With the in­crease in creamy layer limit, the gap between poor & mid­dle class OBCs will deepen

The New Indian Express - - EDITORIAL - YO­GESH PRATAP SINGH Deputy Reg­is­trar, Supreme Court of In­dia Email: dyreg.yps­ AFROZ ALAM Head, Depart­ment of Po­lit­i­cal Science, Maulana Azad Na­tional Urdu Univer­sity, Hy­der­abad E-mail: afroza­

Tak­ing ad­van­tage of its ma­jor­ity in both Houses of the In­dian Par­lia­ment, the rul­ing BJP is plan­ning to re­visit the ex­ist­ing scheme of OBC reser­va­tion through mul­ti­ple mea­sures.

First, the Other Back­ward Classes Bill will be rein­tro­duced to give con­sti­tu­tional sta­tus to the Na­tional Com­mis­sion for Back­ward Classes (NCBC) un­der Ar­ti­cle 340 in the forth­com­ing win­ter ses­sion. Sec­ond, the gov­ern­ment plans to ex­am­ine the “ex­tent of in­equitable dis­tri­bu­tion of ben­e­fits of reser­va­tion among castes and com­mu­ni­ties in­cluded in the broad cat­e­gory of OBCs” in the Cen­tral List. Third, the gov­ern­ment is em­pha­sis­ing the sub-cat­e­gori­sa­tion within OBCs for a “more eq­ui­table dis­tri­bu­tion of reser­va­tion ben­e­fits among OBCs”. Fourth, the gov­ern­ment has en­hanced the creamy layer ceil­ing from `6 lakh to `8 lakh. Fi­nally, the Union Cab­i­net has re­solved to iden­tify posts in Pub­lic Sec­tor Un­der­tak­ings and fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions and ex­tend the con­cept of creamy layer in OBC reser­va­tions to them.

In all prob­a­bil­ity, these mea­sures are not tak­ing place in iso­la­tion but have their du­bi­ous pur­pose. First, the party aims to change the elec­toral dy­nam­ics of lower castes in its favour by ma­nip­u­lat­ing its pol­icy ori­en­ta­tion. Sec­ond, the pro­posed mea­sures are adopted to grad­u­ally over­haul the reser­va­tion sys­tem. Pru­dently or help­lessly, the op­po­si­tion par­ties are not able to voice sub­stan­tive ques­tions on these mea­sures due to a de­cline in their con­cern for the idea of so­cial jus­tice.

Be that as it may, in a so­ci­ety like ours, ac­com­plish­ing the ob­jec­tive of so­cial jus­tice as en­shrined in the Con­sti­tu­tion is a dif­fi­cult po­lit­i­cal task. The Con­sti­tu­tion makes the state, the trustee to pre­serve, pro­tect, de­fend and up­lift the back­ward classes within the con­fines of the Con­sti­tu­tion. The gov­ern­ment, con­sid­er­ing the rec­om­men­da­tions of Man­dal Com­mis­sion apro­pos the ben­e­fits to be ex­tended to the so­cially and ed­u­ca­tion­ally back­ward classes, ac­knowl­edged that at the out­set cer­tain weigh­tage must be given to such classes (castes) in the ser­vices of the Union and their pub­lic un­der­tak­ings. The state act was chal­lenged be­fore the nine-judge bench in the In­dra Sawh­ney Case. Sev­eral shades of opin­ion rang­ing from one ex­treme to the other were pre­sented in the court. The apex court, with some sig­nif­i­cant re­stric­tions up­held the 27 per cent reser­va­tion to back­ward classes.

One such re­stric­tion was the elim­i­na­tion of the creamy layer from the reser­va­tions to the back­ward classes. The ob­ject was to en­sure that the ben­e­fit of reser­va­tion must reach the lower strata or needy peo­ple. The in­creased creamy layer ceil­ing from `6 lakh to `8 lakh is against this spirit. In­stead of cre­at­ing a big­ger pool of el­i­gi­ble peo­ple for gov­ern­ment jobs and seats in ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions, as claimed, it would help only the cream.

The ris­ing gap between the poor and mid­dle class OBCs will fur­ther deepen and the ben­e­fit will con­tinue to be ap­pro­pri­ated by the later class. It ap­pears that the change in the ceil­ing is aimed to carve an elec­toral con­stituency among the emerg­ing and as­pi­rant mid­dle class of OBCs.

The very con­cept of a class de­notes a num­ber of per­sons hav­ing cer­tain com­mon traits which dis­tin­guish them from the oth­ers. In a back­ward class un­der Ar­ti­cle 16(4) or 15(4), if the con­nect­ing link is the so­cial back­ward­ness, it should broadly be the same in a given class. If some of the mem­bers are far too ad­vanced so­cially which in the con­text, nec­es­sar­ily means eco­nom­i­cally and ed­u­ca­tion­ally, the con­nect­ing thread between them and the re­main­ing mem­bers of the class shat­ters.

They would be mis­fits in the class. Af­ter ex­clud­ing them alone, would the class be a com­pact class. In fact, such ex­clu­sion ben­e­fits the truly back­ward. The dif­fi­culty, how­ever, arises—how and where to draw the line? For, while draw­ing the line, it should be en­sured that it does not re­sult in tak­ing away with one hand what is given by the other. The ba­sis of ex­clu­sion should not merely be eco­nomic, un­less, of course, the eco­nomic ad­vance­ment is so high that it nec­es­sar­ily means so­cial ad­vance­ment.

Of course, there is a strong need to au­dit the present sys­tem of reser­va­tion on the lines of why it did not mean­ing­fully ad­dress the con­cerns of so­cial jus­tice. We also need to as­sess the ag­gre­gate out­come in terms of so­cio-ed­u­ca­tional progress of the OBCs and ac­cord­ingly de­vise stronger mea­sures like their sub-cat­e­gori­sa­tion to over­come the gaps.

But be­fore do­ing all these, the gov­ern­ment, first, should first re­lease the Eco­nomic Caste Cen­sus 2011 for a ju­di­cious prepa­ra­tion to ad­dress the OBC ques­tion. Sec­ond, a pro­vi­sion of reser­va­tion for OBC women should also be thought of to en­sure gen­der jus­tice.

Let the in­cen­tive of reser­va­tion per­co­late down to that group/fam­ily among OBCs who could not get the ben­e­fit of reser­va­tion for any rea­sons. Sim­i­larly, we also need to re­visit the re­li­gious sanc­tity of SC and ST cat­e­gories and in­cor­po­rate the sim­i­larly-placed caste groups present in Chris­tian and Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties in these cat­e­gories so as to equalise the ben­e­fit of ag­gre­gate out­comes of reser­va­tion.

To sum up, in the ab­sence of a cor­rect and com­pre­hen­sive pol­icy, the po­lit­i­cal ex­ec­u­tive, ow­ing to the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the elec­toral process will con­tinue to cre­ate lay­ers of back­ward castes, re­li­gions and racial groups where even 90 per cent quota will not be ad­e­quate. The rul­ing BJP should not turn the is­sue of OBC reser­va­tion prob­lem­atic in the want of cre­at­ing a ‘Neo-Man­dal’ mo­bil­i­sa­tion in its favour and in­stead come for­ward with a pol­icy plan with the strong con­vic­tion of re­duc­ing the marginal­ity of so­cially op­pressed groups.

It ap­pears that the change in the ceil­ing is aimed to carve an elec­toral con­stituency among the emerg­ing and as­pi­rant mid­dle class of OBCs


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