What’s involved in courting the OBCs, one quota at a time 

What’s involved in courting the OBCs, one quota at a time 

Context

Giving the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) Constitutional status and new powers involves far more detail than meets the eye

What do observers have to say?

Observers point out the move seems aimed at strengthening a voter base among the OBCs while, at the same time, undermining the regional parties that have large followings in the dominant OBC communities.

Impact of the new legislation

The proposed legislation will empower the NCBC, which presently has a mere recommendatory role when it comes to the inclusion or exclusion of a community in the Central list of OBCs

  • Powers at par with civil court to NCBC: The Bill gives the NCBC powers on par with the civil court to issue summons, examine all matters regarding the welfare and development of OBCs and investigate complaints pertaining to the non-implementation of reservations in jobs and educational institutions
  • Parliament will be the final authority: The Bill also gives Parliament the final authority to make changes to the OBC list — this means that Parliament now gets to decide on the issues pertaining to the Jats, Marathas, Patels, Kapus and the many other communities that have been agitating for inclusion in the OBC list.

Two important developments

  • Change of the ceiling: In August 2017, the union cabinet approved a proposal to revise the income definition of the ‘creamy layer’ within OBCs, increasing this from those earning Rs 6 lakh per annum to Rs 8 lakh per annum
  • Commission to examine sub-categorisation: Also, in August 2017, the cabinet approved the setting up of a Commission to examine the sub-categorisation of 5,000-odd castes in the central OBC list
  • It has been given the task of sub-categorising all the castes in the central OBC list to ensure a “more equitable distribution” of opportunities in central government jobs and educational institutions
  • It will also have to come up with a scientific methodology for carrying out the classification exercise

Present situation

States where sub-categorisation exists: At present, a total of eleven states and/or union territories have a sub-categorisation of OBCs for their state services, including Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Haryana, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Jammu

Exceptions:However, larger states, such as Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, where more advanced OBCs such as Yadavs and Kurmis, corner most of the benefits and political clout involved, do not have assured sub-quotas for the extremely backward classes

NCBC’s methodology

NCBC had asked for a sub-categorisation previously with aforementioned methodology,

  • Sub-categoriseOBC category into Extremely Backward Classes (Group ‘A’), More Backward Classes (Group ‘B’) and Backward Classes (Group ‘C’)
    1. The ‘EBC’ in Group A was to comprise of aboriginal tribes, denotified tribes or vimuktajatis, nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes
    2. Group B was to consist of vocational groups such as blacksmiths, brass smiths, various kind of weavers, carpenters, etc
    3. Group C was to include those OBC persons hailing from agricultural or business communities
  • This methodology was based on the categorisation in Andhra Pradesh, which was referred to by the Supreme Court in the State of Andhra Pradesh And Others vs U.S.V. Balram (1972) and IndraSawhney And Others vs Union Of India (1993) cases
  • Examples
    1. Puducherry has classified its 76 OBC communities into five categories, two of which are Backward Class Muslims and Backward Tribes
    2. Of its 33% reservation for OBCs, Bihar has kept three percent for OBC women
    3. Tamil Nadu, which has the highest reservation for OBCs at 50%, has 3.5% for Backward Class Muslims and 20% for the most backward classes and denotified communities
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