Sub-categorisation of OBCs: G Rohini Commission 

  • IASbaba
  • February 5, 2021
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Sub-categorisation of OBCs: G Rohini Commission 

Context: On January 21, the Centre has extended the tenure of The Commission to Examine Sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) headed by Justice G Rohini, former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court. The commission now has until July 31 to submit its report.

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What is sub-categorisation of OBCs?

  • OBCs are granted 27% reservation in jobs and education under the central government. 
  • In September 2020, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court reopened the legal debate on sub-categorisation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for reservations. 
  • The sub-categorisation debate arises out of the perception that only a few affluent communities among the over 2,600 included in the Central List of OBCs have secured a major part of this 27% reservation. 
  • The argument for sub-categorisation — or creating categories within OBCs for reservation — is that it would ensure “equitable distribution” of representation among all OBC communities.

Formation of Commission

  • To examine this inequitable enjoyment of benefits of reservation, the Rohini Commission was constituted on October 2, 2017. 
  • At that time, it was given 12 weeks to submit its report, but has been given several extensions since, the latest one being the 10th. 
  • The other member in the Commission is former journalist Jitendra Bajaj, director of the Centre for Policy Studies. 
  • Before the Rohini Commission was set up, the Centre had granted constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC).
  • The Rohini Commission operates out of an office at Vigyan Bhawan Annexue and its expenses are borne by the NCBC. Until December 2020, over Rs 1.92 crore have been spent on the Commission including salary, consultant fee and other expenses.

What are the Commission’s terms of reference?

It was originally set up with three terms of reference:

  • 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;
  • To work out the mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters in a scientific approach for sub-categorisation within such OBCs;
  • To 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.

A fourth term of reference was added on January 22, 2020, when the Cabinet granted it an extension:

  • To study the various entries in the Central List of OBCs and recommend correction of any repetitions, ambiguities, inconsistencies and errors of spelling or transcription.
  • This was added following a letter to the government from the Commission on July 30, 2019 that said the Commission has noted several ambiguities in the list and these needs to be clarified before sub-categorising the central list.

What progress has it made so far?

  • In its letter to the government on July 30, 2019, the Commission wrote that it is ready with the draft report (on sub-categorisation). 
  • It is widely understood that the report could have huge political consequences and face a judicial review.
  • Following the latest term of reference given (on January 22, 2020) to the Commission, it is studying the list of communities in the central list. 
  • A hurdle for the Commission has been the absence of data for the population of various communities to compare with their representation in jobs and admissions. 
  • The commission initially proposed all-India survey for an estimate of the caste-wise population of OBCs but later said that it has dropped the idea of undertaking such survey.
  • On August 31, 2018, then Home Minister had announced that in Census 2021, data of OBCs will also be collected, but since then the government has been silent on this, whereas groups of OBCs have been demanding enumeration of OBCs in the Census.

What is the extent of OBC recruitment in central jobs?

  • As per the report submitted to the NCBC by the Department of Personnel and Training on July 24, 2020, OBC representation is 
    • 16.51 % in group-A central government services
    • 13.38 % in group-B
    • 21.25 % in group-C (excluding safai karmacharis) 
    • 17.72 % in group-C (safai karmacharis). 
  • This data was for only 42 ministries/departments of the central government.
  • It is reported that a number of posts reserved for OBCs were being filled by people of general category as OBC candidates were declared “NFS” (None Found Suitable). Home Minister has asked the NCBC to collect countrywide data on this and NCBC is yet to collect and process the data of the “NFS”.
  • The government is also contemplating revision of the income limit for the creamy layer for the OBCs.

What have its findings been so far?

In 2018, the Commission analysed the data of 1.3 lakh central jobs given under 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. The findings were:

  • 97% of all jobs and educational seats have gone to just 25% of all sub-castes classified as OBCs; 
  • 24.95% of these jobs and seats have gone to just 10 OBC communities; 
  • 983 OBC communities — 37% of the total — have zero representation in jobs and educational institutions; 
  • 994 OBC sub-castes have a total representation of only 2.68% in recruitment and admissions.

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