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Sunday, Sep 15, 2019

After five extensions, OBC panel to miss deadline again

The panel was set up in 2017 to look into an “equitable distribution” of OBC reservation benefits.

india Updated: Feb 06, 2019 23:44 IST
The panel was set up in 2017 to look into an “equitable distribution” of OBC reservation benefits.
The panel was set up in 2017 to look into an “equitable distribution” of OBC reservation benefits. (Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
         

A panel appointed by the government to detail the sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBC) is likely to miss the May 31 deadline for submitting its report because the process of collating caste-wise population data cannot be undertaken with general elections around the corner, people familiar with the matter said. The general elections, to be held in multiple phases, are likely to be announced in March.

The panel was set up in 2017 to look into an “equitable distribution” of OBC reservation benefits -- or to essentially make sure that no one OBC group is hogging a disproportionate share of benefits . It has so far been granted five extensions to finalise its report.

A delay in the submission of the report means that nearly 983 castes found to have missed out on benefits of OBC reservation will not get relief anytime soon. The commission has pointed out that about 150 castes are the top beneficiaries of quotas for OBCs, but nearly 983 castes are not able to avail these benefits at all.

In 2015, the now-scrapped National Commission for Backward Classes recommended three categories for OBCs — extremely backward classes, more backward classes, and backward classes.

The 2017 panel, headed by Justice G Rohini suggested a fresh survey to get caste-wise population, since there is no data post-Independence on the employment and education status of OBC. In its consultation paper, the panel pointed out that data indicates a “high level of inequity in the distribution of benefits across different communities included in the central list”.

There is a 27% reservation for OBCs, except the so-called creamy layer, in educational institutions and government jobs. The central list has about 2,600 castes and the 2007 National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) data put the OBC population at 40.94% of the total population.

“Six or seven state OBC commissions, including Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and West Bengal, have responded to the consultation paper that was circulated, but a number of states are yet to respond. Another impediment is that a fresh round of survey cannot be conducted when the elections are so close,” said one of the people cited in the first instance.

The BJP-led NDA government in 2017, proposed sub-categorisation of OBCs, ostensibly to devise a “more equitable distribution” of quota benefits among various castes. Political analysts, however, saw this as an attempt to design a coalition of non-dominant castes among OBCs to upstage regional leaders from dominant caste groups -- such as the Yadavs in the Hindi heartland and the Jats in Rajasthan. Especially at a time when the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party have announced an alliance in the electorally critical state of Uttar Pradesh, a sub-categorisation of OBCs could have helped the BJP woo the non-dominant backward classes.

The BJP last year announced a training scheduled for its OBC members with an aim to help them strategise on how to expand the party’s base among OBCs. Such training sessions were held in states such as UP, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. Vivek Kumar of Jawaharlal Nehru University said, “They wanted to mitigate this image that the BJP is anti-Dalits and OBCs. This [sub-categorisation] was a long-thought strategy to win over the most backward classes,” he added.

First Published: Feb 06, 2019 23:44 IST