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Rohini panel submits long-awaited report: what is ‘sub-categorisation’ of OBCs?

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Rohini panel submits long-awaited report: what is ‘sub-categorisation’ of OBCs?

Context- The long awaited report of a commission set up to examine the sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) was submitted to President Droupadi Murmu on Monday (July 31), the last working day of the commission.

(Credits- Indian Express)

The four-member commission headed by Justice G Rohini, a retired Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, was appointed on October 2, 2017, and received as many as 13 extensions to its tenure.

The commission was set up in recognition of the perceived distortions in the affirmative action policy, which was seen as leading to a situation in which a few castes cornered the bulk of benefits available under the 27% quota for OBCs, and tasked with suggesting corrective actions.

The report of the commission is widely expected to be politically sensitive, with a direct bearing on the electoral calculations of parties ahead of Lok Sabha elections. The contents of the report have not been made public as yet.

What is the need for sub-categorisation of OBCs?

  • OBCs get 27% reservation in central government jobs and admission to educational institutions. There are more than 2,600 entries in the Central List of OBCs, but over the years, a perception has taken root that only a few affluent communities among them have benefited from the quota.
  • Therefore, there is an argument that a “sub-categorisation” of OBCs — quotas within the 27% quota — is needed in order to ensure “equitable distribution” of the benefits of reservation.
  • Even as the Justice Rohini Commission was examining the matter, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in August 2020 intervened in the sub-categorisation debate, ruling that the 2005 decision of another five-judge Bench in ‘E V Chinnaiah vs State of Andhra Pradesh’ must be revisited.
  • ‘Chinnaiah’ had held that no special sub-quota can be introduced within the quota for SCs and STs for the benefit of castes or tribes that were more backward than the others on these lists.

What were the terms of reference of the Rohini Commission?

  • The commission’s brief was originally to:
  • “Examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among the castes or communities included in the broad category of OBCs with reference to such classes included in the Central List”;
  • “Work out the mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters in a scientific approach for sub-categorisation within such OBCs”; and
  • “Take up the exercise of identifying the respective castes or communities or sub-castes or synonyms in the Central List of OBCs and classifying them into their respective sub-categories”.
  • It was set up with a tenure of 12 weeks ending January 3, 2018, but was given repeated extensions.
  • On July 30, 2019, the commission wrote to the government that it had “noted several ambiguities in the list… [and] is of the opinion that these have to be clarified/ rectified before the sub-categorised central list is prepared”.

How did the work of the Commission proceed?

  • The commission noted the absence of data on the population of various communities to compare with their representation in jobs and admissions, and wrote to the government on December 12, 2018 asking for a budgetary provision for an all-India survey to estimate the population of various OBCs.
  • However, on March 7, 2019, three days before the schedule for the Lok Sabha elections was announced, Justice Rohini wrote to the government, saying “We have now decided not to undertake such survey at this stage.”
  • Earlier, on August 31, 2018, then Home Minister Rajnath Singh had announced that Census 2021 would also collect data for OBCs. But the census was delayed by the pandemic, and the government has not said when it might be conducted.
  • Meanwhile, OBC groups and almost all political parties barring the BJP central leadership have continued to demand a caste census.
  • In Bihar, even the BJP has backed the move — the Bihar legislature has twice unanimously passed resolutions calling for a caste census. On Tuesday (August 1), Patna High Court dismissed a challenge to the decision of the Bihar government to conduct a caste survey, paving the way for the exercise in the state.
  • In 2018, the commission analysed the data of 1.3 lakh central government jobs under the OBC quota over the preceding five years, and OBC admissions to central higher education institutions, including universities, IITs, NITs, IIMs and AIIMS, over the preceding three years.

Conclusion- The analysis showed 97% of all jobs and education seats have gone to 25% of OBC castes, and 24.95% of these jobs and seats have gone to just 10 OBC communities. As many as 983 OBC communities — 37% of the total — were found to have zero representation in jobs and educational institutions, and 994 OBC sub-castes had a representation of only 2.68% in recruitments and admissions.

Syllabus- GS-2; Vulnerable Sections

Source- Indian Express

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