Defining Backward Class

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  • The term ‘class’ signifies a form of social stratification. It is defined as a stratum of people who share similar socio-economic status or position.
  • A class is considered to be backward if its members are economically and educationally less privileged compared to other classes in that society.

Backward Class and the Constitution

  • The Constitution refers to the term ‘backward classes’ in Articles 15(4), 16(4) and 340(1).
  • Articles 15(4) and 16(4) empower the State to make special provisions for any socially and educationally backward class of citizens.
  • Article 340(1) authorises the appointment of a Commission to investigate the conditions of backward classes.

Definitional Issues

  • The term ‘backward classes’ which had originally been in use during colonial times lacked any clearly defined parameter regarding the inclusion and exclusion of groups described collectively as backward.
  • The definition of the term “backward class” remained imprecise, even at the time when the Constitution was being debated and drafted.
  • There were two broad ways in which the term was used in the debates of the Constituent Assembly.
  • One was an inclusive group of all sections of society that needed preferential treatment. In such a usage the term ‘backward classes’ included the “untouchables”.
  • In the other usage, the term that was used was ‘Other Backward Classes.’
  • However, the category ‘backward classes’ was not defined as precisely as the categories of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
  • It denoted other categories of people who were underprivileged and marginalised.

Other Backward Classes (OBC)

A community is classified as “OBC” if it qualifies as “backward” based on a complex set of social, economic and educational criteria, as specified by the National Commission on Backward Classes (NCBC).

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