On the cards, caste-based reservation benefits for Neo-Buddhists in central schemes
The Centre is mulling changes to caste certificates to allow Neo-Buddhists — members of SC communities who converted to Buddhism — to mention the reserved caste they belonged to before conversion.
The move will entitle the community to caste-based reservation benefits in central schemes, a demand they have been raising for long despite being eligible for such benefits in some states such as Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
Maharashtra social justice minister, Rajkumar Badole said he was hopeful after meeting his counterpart at the Centre, Ramdas Athawale, a Neo-Buddhist himself, to press for early action.
“If a Neo-Buddhist is sitting for the UPSC examination, they cannot get the benefits of caste-based reservation and are listed in the general category... because the caste certificate does not register them as Scheduled Castes,” Badole told HT.
He said while the Centre had given “in-principle approval” to make the amendment to the format of caste certificates, there has been “an inordinate delay” since 2016.
Since the Narendra Modi government is trying to woo the reserved communities and appear pro-Dalit, there is a sense that this would be done soon.
Badole recalled that members of Scheduled Caste communities who converted to Buddhism — a practice that was started by Dr BR Ambedkar — were treated as minorities.
An amendment was made to the law in 1990 for providing reservation benefit to them, but they are left out when it comes to central schemes, he said, adding there are over 60 lakh people in Maharashtra who stand to gain from the changes.
The caste certificate, he said, must have a provision to either allow Neo-Buddhists to list their caste or mention the serial number of the caste they hail from.
“Maharashtra government has prepared a format. The Centre can just adopt it,” he said.
His demand was echoed by BJP MP from Delhi and Dalit leader Udit Raj.
“Converting to Buddhism does not mean undoing the benefits that are given for those who come from reserved castes. Even if people don’t mention their castes, it still exists, so they should not be deprived of benefits,” he told HT.