[Answered]What do you understand by ‘creamy layer’? Examine the feasibility of extending the concept of creamy layer to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in India.

Demand of the question

Introduction. What is creamy layer?

Body. Discuss arguments to against and in favour of extending creamy layer to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in India.

Conclusion. Way forward.

 The creamy layer is a concept that puts an income ceiling on people availing caste-wise reservations in government jobs and education.The term was introduced by the Sattanathan Commission in 1971, which directed that the “creamy layer” should be excluded from the reservations (quotas) of civil posts. Till now, this is only applicable for reservations under the Other Backward Classes quota. SCs and STs are excluded since it was argued that their backwardness was based purely on untouchability for which economic improvement was not a remedy.

Argument in favour of application of creamy layer to SC/ST:

  1. Introducing creamy layer and allowing SC/ST candidates to compete in the general category would help thousands to leave the space for the less privileged among them.
  2. In Balaji v/s State of Mysore, it was held that ‘caste of a person cannot be the sole criteria for ascertaining whether a particular caste is backward or not. Determinants such as poverty, occupation, place of habitation may all be relevant factors to be taken into consideration.
  3. Once a caste is considered to be backward it will continue to be backward for all other times. The government should review the test and if a class reaches the state of progress where reservation is not necessary it should delete that class from the list of backward criteria.
  4. Also, by competing as non-reserved candidates, the well-qualified SC/ST group would corner a substantial number of open posts.So theoretically, SC/STs would end up garnering more posts than at present.
  5. Supreme Court of India in Nagraj vs Union of India, ruled that the people belonging for SC &ST should be classified into groups and that the more advanced among these castes i.e. “the creamy layer” should be excluded of all the advantages of the affirmative action provided by the State to the most depresses and oppressed classes of people in India.
  6. The Mandal commission was established in 1979 by the central government to identify the socially or educationally backward people. It used social, economic, and educational indicators to determine backwardness. But today are these reservations actually being stolen away by the creamy layer.
  7. Reservations are nothing but means to prosper the vote banks of politicians. They are hindering the country’s growth, development and competency in all aspects. Therefore it must be rationalised.
  8. Fair and just reservations to uplift the people with poor conditions of life, those who don’t have meals to eat, clothes to wear and no home to live in.The process of reservation should be such that it filters the truly economically deprived individuals and bring them all to justice.

Argument against application of creamy layer to SC/ST:

  1. Against Precedence: It has been clearly stated in Indra Sawhney (1992) case, that any discussion on creamy layer “has no relevance” in the context of SC/STs.
  2. Representation: Going by the creamy layer ceiling of Rs 8 lakh per annum, even “Group D” functionaries will come under the definition of creamy layer.
  3. Protection: The SC/STs are given job reservations not because they are poor but because they are excluded.The Constitution made the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as a separate category of subjects to protect them from caste aggression.It was also to help them gain the strength they need to withstand it and to grow autonomously.
  4. A right and not a welfare: The first part of Article 335 stipulates job reservations for SC/STs as a right of representation, not as a welfare measure.However, the creamy layer among SC/ST employees helps fulfil the second part of Article 335 that requires maintaining the “efficiency of administration”.

The response to this question needs comprehensive analysis of all the dimensions vis -a -vis the social, economic and political stature of SC and ST. We don’t need reservations based on castes or religion but only to actually provide aid to those who have minimal resourcesand merit should be given equal and due importance in admission procedures as well employment opportunities. This way we would be successful in removing caste discrimination and unite the economically rich together in helping the economically poor, irrespective of their castes.

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