The income ceiling for availing benefits under the OBC quota may soon be raised to Rs 4 lakh or more per year. At present a person whose family income is more than Rs 2.5 lakh is excluded from the quota benefits.
Many pro-quota activists say that this income limit — fixed in 2004 — needs to be hiked in view of inflationary pressures. The National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) will arrive at a figure by June 30 and make a formal recommendation to the Centre.
On Wednesday, NCBC representatives met officials from 20 State Backward Class Commissions here to seek their views on what the exclusion limit for the new creamy layer should be. Commission Chairman Justice S.R. Pandian told Hindustan Times that the amounts recommended by the states ranged from Rs 4-6 lakh.
However, representatives from some states demanded much higher limits. Madhya Pradesh Backward Class Commission Chairman Babu Lal Kushwaha demanded that people with family incomes of up to Rs 10 lakh or those holding up to 50 acres of land should be allowed to avail of quota benefits.
In the famous Mandal Commission case of 1992, the Supreme Court had allowed OBC quotas with creamy layer exclusion. Initially, the income limit for OBC status was Rs 1 lakh. This was raised to Rs 2.5 lakh in 2004.
NCBC member-secretary Lakshmi Chand said that another demand from various states related to empowerment of the commissions.
At present, the NCBC and most state backward class commissions just have powers to recommend inclusions and deletions from the OBC lists and have no powers to redress grievances. "We are not even empowered to hear grievances of OBCs regarding issuance of caste certificates. These complaints have to be made to the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry. However, state commissions in UP and MP have these powers. Delegates want backward class commissions to be empowered in line with the SC and ST Commissions," Lakshmi Chand said.
Sources said delegates from some states asked for an OBC census at the state and Central levels to ascertain the exact population of OBCs. The number is not known with any amount of certainty, as there has been no caste census in India after 1931, except for ascertaining SC and ST populations.