Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Sub-categorization of OBCs: Development so far


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Sub-categorization of OBCs

The Centre has extended the tenure of the Commission to Examine Sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) headed by Justice G Rohini, till 31st July this year.

Rs 1.92 crore have been spent on the Commission including salary, consultant fee and other expenses and the report is yet to be publicized. It is can be very well understood that the report will have huge political consequences.

What is the sub-categorisation of OBCs?

  • OBCs are granted 27% reservation in jobs and education under the central government.
  • In September 20202, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court reopened the legal debate on sub-categorisation of SCs and STs for reservations.
  • The debate arises out of the perception that only a few affluent communities among over 2,600 included in the Central List of OBCs have secured a major part of this 27% reservation.

Need for sub-categorization

  • 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.
  • To examine this, 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.
  • Before the Rohini Commission was set up, the Centre had granted constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC).

What are the Commissions’ terms of reference?

It was originally set up with three terms of reference:

  1. 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;
  2. To work out the mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters in a scientific approach for sub-categorisation within such OBCs;
  3. 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.

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

  1. 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.

Why so many extensions are being given?

  • This was added following a letter to the government from the Commission on July 30, 2019.
  • In process of preparing the sub-categorised central list of OBCs, the Commission has noted several ambiguities in the list as it stands now.
  • The Commission is of the opinion that these have to be clarified/rectified before the sub-categorised central list is prepared.

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).
  • 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.

How smooth has its work been?

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Many groups of OBCs have been demanding enumeration of OBCs in the Census.

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.
  • 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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