- GS 1: Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.
- The Union Cabinet has recently extended the term of the commission for six months, for the eleventh time, to examine the sub-categorisation of OBCs.
- Union Government constituted Rohini Commission under Article 340 of our Constitution to examine the sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and the equitable distribution of benefits among the various strata.
- Earlier, under the same provision, two commissions were set up to investigate the conditions of backward classes.
- The first Backward Classes Commission was set up in 1953 under the chairmanship of Kaka Kalelkar. Its report, however, was never implemented.
- Second Backward Classes Commission was set up in 1979 under B.P.Mandal. The commission decided to give 27% reservation in jobs and education to the OBCs. In 1990, the Union Government decided to implement the proposals of the commission.
- The decision to implement the Mandal Commission met with protests across India. The issue was then raised in the Supreme Court. The case is often called Indira Sawney judgement. In this judgement, Supreme Court upheld the 27% reservation to OBCs. It, however, advocated not to decide upon the social and educational backwardness of a community on the sole basis of caste.
- To promote equitable distribution of benefits, the concept of creamy-layer and non-creamy layer emerged. The judgement excluded the creamy layer from accruing the benefits of reservation.
- National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC), in 2015, gave the proposal to sub-categorise the OBCs to ensure that the benefits of reservation could reach the desired beneficiary.
- The Constitution (102nd Amendment Act), 2018 made NCBC constitutional and inserted a new Article 338B in the Constitution. It was placed under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
OBC: Who are they?
- They are socially and educationally backward classes, different from Scheduled Castes (SCs) or Scheduled Tribes (STs). The union government maintains the list of castes, which are to be included OBCs.
- Article 14 of the Indian Constitution provides equality before the law. This means the government could practice affirmative discrimination to uplift the backward classes.
- Article 16(4) mentions that State can make any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens who, in the opinion of the State, are not adequately represented in the services under the State.
- It will ensure that the more deserving people—those belonging to the Extremely Backward Classes—reap the benefits of reservation.
- 27% reservation to a large community would mean the socially affluent people are getting the benefits at the cost of those who need it.
- It will attest that caste is not the only factor to determine the socio-economic status of a community.
- It will ensure equitable distribution of government resources.
- Sub-categorisation, however, is criticised as it can be used as a populistic measure and, community appeasement could overshadow its just cause.
- The process of sub-categorisation is too complex at the grass-root level. Extension of the third Backward Commission, for the eleventh time, provides a glimpse of the difficulty.
- Sub-categorisation, with adequate safeguards to prevent it from becoming an electoral tool, can empower communities and bring them to par with others.