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Tribe of OBCs growing in leaps

One of the main planks of those opposing the current form of reservation has been the concept of the creamy layer and the most backward classes.

india Updated: May 28, 2006 01:12 IST

One of the main planks of those opposing the current form of reservation has been the concept of the creamy layer -- the privileged among the backward classes -- and the most backward classes. But they needn’t have looked much beyond the Mandal Commission report to get to the heart of the matter. In the only dissent note in the 1980 report, the only member of a scheduled caste on the panel, LR Naik, noted that the over-arching list of OBCs needed to be split further -- into intermediate backward classes and depressed backward classes.

He stated in his note, which constitutes volume VII of the report: “During my extensive tours throughout India, I observed that a tendency is fast developing among the ‘intermediate backward classes’ to repeat the treatments or rather the ill treatments they themselves had received from time immemorial at the hands of the upper castes, against their brethren, ‘the depressed backward classes’ (sic).”

But there is a more insidious thing the protesters need to look at. Since 1993, when the recommendations of the Mandal Commission were implemented for central government jobs, there has been a steep 90 per cent increase in the number of centrally notified OBCs. It jumped from 1,257 castes in 1993 to 2,297 in 2006. That means 1,040 castes were included only after the VP Singh government had reprised the old report -– some 13 years after the report was submitted.

Numerous dominant castes have muscled into the central list purely because of their political clout. The Jats of Rajasthan are a good example of that. In 1999, the Vajpayee government conferred OBC status on Jats in Rajasthan barring those from the districts of Bharatpur and Dhaulpur (which had been ruled by members of that caste before Independence). Inevitably, the Jats of Rajasthan have since grabbed a dominant part of the OBC quota, much the same manner in which Meenas of the same state have been doing with the ST quota.

Significant additions to the OBC list have been done on the recommendation of the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC), set up in the wake of Mandal Commission’s recommendation on the statutory premise that “identification of backwardness is an ever-continuing process of inclusion and exclusion”.

Since then, all the recommendations so far made by NCBC have only been for including more castes in the OBC list. There is no instance in history where a caste has been removed from the OBC list on the recommendations of the NCBC.

At this rate, there soon won’t be any ‘forward’ castes in India.