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Modi govt's Mandal redux with panel to ensure quota benefits reach OBCs

Creamy layer ceiling in the category increased to Rs 8 lakh per annum

Archis Mohan  |  New Delhi 

Modi govt's Mandal redux with panel to ensure quota benefits reach OBCs

In a decision with abundant electoral possibilities, the Narendra Modi-led union cabinet on Wednesday approved the setting up of a commission to examine whether sub-quotas need to be created for the marginalised castes in the central list of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs). This sub-quota would be constituted within the existing 27 per cent for socially and educationally backward classes.

The cabinet also increased the ceiling for the category to Rs 8 lakh per annum from the existing Rs 6 lakh for central government jobs.

Briefing reporters after the cabinet meeting, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said 11 states, including Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Jharkhand, Puducherry, Karnataka, Bihar, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and the Jammu region in Jammu and Kashmir, already have such categorisation in state government jobs. There is no sub-categorisation in the central list.

The proposed commission will examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of among and communities, including the broad categories of OBCs included in the central list. It will submit its report in a period of 12 weeks, beginning from the day it is set up.

According to some of the data, although not particularly exhaustive, available with the government, quota benefits have been cornered by dominant castes, like the Yadavs. The had succeeded in consolidating the non-Yadav castes during the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls earlier this year, which had contributed to it winning a historic mandate. Some castes, such as the Yadavs in UP and Bihar, traditionally do not vote for the This has forced the party to make efforts to reach out to non-Yadav castes.

The proposed commission is to be set up under Article 340 of the Constitution. According to a press release issued by the government, the panel will examine the "extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of among the castes and communities included in the broad category of OBCs, with reference to the OBCs included in the Central list".

It will also work out the mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters-- in a scientific approach-- for the sub-categorisation within such OBCs.

The commission will also undertake an exercise of identifying the respective castes/communities/sub-castes/ synonyms in the central list of OBCs and classify them into their respective sub-categories.

Responding to a question on whether the government will review reservations for OBC, as suggested by the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat in 2015, the Finance Minister said: "Neither is there any proposal before the government, nor would there be a proposal (before it in the future)."

There have been three revisions of the bar that was fixed at Rs 1 lakh in 1993, then hiked to Rs 2.5 lakh in 2004, to be increased one more time in 2008 to stand at Rs 4.5 lakh. The present ceiling of Rs 6 lakh was fixed in 2013. Jaitley also said a proposal to extend the decision to the public sector undertakings (PSUs) was under "active consideration" of the government.

Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah and union minister and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Ram Vilas Paswan, who is an ally of the BJP, welcomed the cabinet decisions. "These are historic steps to ensure adequate representation of the extremely backward in government jobs," Paswan, the union minister of consumer affairs, food and public distribution, said. The Dalit leader from Bihar, however, said there was no plan to introduce a similar bar among the scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs).

Shah said the move will give "priority" to the extremely backward groups among the OBCs in terms of accessing and other government schemes. In his statement, Shah also referred to a government bill, which seeks to accord constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes, but could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha in the monsoon session after Congress-led Opposition voted to push amendments.

"The average income among OBCs had risen with time and there was an increasing demand to raise the bar. The decision will provide benefits to many more people," general secretary Bhupender Yadav said.

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First Published: Thu, August 24 2017. 01:18 IST