A quarter of a century later, it could be deja vu as far as job reservations in India are concerned. In 1990, soon after then prime minister VP Singh had accepted the Mandal Commission recommendations of 27% reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in government jobs, violent agitations had broken out in Delhi and parts of north India. Now, the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) has sent in a proposal to the department of personnel & training seeking 27% reservation for OBCs in the private sector—including cooperative and philanthropic organisations—according to a report in The Hindustan Times. The NCBC argues that while there is reservation in government jobs, employment by government has fallen from 18.2 million in 2006 to 17.6 million in 2012. In contrast, private sector jobs have increased more than a third, from 8.77 million to 11.9 million over the period. It also points out that while there has been 27% reservation for OBCs in government jobs since 1992, only around 12% got jobs. This happens due to a variety of reasons—posts get de-reserved for lack of eligible candidates; at times, OBC candidates get disqualified because they fall into the creamy layer with annual income of over Rs 6 lakh.
Though India has moved forward since the days of the Mandal agitation, given the low levels of job creation and the fact that government jobs pay 3-4 times what private sector ones do for jobs like drivers and clerks, it remains an emotive issue; moving reservations to the private sector will fan the flames far more than even during the Mandal period. Some evidence of how deep the resentment goes was on evidence at the height of the Hardik Patel movement for reservations for the well-to-do Patidar community. Given the last thing India needs is to fan the flames of reservations, the best thing the government can do is to simply ignore what the NCBC has said.