Identification of communities as Other Backward Classes has a long history. After 1806, the listings in colonial period were undertaken as the basis of administrative reports and assessments. In January 1953, the Kaka Kalelkar Commission was constituted to identify the criteria and prepare a list of OBCs.

It laid down four criteria to identify OBCs: low social position in caste hierarchy, lack of general educational advancement among the majority of the caste/ community, inadequate or lack of representation in government service, and industry.

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The Commission listed 2399 communities as backward and 837 of them as ‘most backward’. Five out of ten members of the Commission submitted dissenting notes. In 1979, the Mandal Commission was set up. The Mandal Commission developed a composite index of backwardness consisting of social, educational and economic indicators. Currently reservation of 27 per cent of seats in higher educational institutions and jobs in public sector is being sought by OBCs.