Other Backward Classes: Centre’s panel to seek 8-10% OBC sub-quota

The Indian Express: 09.05.2019

The commission to examine sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes is all set to recommend a fixed quota, possibly between 8 and 10 per cent of the 27 per cent OBC quota for about 1,900 of the 2,633 castes on the central list, The Indian Express has learnt.

Presently, half of these 1,900-odd castes have availed less than three per cent of reservation in jobs and education, and the rest availed zero benefits during the last five years.

The central government had appointed the Commission under Justice (Retd) G Rohini on October 2, 2017, and after several extensions to its term, its report is almost complete in time for the expiry of its term on May 31.
Five-year data on OBC quota implementation in central jobs and higher educational institutions showed that a very small section has cornered the lion’s share. This is the first government-mandated exercise to quantify the skewed flow of benefits among different OBC communities and suggest steps to correct the imbalance.

In addition to fixed quotas within quotas, a significant recommendation of the Commission is that the classification is based on relative benefits availed and not relative social backwardness, which involves parameters such as social status, traditional occupations, religion, etc.

Using the quantum of benefits enjoyed by different communities to sub-categorise OBCs is a major departure from recommendations of several Commissions in the past.

Sources familiar with the final deliberations of the Commission said: “OBCs have been defined already using a social criteria, we are not going to create a social hierarchy among backward classes. Several of these 1,900 groups may have been unable to avail the benefit of reservation only because they are miniscule in numbers, which restricts their access to education and jobs. To correct this inequity, the Commission is likely to suggest that of the 27 per cent quota, a fixed 8-10 per cent be reserved for such groups. This comes to merely 2-3 per cent of the total seats and won’t affect other groups but will create substantial opportunities for those left behind.”

This means, for instance, that if there are 270 reserved seats for OBCs, members of these 1,900 communities currently avail about seven. If the new government accepts the Commission’s recommendations, 27 seats would be kept aside for these groups. “If we are able to ensure a fixed reservation for these groups in elite educational institutions such as IITs and IIMs or within the IAS or IPS, it would mean a lot for them,” said sources.

Till date, sub-categorisation of OBCs as recommended by a few Commissions and implemented by some states have all used indicators of social backwardness as the criteria.

The First Backward Class Commission report of 1955, also known as the Kalekar report, had proposed sub-categorisation of OBCs into backward and extremely backward communities. In the Mandal Commission report of 1979, a dissent note by member L R Naik proposed sub-categorisation in intermediate and depressed backward classes. In 2015, former National Commission for Other Backward Classes under Justice (Retd) Eswaraiah asked for sub-categorisation within OBCs into Extremely Backward Classes (Group A), More Backward Classes (Group B) and Backward Classes (Group C).

Presently, ten states, including Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Haryana, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Jammu, have sub-categorised OBCs using varying criteria, including the ascribed status such as denotified, nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes, the religion of a community, caste status before conversion to Christianity or Islam, and perceived status socially or traditional occupation.

The Justice Rohini Commission, however, had held that the many communities who are extremely backward in this status show significant representation in jobs and higher education. “Even within the DNT communities that are classified under OBC, those that are more isolated in terms of their small numbers or scattered populations have been unable to get the benefit of reservations,” said sources.

Sources said OBC groups that have a larger presence also get the advantage of larger networks. Of the 2,633 OBC castes, merely ten, including Kurmis, Yadavs and Ezhavas, have got 25 per cent reservation in jobs and education. This is as per the five-year data collated by the Commission of more than 1 lakh records of admissions through OBC quota in central government educational institutions and 1.3 lakh recruitments in central organisations.

The Commission had clarified its stand on fixing OBC quotas based on current representation in reserved seats, and not on social hierarchy, in its very first consultation paper in October 2018. “Sub-categorisation of the OBCs need not imply establishing a further social hierarchy within the communities included in the Central List on the basis of relative lowness or otherwise of their ascribed social status or traditional occupation. All communities included in the Central list of OBCs are socially and educationally backward — which is a precedent condition for such inclusion — and thus deserving of reservations in education and recruitment,” it stated.

A second consultation paper circulated this year informed all states that the Commission will “recommend specific measures and schemes for the uplift” of 983 of the 2,633 communities that have received no share in reservation benefits.

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