OBC Subcategorization

  • IASbaba
  • February 2, 2023
  • 0
Indian Polity & Constitution, Social Issues
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  • The Justice G. Rohini-led commission for the sub-categorisation of other backward classes (OBCs) has now been given yet another extension in its tenure by the President
  • This is the 14th extension in tenure that the commission has been given.

About the commission

  • The commission was formed in October 2017
  • It was initially given 12 weeks to finish the task of sub-categorising the nearly 3,000 castes within the OBC umbrella and recommend division of the 27% OBC quota among them equitably
  • As part of its work, the commission had identified dominant caste groups among all OBC communities in the Central list, finding that a small group of dominant OBC communities were crowding out a large number of communities from the 27% OBC quota.
  • Consequently, the commission decided to divide all OBC communities into four broad categories, with the largest share of the quota pie going to the group that has historically been deprived of OBC quota as a result of being pushed out by dominant OBC groups.

Commission’s 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.
  • 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.

What is sub-categorisation of OBCs?

  • The idea is to create sub-categories within the larger group of OBCs for the purpose of reservation.
  • OBCs are granted 27% reservation in jobs and education under the central government, this has been a legal debate for other reservation categories too
  • In 2022, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court reopened the debate on sub-categorisation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for reservations.
  • For OBCs, the 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 the 27% reservation.
  • The argument for creating sub-categories within OBCs is that it would ensure “equitable distribution” of representation among all OBC communities.
  • It was to examine this that the Rohini Commission was constituted on October 2, 2017

Need for subcategorization

  • Due to inequalities and further inequalities within unequal entities.
  • Reservation in jobs and education did address socio-economic disparities in India to some degree, but, the benefits of reservation have not been distributed equitably
  • Large segments of the weaker sections and backward classes continue to have no access to quality education or meaningful employment.
  • The relatively rich and dominant sections among the backward castes have tended to take up a disproportionately larger share of the reservation pie.
  • Failure in effectively preventing large sections of the creamy layer from taking advantage of the quota system to the detriment of the poorer sections among their own caste groups.
  • To ensure a more equitable distribution of reservation benefits by further differentiating caste groups coming under backward classes on the basis of their levels of social and economic backwardness.
  • Lacunae in categorisation of the creamy layer led to the need to differentiate among the caste groups.
  • Vote-bank politics has caused prioritising of caste-based categorisation over income-based differentiation to identify reservation beneficiaries.
  • The reservation pie is limited, and no group, whether rich or poor, dominant or subservient, can hope to gain except at the expense of another socio-economic category.

Findings of the commission

  • 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.
  • Total number of Group A to Group C employees (including safai karmacharis) was 5.12 lakh  – Of these, 17.70% are SC, 6.72% ST, 20.26% OBC (Other Backward Classes), and 0.02% EWS (Economically Weaker Sections).
  • In Group-A, the highest tier among these, the representation of SCs is just 12.86%, of STs 5.64% and of OBCs 16.88%. Reservation for these communities is 15%, 7.5% and 27% respectively.


  • Disruptions caused by COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Different states census underway – Bihar government is in the middle of its caste-based survey in the State and the Uttar Pradesh government is in the process of conducting a fresh survey to assess the need for OBC reservation in its local body elections, with other States like Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra also looking to form panels to implement OBC reservation in local body polls.
  • Government lacks information for data enumeration of OBC
  • Data from 2011 Socio-Economic Caste Census were never made public.
  • Enumeration of OBC data is administratively complex and the information lacks completeness and accuracy since the State and Central list of OBCs are distinct.
  • It may lead to breach of apex court’s 50-per-cent ceiling, since many communities have sought separate reservations at the State and Central levels across India.

Way forward

  • According to 2018 data, just ten OBC communities have taken the 25 per cent of reserved central jobs and institutional seats. Also, 97 per cent of the reserved jobs and seats have gone to 25 per cent of OBC sub-castes.
  • Hence, there is a need to re-establish equity and the task has been handed over to Rohini Commission
  • Once completed, the report by Justice G Rohini commission is also likely to undergo judicial review

Source:  The Hindu


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