Context: The Union government has informed the Lok Sabha that the Justice G. Rohini Commission, which is looking into the sub-categorization of OBCs, has been working without the data from the previous Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC).
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- Sub-categorization involves dividing the larger OBC group for the purpose of reservation. Currently, 27% reservation is granted to OBCs in jobs and education under the central government.
- The plan is to divide the existing 27% OBC quota, with the maximum reservation given to caste groups that have been historically crowded out, and minimum reservation for the dominant caste groups.
Justice G Rohini Commission
- The Justice G. Rohini (retd.) commission was set up under under Article 340 of the Constitution in 2017 by the Ministry of Social Justice to sub-categorise the nearly 3,000 caste groups that are currently listed as OBCs on the Central list.
- Objective: To determine which caste groups had the most access to benefits, thus crowding out less privileged caste groups.
- Developing mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters in a scientific way for sub-categorization within OBCs.
- Identifying the different castes or sub-castes in the Central List of OBCs and classifying them into their respective sub-categories
- Study entries in the Central List of OBCs and suggest correction of any repetitions, ambiguities, inconsistencies and other issues.
- Tenure: The commission was tasked with submitting its report within 12 weeks. However, it has been given 14 extensions till date.
- Proposed plan: The commission has proposed to divide OBCs into four subcategories numbered 1, 2, 3 and 4 and split the 27% quota into 2, 6, 9 and 10%, respectively.
- It also recommended completely digitizing OBC records and a standardized system for issuing OBC certificates.
Need for Sub-Categorization
- Cornering of quota: Many groups believe that only a few affluent communities in the Central List of OBCs have secured a major part of the 27% reservation.
- Equitable representation: Creating sub-categorization would ensure “equitable distribution” of representation among all OBC communities.
- Realizing true potential of social justice: The idea of social justice has largely remained unrealized due to cornering of quota by affluent groups. Sub-categorization will ensure that the marginalized OBC groups will get benefits of reservation.
Challenges/ Drawbacks in Sub-Categorization
- Lack of suitable data: Data on socio-economic indicators such as education, land-holding, poverty and also on levels of discrimination is needed to identify such groups. For that, a detailed study has to be conducted.
- Political barriers: The issue of sub-categorization will turn into a political issue, leading to watering down of the initial recommendations.
- Internal conflict: Introducing sub-category within OBCs is expected to create rift between groups that have benefitted and others that have missed out.
- One way to bypass the challenges of sub-categorization is by reducing the size of the population eligible for reservation.
- This looks the most suitable option given the 50% cap on reservations and the limited availability of public sector jobs.
Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC)
- Census will provide the government a portrait of the Indian population.
- Census is covered under Census Act of 1948, allowing data to be kept confidential.
- SECC is a tool to identify beneficiaries of state support.
- Data gathered through SECC is open for use by Government departments.
- The last SECC was conducted in 2011. Before that, it was conducted in 1931. It will cover every Indian family, both in rural and urban India.
- The family has to provide information on:
- Economic status
- Caste name they belong to
- The SECC data will help authorities in understanding indicators of deprivation, permutations and combinations of which could be utilized by authorities to define a poor or deprived person.
- It will help in identifying caste groups that were economically worst off and which were better off.
Kaka Kalekar Commission
- The commission was formed in 1953 to identify backward classes other than the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) at the national level.
- The Mandal commission formed in 1980, estimated the OBC population at 52% and classified 1,257 communities as backward.
- It recommended increasing the existing reservation quotas from 22.5% to 49.5% to include the OBCs, apart from SC/ST.
National Commission for OBCs
- The National Commission for OBCs is a constitutional body set up under 123rd Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2017 and 102nd Amendment Act, 2018.
- Previously, it was a statutory body set up under the National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993 after the Indira Sawhney case (Mandal case).