Social Justice and Quotas in Government Jobs for Other Backward Classes

Rochana Bajpai

in Debating Difference

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780198067504
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199080410 | DOI:
Social Justice and Quotas in Government Jobs for Other Backward Classes

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This chapter reconstructs arguments for and against the extension of employment quotas to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the 1990 Mandal debate, focusing on the concept of social justice. It shows that in the discourse of the Janata Dal, the older nationalist ideal of equality was redefined, in terms of the formulation of the legitimating vocabulary, by linking equality closely to democracy, and distancing it from national unity. This strengthened the case for quotas. In normative terms, arguments for OBC quotas were substantially social justice claims, relying largely on egalitarian liberal norms of fair equality of opportunity rather than identity. The shift in the normative basis of group preference inaugurated by India’s constitution-makers, towards ameliorating disadvantage rather than maintaining distinctness, survived. As a result, a distinctive ideological space was fashioned for lower caste politics in the 1990 Mandal debate.

Keywords: Other Backward Classes; social justice; employment quotas; Mandal; Janata Dal; equality; democracy; politics; group preference

Chapter.  24258 words. 

Subjects: Indian Politics

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