Backward Classes and Social Justice


  • Havnur Committee
  • Venkataswamy Committee
  • Chinnappa Reddy Committee
  • Deveraj Urs and Land Reform


  • There have been many agitations and movements for the upliftment of backward classes in the social structure of Karnataka.
  • Basavanna lead a compaign for social reformation in north Karnataka in the 12th Century.
  • Other backward class people got modern education, organised themselves and started demanding equality in due course.
  • Sir Lesley Miller commission appointed in 1918 by the Maharaja of Mysore recommended reservation of 25% of jobs in the Government to non-Brahmins.
  • Many organisations and associations were formed in the state to limit the dominance of the forward castes and to convince backward classes about the importance of education and to propogate it.

Post Independence:

  • Government of India appointed the Kaka Kalekar Committee in 1953 to identify backward classes and to fix reservation in field of employment. But as the report of this committee was not satisfactory, government of India directed the states to have their own commissions for the upliftment of backward classes.
  • It was ordered that 65% of seats in educational institutions be reserved for backward classes in 1959. This order was quashed by the High Court.
  • Government of Karnataka formed the backward classes commission with Nagegowda as the chairman in 1960. The reservation order passed by this commission was quashed by the High Court in 1963.
  • The backward class commission formed in 1972 under the chairmanship of L.G. Havanur made a sincere effort to identify backward classes and presented its report in 1975.
  • The Government established a seperate department in 1977 for the welfare of backward classes on the recommendations of this commission.
  • The programmes implemented by the social welfare department till then were tranferred to this department.
  • There were many protests and judgements against the reservations based on Havanur Commission and hence the government appointed the second backward classes Commission with justice B.Venkataswami as chairman in 1983.
  • This commission placed its report in 1986. But the Government did not implement it as there were protests against this report also. An interim order was passed in October 1986 to be in force till such time a new report was prepared by a new commission.
  • A one man backward classes Commission was established for the 3rd time with justice O.Chinnappa Reddy as the chairman in March 1988. The Commission presented its report in April 1990.
  • The Government issued two directions regarding reservation rules in April and July 1994 based on this report and having the economic and social status of different castes, communities and tribes as consideration.
  • Reservation was increased to 57% first and to 73% afterwards.
  • But many people appealed to the Supreme Court against this order. The Supreme Court passed an interim ruling in September 1994 that the reservations in states should never exceed 50%.

Development of Backward Classes’ list in Karnataka

  • Till November 1, 1956, the State of Mysore treated all castes and communities, except Brahmins, Anglo-Indians and Europeans, as backwards.
  • After reorganization of states in 1956, a Government Order was issued in July 1958 declaring all caste and communities, except Brahmins, to be Backward.
  • This GO was quashed by the High Court.
  • In 1959, another G.O. was issued stating that all caste and communities except Brahmins, Baniyas, Kshatriyas, Kayasthas, Muslims, Christians, and Jains were backward.
  • This G.O. was also quashed by the High Court.
  • The State Government appointed ‘Mysore Backwardc Class Committee’ under Chairmanship of Nagana Gowda.
Nagana Gowda.Committee

The Committee used three criteria for the purpose of identifying socially and educationally backward people as well as those deserving representation in government service:

  1. Social backwardness of castes in relation to hierarchical status.
  2. Educational Backwardness
  3. The proportion of representation in government service.
  • Based on the above criterion following important castes were excluded from the list of socially and educationally backward classes and rest were given reservations.
  • The Committee also recommended that this reservation policy should be reviewed after ten years. Castes and communities which show an improvement in their educational status and representation in government service may be removed from the list after such a review.
  • The committee made special mention about the social status of Lingayats and said that the entire Lingayat Community is socially forward.
Developments following Nagana Gowda Committee
  • The State government passed three orders implementing the recommendations of the Nagana Gowda Committee Report.
  • As the Committee had not included the politically most influential caste group (LINGAYATS), the Government was brought under heavy pressure. To include Lingayats, the State average was raised by 0.1% ( i.e. from 7.0% to 7.1%). This would show that Lingayats were educationally not advanced. And their inclusion in Backward list was justified.
  • Accordingly, a new Government Order was passed in 1962 including LINGAYATS.
  • This however was struck down by the High Court.

As a result of the decision of the Supreme Court the Government of Karnataka wholly abandoned the basis of caste and pending an elaborate study and  investigation of the problem which would take a long time,  decided as and interim measure to classify backwardness on the basis of(1) economic condition,  (2) occupation (3)social backwardness.

The Havanur Commission (The First Backward Classes Commission)
  • The First Backward Class Commission was appointed in August 1972, under the Chairmanship of L G Havanur.
  • It marked the new phase of Backward class movement in Karnataka ( Just like how Millers report played before independence)
  • The Commission submitted its report in 1975.
  • The Commission enunciated a numbers of tests for determining backwardness, economic, residential, and occupational, but it appeared from the report of the Commission that in the final analysis the assessment was made on the basis of the performance in the SSLC examination.
  • The report profiles, classifies and favours reservation for backward classes. It also lays down guidelines for the apportionment of the reservation for the various backward classes in India. The Havanur Report was instrumental in constituting a reservation policy to be implemented in government organisations, educational and other institutions.
  • Devaraj Urs, the then Chief Minister of Karnataka was so impressed by Havanur’s report that he called it the “Bible of Backward Classes”. The Supreme Court of India also praised the report as a comprehensive scientific study of the Backward Classes.
  • Havanur’s work provided impetus for politicians from the backward classes to achieve greater success in the political arena.

Backward Classes (Excluding SC/ST) were grouped into three categories:

  1. Backward Communities, whose student average per thousand of population is below State average, but above 50 per cent of the State average.
  2. Backward Castes whose student average per thousand of population is below 50 pr cent of the State average.
  3. Backward Tribes whose student avegage is bolow 50 pr cent of State average,  except Dombars and Voddars,  and whose are Nomadic and Denotified  Tribes

Commission’s observations and recommendations:

  • It recommended castes like Bunts, Kodagaru, Kshatriya, Maratha, Christian, Jain should be considered advanced and not be given reservations
  • The Commission was of the view that caste-related backwardness was peculiar only to Hindus and, therefore, Muslims and Christians were not to be considered backward classes for the purpose of reservation
  • The Commission recommended a review after 10 years
  • It recommended 32% reservation for Backward caste with 6%, 10% and 16% reservation for Backward tribes, Backward castes and Backward Communities.

Following Havanur Commission’s Report, the Government issued a Government order

Important Recommendations:

  1. Contrary to the recommendations of Havanur Commission, the State Government included all the Castes, mentioned above  in 2a and 2b, for 16(4).
  2. The Government also included Dalit Chritians in the list of Backwards.
  3. Entire Muslim population was included in the list of backward communities.
  4. In the cades of Backward Communities and Backward Castes, a ceiling of family income of Rs 8000/ was imposed to make them eligible for the benefits of reservation under article 15(4) and 16(4).
  5. In addition a Special Category called Backward Special Group was created for categories of citizens if the  family income does not exceed Rs 48oo/ and parent/guardian is:
    1. an actual cultivator,
    2. artisan
    3. a petty businessman.
    4. holding an appointment in inferior services(i.e. Class –IV in Government service or corresponding services under private employment, including casual lab our) or
    5. engaged in any occupation involving manual labour”
  6. Following percentage of reservation was fixed:
    1. Backward Communities – 20%
    2. Backward Castes – 10%
    3. Backward Tribes – 5%
    4. Backward Special Group – 5%
  • In the meanwhile, pursuant to the undertaking given by them, the Government of Karnataka appointed the Karnataka Second Backward Classes Commission presided over by Shri Venkatswamy in 1983.
  • The Commission submitted its report in 1986.
  • Altogether 17 indicators were formulated to determine social backwardness.
  • Some of the indicators were economic such as ownership of land, ownership of house, income etc. some of the indicators related to habitation (environment and residence), such as whether they lived in rural or urban areas, in pukka or katcha houses. Some indicators referred to the level of education that is, illiterate, studied upto SSLC etc., Other indicators referred to employment, in the various classes of service under the Government.
  • All communities who scored nine or more backward indicators were considered to be socially backward.
  • For Educational Backwardness,the performance in the SSLC examination was next taken into consideration and those communities whose percentage of passes was less than the State average ( 3.34 per thousand population) were considered educationally backward.


  • The Commission identified 35 castes/communities as socially and educationally backward classes for the purposes of benefits under Article 15(4) of the Constitution.
  • Income Ceiling: To ensure that the economically affluent sections of these castes/communities do not walk away with most of the reserved seats and posts, the Commission recommended  the fixing up of an income ceiling
  • Other restrictions: In order to eliminate the affluent among the backward classes from cornering the benefits under reservation, the Commission, decided to insist on certain other information like Profession, Extent of Agricultural land and urban property etc
  • In addition to the income ceiling and other restrictions on income, the commission decided that a generation limit should be applied. Hence it was decided that if the parents and grand-parent of the candidate had enjoyed the benefits of reservation in education or employment, such candidate will not be eligible for the benefits of reservation
  • No caste /community be allowed to take double benefits, either under reservation provisions or for economic benefits under more than one classification or categories.
  • The Backward Special Group should be abolished.
  • The problem of the backward classes be reviewed once in every ten years.


Contrary to the recommendations of the Commission, the Government included a number of Castes in the list of Backward Classes for the purpose of Article 16(4). Even the High Court disagreed with inclusion of those castes. Validity of this list was never discussed in the Supreme Court.

Government rejects Venkataswamy Report

The Government appeared to bow down to the criticism and the agitation. They rejected the report of the Venkataswamy Commission on various grounds.

  • It was said that the Venkatswamy Commission did not have the benefit of the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court at the time formulating the indicators for determining backwardness ,
  • Another reason given by the Government was that the data collected in the course of the socio-economic survey was not cross-checked for accuracy. They said that there was a great difference between the figures collected by the Commission in the course of the socio-economic survey and the figures obtained from the Bureau of Economics and Statistics in regard to employment under the Government.
Government Makes ‘Interim Arrangement’

The Government rejected the report of the Venkataswamy Commission. They decided to appoint a new Commission but pending the report of the Commission to be appointed they issued Government Order.

The backward classes were divided into five groups – A, B, C, D and E. Group – A was described as ‘Backward Tribes’. Group – E was styled as Backward Special Group and was to consist of: an actual cultivator, an artisan, a petty businessman, one holding an appointment either in Govt. service or corresponding service under private employment including casual labour and any person self-employed or engaged in any occupation involving manual labour.

Subsequently, the Government appointed The Third Backward Class Commission headed by Justice Chinnappa Reddy. The Commission submitted its report in the year 1990.

  • Relied on the statistics gathered by the Venkataswamy Commission
  • Recommended reservation based on social and educational backwardness on the one had and economic handicap on the other.
  • In the report, the committee made a list of 72 castes, communities, tribes, religions and occupational groups and sub-groups of people and has recommended that they be classified into socially and educationally Backward classes for the purposes of reservation.
  • The castes were divided into 3 categories. Categories I and II were identified as socially and educationally backward. The division was made on the basis of comparative backwardness of the community as well as the size of the community.
  • Category III would include construction workers, conductors, cleaners, automobile drivers, agricultural laborers etc
  • It also listed criteria which will exclude individual from reservation.
  • Rule of reservation should be applied at the state of initial appointment and at the first stage of promotion after initial appointment.
  • There should be a permanent committee to consider and evaluate the progress of each of the caste groups and decide if the list needs revision.
  • A programme of education for the socially and educationally backward classes must be initiated.


Devaraj Urs and Land Reform

  • As Chief Minister, Devaraj Urs’s first priority was land reform, and his slogan was “Land to the tiller”; under him a sustained effort was made to equalize the land distribution through much of the state.
  • Karnataka, thus, other than the communist bastions of Kerala and West Bengal, has had one of the most successful land redistributions in the country.
  • The Land Reforms initiated by the Urs government received applause from all quarters.

Karnataka land reforms focused on three areas:

  1. Conferment of occupancy rights to tillers
  2. Ceiling on holding of agricultural land
  3. Distribution of the ceiling surplus land among the rural poor specifically with Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes in Karnataka.

Under the Land Reforms act of 1961 brought into force with effect from 1965, there were two ceilings- 27 standard acres in case of existing holdings and 18 standard acres in the case of future acquisitions.

Important Provisions:

  • The Urs government with the object of securing more land for distribution among landless, decided to reduce the ceiling on land holdings in the state by amending the Land Reforms Act and the amended Act came into force from 1st March 1974.
  • For conferring ownership of land to tenants, 175 Land Tribunals headed by an Assistant Commissioner were constituted, one for each taluk. The Land Tribunals were responsible for conferring the occupancy rights for tenants on the basis of the applications filed before it by the tenants before 31st December 1974 (later the time limit was extended).
  • There was no provision for appeal against the decision given by the Tribunal.
  • A tenant holding land from one or more than one landlord was entitled to choose the area and the location of the land for which he wished to become a registered tenant.
  • To speed up the disposal of the applications, the state government created additional tribunals in South Kanara (Dakshina Kannada) and North Kanara (Uttara Kannada) districts, where claims were plenty.
  • In Bidar, Gulbarga and Raichur districts, though the population of tenants was quite substantial, the number of tenants who came forward to file application for occupancy rights was much lower than what could be gathered from the district agricultural census figures. Hence the Deputy Commissioner of those district were asked to probe into the factors responsible for the hesitation on the part of the tenants to avail themselves of the benefits and a vigorous campaign was launched.
  • Originally the conferment of occupancy right on the tenant was conditional on his paying the specific price spread over 20 years. The provision subsequently underwent some refinement, whereby the government thought that the price must be payable in one lump sum so that the payment of compensation to the dispossessed landlords become less cumbersome.
  • The State Land Development Bank provided financial assistance to tenants for paying the occupancy price.
  • For the purpose of fixing the ceiling, land was classified into A, B, C and D. The ceiling under class A getting assured supply of water from a government source for growing two crops per year was fixed at 10 acres, while the maximum permissible holding was fixed at 54 acres under the last i.e. D category.
  • The Act required the landholder to make a declaration of their holding and on the basis of around one lakh declaration made by the landholders, it was calculated that around four lakh acres of surplus land would be available when the ceiling was imposed.
  • The surplus land was distributed to the landless through a scheme of reservations by which 50% was reserved for Schedule Castes, 10% for ex- Servicemen and the rest to others.
  • Implementing the Land Reforms Act, Urs had freed thousands of farmers from the clutches of landlords, who used to treat them harshly. It was a landmark piece of legislation which brought a major social and economic change in the State
  • It lead to the awakening of new political ideology that sought to curb the political and economic power of the dominant castes in Karnataka
  •  It led to radical reforms in the political and social structure, through legal abolition of tenancy by passing of the Land Reforms Act 1974 in Karnataka
  • Then abolition of tenancy created uncultivated land as owners who inherited small land areas could not lease out as they would lose their land according to the new laws and they could not do agriculture asthey engaged in non-agricultural occupation as this led land to become barren and useless
  • Land reforms has reduced the rent, provided the tenancy rights to the peasants and facilitated in securing better standards of living for them
Q. What was the contribution of Deveraj Urs in reforming Land tenure system of Karnataka? How did it help in bringing about social and economic transformation of the state? (200 words 15 Marks)

13 thoughts on “Backward Classes and Social Justice”

  1. very helpfull work by you people and thank u very much and i would be very greatfull if u could upload rural development optional subject also

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