Dissertation Abstracts

Reservations and Socioeconomic Mobility: A Study of Sub-Categorisation among Scheduled Castes

Author: Bhawna Shivan , shivanbhawna@gmail.com
Department: Sociology, Centre for the Study of Social Systems
University: Jawaharlal Nehru University, India
Supervisor: Dr. G. Srinivas
Year of completion: 2014
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Mobility , Identity , Reservation , Scheduled Castes
Areas of Research: Stratification , Social Movements, Collective Action and Social Change , Political Sociology


This study enquired into the history and context of re-distribution of the reservation benefits among Scheduled Castes that emerged as a new phenomenon in few states of India. The policy of reservations for welfare of Scheduled Castes is being implemented across India since six decades. However, the demand for adequate representation among Scheduled Castes arose only four decades back in state of Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Punjab was the first state that classified its Scheduled Castes population into two equal halves those who are adequately utilizing reservations and those who are less benefitted in 1975 and Tamil Nadu became the latest state in this process which identified a small group of SCs that are not able to avail reservations proportional to their population in 2008. In some of the states, the demand for equal representation of each of the sub-caste group in reservations sector resulted in setting up of various commissions. The reports of such commissions aimed towards rationalization of reservations through classifying Scheduled Castes population into different blocks or groups proportional to their population in each of the above-mentioned states. Sub-caste differentiation among Scheduled Castes arises for two main reasons: 1) disproportionate share in educational and employment opportunities and 2) social ranking and hierarchy practiced within SCs. Scheduled Castes is an administrative category consisting of various touchable and untouchable castes grouped together for the purpose of preferential treatment in 1935. Such grouping places all of them under one umbrella category without taking into account the internal distinctions among them. However, reservations could not remove the prior existing internal differentiations between all the castes listed as SCs. The study tries to understand the phenomenon of sub-categorization among Scheduled Castes through careful examination of impact of reservations on Scheduled Castes in employment education and legislative sector analyzing the degree and trend of socioeconomic mobility among Scheduled Castes and finally understanding the processes of assertion and identity formation formulating diversified identities among them. The reservation policy is ineffective and incongruent in providing benefits to every sub-caste group at uniform level. The unequal distribution of reservation benefits to its ‘actual beneficiaries’ resulted in competition and conflict between various sub-caste groups of Scheduled Castes. The policy of protective and compensatory discrimination ascertains disproportional representation of sub-castes in employment educational and legislative assemblies. This further divides them and resulted in fragmentation of SCs at sub-caste level. In the midst of debates of reservations and their efficiency, the focus should also be centered on the avenues open for Scheduled Castes for acquiring mobility with respect to Indian social structure. The factors responsible for social transformation of Scheduled Castes include social processes such as (Sanskritization, Westernization and Industrialization) and preferential treatment of weaker sections through reserved seats in government jobs higher educational institutes and in constituent assembly. These channels of securing mobility by Scheduled Castes group help in amending their status sets and roles enforced during traditional caste order. The acquisition of political power, educational improvement and occupational change became the major assets for upward mobility of Scheduled Castes. Thus, the process of social transformation through mobility is non-uniform at sub-caste level among SCs. The non-uniformity in the extent of mobility attained by each sub-caste group is perceptible at their receiving ends. The varying degree of upward movement directed towards division of social groups into: Mobile and Immobile groups; further differentiating them and generating a sense of competition. The inconsistency in diffusing reservations for Scheduled Castes impedes the progress of community as a ‘whole’ and act as a major factor for demand of sub-categorization.

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