Sub-categorisation of OBCs


    In News

    • Recently, the Union Cabinet gave the 13th extension to the Justice Rohini Commission, giving it time until January 31, 2023, to submit its report.


    • Justice Rohini Commission:
      • The commission was set up on October 2, 2017, under Article 340 of the Constitution. 
      • It was tasked with sub-categorisation of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and equitable distribution of benefits reserved for them. 
      • Its initial deadline to submit its report was 12 weeks — by January 2, 2018.
    • Reason for extension:
      • The Report is ready with the recommendations.
      • But feedback from states is required before submitting it. 
      • The Commission will visit the states and see the situation on the ground. The pandemic delayed the process, and in the last six months, no visit has been made.
      • This process is important, as states must have a say. Besides delays due to the pandemic, consultation with states is a big exercise and will take time.

    Reservation provisions in India for OBC

    • The Kalelkar Commission, set up in 1953, was the first to identify backward classes other than the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) at the national level.
    • The Mandal Commission Report, 1980 estimated the OBC population at 52% and classified 1,257 communities as backward.
      • It recommended increasing the existing quotas, which were only for SC/ST, from 22.5% to 49.5% to include the OBCs.
    • The central government reserved 27% of seats in union civil posts and services for OBCs [Article 16(4)].
      • The Constitution refers to the term ‘backward classes’ in Articles 15(4), 16(4) and 340(1). Articles 15(4) and 16(4) empower the State to make special provisions for any socially and educationally backward class of citizens
    • In 2008, the Supreme Court directed the central government to exclude the creamy layer (advanced sections) among the OBCs.
    • The 102nd Constitution Amendment Act, 2018 provided constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC), which was previously a statutory body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

    Need for Sub-Categorisation

    • No uniform benefits: The relatively rich and dominant sections among the backward castes have tended to take up a disproportionately larger share of the reservation pie.
    • Upper strata have Lion’s share: Presently, half of these 1,900-odd castes have availed less than three per cent of reservation in jobs and education, and the rest availed zero benefits during the last five years.
      • For Example- On the one hand, there are powerful land-owning farming communities like Jats, Yadavs, Kurmis who are availing benefits and on the other hand there are  large number of numerically small peasant and allied communities such as fish workers and herdsmen who have little or no land holdings.
    • Five-year data on OBC quota implementation in central jobs and higher educational institutions showed that a very small section has cornered the lion’s share.
    • Recommendations in this favour: The National Commission for Backward Classes had recommended sub-categorisation in 2011 and the Standing committee too had recommended this.
    • Sub-categorisation is a very simple way of addressing this inequality within the OBCs.


    • Political issue: It is likely to hurt the dominant OBC groups. The regional parties championing the interests of dominant OBC castes are likely to oppose such sub-categorisation.
      • An earlier attempt to provide sub-quotas for OBCs in Andhra Pradesh was stalled by courts on the ground that a religion-based quota is not permitted.
    • Vote-bank politics has a lot to do with the prioritising of caste-based categorisation over income-based differentiation to identify reservation beneficiaries.

    Way Ahead

    • The sub-categorisation should be practical and appropriate so that it leads to beneficial results.
    • The sub-categorisation must not hurt the sentiments of any group across different categories.

    Source: IE