The Patidars in Gujarat, the Jats in Rajasthan, and the Marathas in Maharashtra have been demanding inclusion among the Other Backward Classes (OBCs). What explains their demands?
Ashwini Deshpande and Rajesh Ramachandran, in ‘Dominant or Backward?’, published in the Economic and Political Weekly (May 13, 2017), examine various socioeconomic indicators for the three jatis in relation to others in their respective States, using the India Human Development Survey (IHDS) of 2011-12. They also analyse the differences in these indicators from those of IHDS 2004-05 to find if there are variations over time.
The paper finds intergroup variations in household-level outcomes. In most variables, the three jatis are better off than OBC groups and SCs and STs in their respective States, and are closer to the forward castes. In fact, what distinguishes these groups is the fact that they are predominantly involved in agriculture and are more likely to work on their land rather than as agricultural labourers.
Comparing individual-level outcomes they find that three jatis are similar to forward castes. In terms of holding government jobs, there is a significant drop compared to the forward castes. The starkest difference is for the Patidars — their probability of holding a government job more or less matches with the OBCs (and is lesser than that of SCs/STs). This might be a important factor in their feelings of relative disparity with the “point of reference... being the dominant group rather than the socioeconomic disadvantaged groups”.
Analysing the evolution of group disadvantage (or advantage) over time, they find that except for the Patels, there is a decline in the probability of owning or cultivating land for the other two jatis. They also find that a high proportion of them hold casual jobs in non-agricultural sectors despite them being largely agrarian communities. With a general decline in fortunes in the agrarian sector, more of them are seeking a future in non-agricultural jobs, especially government jobs. This explains why these groups demand OBC status.
The authors conclude that despite narrowing socioeconomic differences with dominant forward castes, the jatis perceive their political power and economic clout to be slipping due to the changing nature of the economy, but their demand for inclusion among the OBCs is unjustified.