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Quota Within Quota Could Be Determined By Both 'Numbers And Capability' Of Backward Sub-castes

A Network18 creative by Mir Suhail.

A Network18 creative by Mir Suhail.

News18 has accessed the consultation paper sent by the Commission to states seeking their opinion on their proposal of sub categorising the central list of OBCs.

New Delhi: The Commission set up to recommend ways for an equitable distribution of OBC reservations has proposed a three-tier approach for sub-categorisation of backward communities in the central backward classes list. The share of representation in central superior services and elite institutions, like IITs and IIMs, is one of the proposed parameters to determine the relative backwardness of the community within the larger OBC block.

The share of reservations of each group within the overall OBC block thus sub-categorised may however be determined on the basis of their relative population at the all India level.

In a consultation paper shared with stake holders, the Commission headed by Justice (Retd) G Rohini proposes that the castes in the central list be sub-divided on the basis of the quantum of benefits” they currently enjoy in central government services and education institutions.

The commission at the second stage of the sub-categorisation process proposes to normalise this central list with state OBC lists, to ensure communities with similar attributes and social status are grouped together — the parameter being traditional occupation and share in superior central services.

“Preliminary analysis by the Commission indicates that such subdivision of the central quota in proportion to the relative population of various sub-categories is unlikely to lead to any significant loss to any community, but would open up new possibilities for a large number of communities that are currently unable to avail any part of the benefits reserved for the OBCs,” notes the Commission in its consultation paper finalised in the last week of October.

So, for instance there are two castes groups A and B which have similar representation in central services and are found to be on a level footing on other attributes. Then A and B may be clubbed together in a group. Castes C and D have relatively lower representation and social status and are thus in a separate group. The percentage quota allocated to each sub-group out of the total OBC reservations would however be determined by their relative population at the all India level.

Currently, only 10 states and UTs have allowed for quota within quota. Some of them are Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

The Commission has rejected the parameters adopted by the 10 states and Union Territories to sub-categorise their state list of OBCs on the basis of “ascribed status of a community as denotified, nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes, generally perceived social status of a community, perceived status of the traditional occupation of a community, religion of a community, and the caste status of a Hindu community before conversion to Christianity or Islam".

However, though the Commission was pursued by states to follow the same criteria in sub-categorising the central list, the panel has come to the conclusion that “sub-categorisation based on ascribed status, etc., therefore leads to communities that are highly incomparable being placed in the same category".

Reasoning why it has rejected the formula adopted by 10 states for sub-categorisation, the Commission states in the paper that it would not establish a "new hierarchy among the OBCs", but will try to provide a level playing field for all.

The Commission has come to the conclusion that it would be “improper, impractical and unjust to use ascribed or perceived social status, traditional occupation and religion, etc., as criteria for sub-categorisation,” according to the consultation paper.

The Commission has proposed that the sub-categorisation of the central list of OBCs would be “primarily on the basis of the quantum of benefits enjoyed by different communities in the reservations available for the OBCs in the Central services, organisations and educational institutions.”

As earlier reported by News18, the Commission had collected the caste-wise data on admissions that have taken place during the last three years in the educational institutions under the Central government through the quota earmarked for the OBCs and had also sought recruitments that have taken place during the last five years in the services and organisations under the Central government through the quota earmarked for the OBCs.

The Commission has now proposed to “divide the available central quota of reservation among the different sub-categories on the basis of the relative all-India population of the castes and communities placed in these sub-categories.”

However, the Commission has noted that none of the “available sources provide a reliable estimate of the population of individual castes and communities included in the Central List”. But, it notes that “it is possible to reliably determine the relative population of large groups of castes, spread over the whole of India, on the basis of the available data from various sources”.

To add, the Registrar General of India is a part of the panel and a top source from the panel had earlier told News18 that the RGI would be helping the panel with any census related information that it may need.

The primary reason cited by the Commission to reject the parameters opted by the states implied “establishing a further social hierarchy within the communities included in the Central List on the basis of the relative lowness or otherwise of their ascribed social status or traditional occupation”.

This has now set the stage for a certain recommendation by the panel for sub-categorisation of OBC on the basis of the amount of benefits enjoyed by the communities, giving tested standards of religion and ascribed social status a break.

The Mandal Commission had relied on the 1931 caste census data to propose that India had 54% OBC population and recommended 27% reservation for the caste group.

But since then, the government has conducted a socio-economic and caste census only once in 2011 during the UPA government, the first findings of which were submitted later to the NDA government in July 2015.

However, the full report has not been made public.

The caste data, along with socio-economic indicators, is considered a Pandora’s box, which the government may find too hot to handle. Caste enumerations may throw up fresh quota demands based on empirical data, which have not been available since 1931.

There is a belief that sub-categorisation will further divide the OBCs into more sub groups.

The need for dealing with this issue arise as it was seen that the more affluent OBC communities were better placed at taking advantage of the 27% reservation for the OBCs in the central government jobs and educational institutions.

If sub-categorisation indeed takes shape, then this 27% share will be divided which would mean that the less affluent OBC communities such as, say, Teli, will be able to stake claim to more seats in college admissions. It will also imply that the number of seats earlier claimed by Yadavs or the likes of such more affluent communities, may reduce.