The central government has constituted a five member commission under Article 340 of Indian Constitution for sub-categorization of castes under OBC category. There are more than 3000 castes under this category and people belonging to this category are entitled to get 27 percent reservation in central services and higher educational institutions. There was a demand from the weaker sections of this category to further sub-categorize the list, so that they could avoid the competition with those who hail from dominant castes. Since, this kind of sub-categorization is prevalent in many states of India, there was substance in their demand.
Reservation is a policy of positive discrimination for those who find themselves at a disadvantageous position because of their caste in the caste ridden society of India. This policy helps the beneficiaries to avoid competition with those who are from privileged castes. But for those who are more backwards within the OBC category, this system was not working in their interests. They had to compete with the dominant among the OBCs. Hence, the decision of the central government to form such a commission is a welcome step that it will make the policy of positive discrimination fruitful for its targeted beneficiaries.
The basis of OBC reservation is the Mandal Commission Report, which had prepared the list of OBCs and recommended 27 percent reservation for them. There has been a demand for sub-categorization of OBCs from within the commission. When the issue was in Supreme Court, veteran socialist leader Madhu Limaye had asked the court to bifurcate the list so that even the most backwards among them could get its benefit. Although the Court did not pass any order for bifurcation of the list, it did advise the government to sub-categorize the castes.
The Supreme Court’s advice was ignored and resulted into appropriation of benefits by dominant castes. The politics of reservation was also helping the dominant castes to empower themselves by grabbing the seats of MLAs and MPs. This was creating rifts. The depressed castes of OBCs thus pressed for sub-categorization for protection from competition with dominant OBCs in the same manner OBCs, as a whole, have been protected from the supposed upper-castes.
The commission that has now been appointed is being headed by a retired judge and four other members. They have been given 12 weeks time to do the needful. They have a difficult task ahead because they do not have much data with them to determine the numerical strengths of castes and their level of backwardness.
According to Constitutional provision, socially and educationally backward class of citizens has been awarded caste-based reservation. Naturally, the sub-categorization will alslo be done taking into account the social and educational backwardness of the castes listed in Central List of OBCs. The Constitutional provision which gives caste based reservation also states that only those who are not adequately represented in government service will get that facility. There must be some data of representation of these castes in government services because this quota is being implemented for last 24 years. Records of the castes of those selected for services may help the commission to find out which castes have got more benefits.
Policy of caste based reservation does not pertain only to jobs and admission in higher educational institutions, but it also influences the contour of politics. The decision of sub-categorization may generate a lot of heat by those who have been taking advantage of the system. Those who are cornering the benefits of reservation may challenge the government on various counts. Formation of the commission is just the beginning and government may not face much problem at present. But after the publication of the report prepared by the commission and at the time of its implementation, there may be a lot of hue and cry – It will be better for the government to chalk out the strategy to face that challenge.
-Contributed by Kriti
Picture Credits: lokmanch.in