Divide OBCs into subgroups

Divide OBCs into subgroups, says govt panel

By Subodh Ghildiyal, TNN | Nov 11, 2011

NEW DELHI: A government panel wants the Centre to initiate legal measures to split the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) into subgroups based on their socio-economic status, in what is the first show of official intent to categorize the monolith group.

The panel has suggested that the mass of thousands of backward castes presently part of an umbrella OBC list be divided into distinct categories of "backward" and "most backward".

The landmark initiative, with implications for OBC mobilization and apportioning of reservation benefits, may gather momentum from next year if the government accepts it as a policy objective.

The government's plans may invite resistance from the dominant sections since it will shrink their share in the 27% reservation pie to a fraction proportionate to their share of the total OBC population.

The government's plan to divide the OBCs will be a boon for the weaker "backwards" who are far more numerous but are unable to compete with the well-off backwards for quota benefits because of their education handicap.

The 'quota within OBC quota' thinking is in line with the views of National Commission for Backward Classes, as reported by TOI on May 27. The sub-categorization of OBCs will change the way quota politics has been run since the advent of Mandal commission which introduced job reservation for OBCs in central bodies. The Mandal policy turned OBCs into a crucial political force, forcing a churn in the upper caste-dominated politics. However, the OBC monolith has started disintegrating because of the resentment among the Most BackwardClasses (MBCs) over the domination of the "creamy layer". The last few years have seen them emerge from the shadow of Yadavs and Kurmis to be a factor in the electoral success ofMayawati and Nitish Kumar.

While the sub-division is already in force in many states, successive regimes at the Centre have avoided following suit for fear of backlash from the dominant groups. It is to be seen if the UPA will keep the recommendation of the Planning Commission's subgroup on 'empowerment of OBCs' as part of its policy objective for the new plan period.

NCBC chairman M N Rao had told TOI that the treatment of OBCs as a monolith had led to iniquitous distribution of quota benefits with dominant groups monopolizing the fruit of reservation. Advocating sub-division, he said, "A stonecutter and a goldsmith cannot be lumped together and asked to compete for a job." A preliminary discussion had earlier taken place between the commission and the social justice ministry.

MBCs have long complained that with their lower level of education, they are unable to compete with the strong backward castes. They have argued that weaker castes be asked to compete only against each other to ensure a levelplaying field for quota benefits. Significantly, the Congress-a late comer to OBC politics-has taken baby steps to court the MBCs. Unable to effectively woo the dominant groups, the party is trying to reach out to MBCs in the upcoming UP polls with a spike in party tickets for their members.


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