Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have been identified as the two most backward groups of Indian Society. They include all such castes, races or tribes, which have been declared as scheduled castes and scheduled tribes by the Constitution of India under the provisions of Article 341 and 342 of the Constitution of India. Scheduled Castes generally represent those communities, which have suffered from the stigma of untouchability in one form or the other. Scheduled Tribes are generally those who have been living in seclusion in hills and forests, more or less untouched by modern civilization and development.
Scheduled Castes constitute about 15 per cent of the total population of the country while Scheduled Tribes constitute about 7.5 per cent of the total Indian Population. Thus, together, these groups constitute a little more than one fifth of the total population of the country.
When India became independent, it committed itself to a socially just and equal social order. The Constitution of the country, promulgated in 1950, recognizes the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes as the two most backward groups needing special protection. A number of provisions have been made in the Constitution with a view to abolish all forms of discrimination and put these groups at par with others.
Specific provisions for the reservation in services, in favour of the members of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, have been made in the Constitution of India are as follows:
Article 16(4) - Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment - Nothing in this Article shall prevent the State from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class or citizens, which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State.
As per article 335, the claims of the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration, consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or State.
The main objective of providing reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Government services is not just to give jobs to some persons belonging to these communities, and thereby increase their representations in the services, but to improve the status of these people socially and educationally so that they can take their rightful place in the mainstream of society.
Xth Plan profile of Higher Education in India under Para 10.B2 states as under:
“To ensure the effective implementation of the reservation policy in admission, recruitment, allotment of staff quarters, Hostels etc. SC/ST Cells are established in the Universities.”
The Commission is providing financial assistance to the Universities for the establishment of Special Cell for SC/STs. The purpose of these Cells is to help the universities in implementing the reservation policy with regard to the admission of students and the recruitment of teaching and non-teaching staff at various levels. Its function is also to help the SC/ST categories to integrate with the mainstream of the university community and to remove difficulties, which they may be experiencing. Such SC/ST Cells have already been set up in 109 universities upto the end of Ninth Plan.