The Central Government of India classifies some of its citizens based on their social and economic condition as Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST), and Other Backward Class (OBC). The OBC list presented by the commission is dynamic (castes and communities can be added or removed) and will change from time to time depending on Social, Educational and Economic factors. For example, the OBCs are entitled to 27% reservations in public sector employment and higher education. In the constitution, OBCs are described as "socially and educationally backward classes", and government is enjoined to ensure their social and educational development.
Until 1985, the affairs of Backward Classes were looked after by the Backward Classes Cell (BCC) in the Ministry of Home Affairs. With the creation of a separate Ministry of Welfare in 1985 (renamed as Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on 25 May 1998) the matters relating to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Minorities were transferred to the new Ministry.
The Backward Classes Division in the Ministry looks after the policy, planning and implementation of programmes relating to social and economic empowerment of OBCs. It also looks after matters relating to two institutions set up for the welfare of OBCs: National Backward Classes Finance and Development Corporation (NBCFDC) and the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC).
Backward class people is a collective term, used by the Government of India, for castes which are economically and socially disadvantaged and face, or may have faced discrimination on account of birth. They typically include the Dalits, the Scheduled castes, and the Other Backward Classes (OBCs). However recently released Provisional report of National Survey 04-05 states that Buying capacity of Backward Castes in rural and urban areas are comparable to forward Castes. It also revises Backward Castes figure as 41%. It also states that Landownership of Backward Castes are comparable to Forward Castes. It reiterates its earlier finding (in 99-00 survey) that forward Castes are poorly employed (more unemployment). Also Karnataka Minister in state Assembly has announced that per capita income of the Brahmins is lesser than all communities including scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. According to "The Times of India" on 31 August 2010, even after 17 years, at most 7% of seats have been filled by OBCs, regardless of their 27% reservation. This difference between proportion of different communities in Higher educational institutions is mainly because of difference in primary school enrollment. Political parties in India have attempted to use these communities as votebanks.
Under Article 340 of the Indian Constitution, it is obligatory for the government to promote the welfare of the Other Backward Classes (OBC). Article 340(1) states, " The president may by order appoint a commission, consisting of such persons as he thinks, fit to investigate the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes within the territory of India and the difficulties under which they labour and to make recommendations as to the steps that should be taken by the union or any state to remove such difficulties and as to improve ‘their condition and as to the grants that should be made, and the order appointing such commission shall define the procedure to be followed by the commission."
Article 340(2) states, "A commission so appointed shall investigate the matters referred to them and present to the president a report setting out the facts as found by them and making such recommendations as they think proper."
First Backward Classes commission
The First Backward Classes Commission was set up by a presidential order on January 29, 1953 under the chairmanship of Kaka Kalelkar. The commission submitted its report on March 30, 1955. It had prepared a list of 2,399 backward castes or communities for the entire country and of which 837 had been classified as the "most backward". Some of the most notable recommendations of the commission were:
Undertaking caste-wise enumeration of population in the census of 1961;
Relating social backwardness of a class to its low position in the traditional caste hierarchy of Indian society;
Treating all women as a class as "backward";
Reservation of 70 per cent seats in all technical and professional institutions for qualified students of backward classes.
Reservation of vacancies in all government services and local bodies for other backward classes.
The commission in its final report recommended "caste as the criteria" to determine backwardness. But this report was not accepted by the government as it feared that the backward classes excluded from the caste and communities selected by the commission may not be considered and the really needy would be swamped by the multitude and would hardly receive special attention.