/NFHS figures, a 50 per cent reservation ceiling will cover three fourths of all OBCs, and if Muslim OBCs are to be kept out of reservations, then 86 per cent of the remaining will get covered by reservations.



38% of college-enrolled are SC/STs and OBCs - this is also their share of top jobs.


Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes, along with Other Backward Classes, together comprise around two-thirds of the country's working population, according to the National Sample Survey's 1999-2000 round. This is roughly in step with their share of the population as well (see graphic).


The share of SC/STs and OBCs in jobs defined by the NSS as "professional, technical and managerial" (the top jobs in the economy) is a lower 38 per cent""the "professional, technical and managerial" group comprises 7 per cent of the total jobs in the country. In the case of "clerical and sales" jobs, the share of these two groups is 44 per cent.


The shortfall, relative to population share, is greater in the case of SC/STs compared with the OBCs. The share of SC/STs in "professional" jobs is 14.3 per cent and their population share is 28.3. This works out to a ratio of around 50. But for OBCs, this ratio is a healthier 67.


If the educational qualifications of SC/STs and OBCs are taken into account, the shortfall does not look so evident anymore. Just 15.1 per cent of those enrolled in colleges in 1999-2000, for instance, were SC/STs""which is why the SC/ST share in the "professional" jobs category cannot be much higher than it already is, that is, 14.3 per cent.


Similarly, in the case of OBCs, they comprised 23.3 per cent of those enrolled in colleges in 1999, and their share in "professional" jobs in that year was also similar""24.2 per cent.


"It is obvious that a long-term solution lies in improving schooling," says Yogendra Yadav, professor at the Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.


"But saying this means there should be no quotas and is akin to saying you do not need immunisation since the key to better health lies in better nutrition," he adds.


A complicating factor noted by Yadav is that, according to him, not all in the SC/ST and OBC categories that are graduating are getting employed.


Not correct, according to NSS data. In the case of SC/STs, even without job reservation, there is little evidence of discrimination.


Unemployment rates for this category fell by around 29 per cent between 1983 and 1993-94 (from 4.8 per cent to 3.4 per cent), compared with a smaller fall of 14 per cent for upper caste Hindus (from 4.3 per cent to 3.7 per cent).


Between 1993-94 and 1999-2000, unemployment for SC/STs rose by 15 per cent (from 3.4 per cent to 4 per cent) while that for upper caste Hindus rose by a higher 24 per cent (from 3.7 per cent to 4.6 per cent). During this period, the share of SC/STs in "professional" jobs rose from 11.6 per cent in 1983 to 14.3 per cent in 1999-00.


There is no time series data for OBCs since the first time they were canvassed as OBCs was during the 1999-2000 NSS round. But the unemployment rate for this category in 1999-2000 was 3.5 per cent, a figure that was lower, by a significant margin, than that for any other social group.



Chances of the educated getting jobs similar for most.


Upper castes in the country do not have a dramatically higher chance of getting top jobs in comparison with SC/ST and OBCs, in case all of them have the same level of education, i.e. at least a high school degree.


On the face of it, this looks unlikely since there are a lot more upper castes in top jobs than there are SC/ST or OBC high school-pass students. But once you normalise this by the size of the educated population in each group, this difference reduces dramatically.


Data taken from the National Sample Survey's 1999 round show that upper castes who've passed out of school (at the very minimum), whether they're Hindus, Sikhs or Christians, have a 39 per cent chance of landing a good job.


In this case, a good job is defined as a professional, managerial or technical job held by a person who has at least passed high school.


In 1999, the NSS says there were 8.3 million upper castes in such jobs who had passed high school, and there were a total of 21.1 million upper castes who had passed high school "" i.e. the probability of an upper caste getting employed in a good job was 39.2 per cent.


This is not dramatically different from the situation for other groups. While educated OBCs who passed high school had the smallest probability of getting a good job, of 28.6 per cent in 1999-2000, this was 31.7 per cent in the case of SC/STs.


In other words, the chances of an educated person not getting a good job are quite similar for all categories, though such chances of an upper caste are the least.


If, however, you now decide to introduce reservation in jobs, the situation will change. If 22.5 per cent of the private sector's top jobs are reserved for SC/STs, for instance, this means that, based on the 1999-2000 data, SC/STs will get a total of 2.9 million jobs, compared with the without-reservation 1.4 million.


Since the number of educated SC/ST remains the same, the probability of an educated SC/ST getting a top job doubles.


In the case of OBCs, once the reservation of 27 per cent is accepted, the number of good jobs that are theirs for the asking will be 3.5 million "" since the number of educated OBCs still remains the same 8.4 million, the probability rises by around 45 per cent.


The figure falls by 22 per cent for Muslims and for around 29 per cent in the case of upper caste Hindus, Sikhs and Christians.



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