Other Backward Class
Other Backward Class (OBC) is a collective term used by the Government of India to classify castes which are educationally or socially disadvantaged. It is one of several official classifications of the population of India, along with General Class, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SCs and STs). The OBCs were found to comprise 52% of the country's population by the Mandal Commission report of 1980, and were determined to be 41% in 2006 when the National Sample Survey Organisation took place. There is substantial debate over the exact number of OBCs in India; it is generally estimated to be sizable, but many believe that it is higher than the figures quoted by either the Mandal Commission or the National Sample Survey.
In the Indian Constitution, OBCs are described as "socially and educationally backward classes", and the Government of India is enjoined to ensure their social and educational development — for example, the OBCs are entitled to 27% reservations in public sector employment and higher education. The list of OBCs maintained by the Indian Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is dynamic, with castes and communities being added or removed depending on social, educational and economic factors. In a reply to a question in Lok Sabha, Union Minister Jitendra Singh informed that as in January 2016, the percentage of OBCs in central government services is 21.57% and has shown an increasing trend since September, 1993. Likewise, in 2015, at educational institutes, funds meant for OBC students under the reservation policy were not used properly or were underused in cases of upgrading infrastructure as well as in violation of faculty recruitment of OBCs according to the 49% reservation policy.
Until 1985, the affairs of the Backward Classes were looked after by the Backward Classes Cell in the Ministry of Home Affairs. A separate Ministry of Welfare was established in 1985 (renamed in 1998 to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment) to attend to matters relating to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and OBCs. The Backward Classes Division of the Ministry looks after the policy, planning and implementation of programmes relating to social and economic empowerment of OBCs, and matters relating to two institutions set up for the welfare of OBCs, the and the National Commission for Backward Classes.
Under Article 340 of the Indian Constitution, it is obligatory for the government to promote the welfare of the OBCs.
The president may by order appoint a commission consisting of such persons as he thinks fit to investigate the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes within the territory of India and the difficulties under which they labour and to make recommendations as to the steps that should be taken by the union or any state to remove such difficulties and as to improve their condition and as to the grants that should be made, and the order appointing such commission shall define the procedure to be followed by the commission. ... A commission so appointed shall investigate the matters referred to them and present to the president a report setting out the facts as found by them and making such recommendation as they think proper.
A 1992 decision of the Supreme Court of India resulted in a requirement that 27% of civil service positions be reserved for members of OBCs. In a reply to a question in Lok Sabha, Union Minister Jitendra Singh informed that as in January 2016, the percentage of OBCs in central government jobs is 21.57%. This difference between proportion of different communities in higher educational institutions is mainly because of difference in primary school enrollment. Political parties in India have attempted to use these communities as votebanks.
Below is the distribution of population of each religion by caste categories, obtained from merged sample of Schedule 1 and Schedule 10 of available data from the National Sample Survey Organisation 55th (1999–2000) and National Sample Survey Organisation 61st Rounds (2004–05) Round Survey.
The First Backward Classes Commission was established by a presidential order on 29 January 1953 under the chairmanship of Kaka Kalelkar, and submitted its report on 30 March 1955. It had prepared a list of 2,399 backward castes or communities for the entire country, of which 837 had been classified as the "most backward". Some of the most notable recommendations of the Kalelkar commission were:
The commission in its final report recommended "caste as the criteria" to determine backwardness. However, the report was not accepted by the government, which feared that the backward classes excluded from the caste and communities selected by the commission might not be considered, and those in most need would be swamped by the multitudes, thus receiving insufficient attention.
The decision to set up a second backward classes commission was made official by the president on 1 January 1979. The commission popularly known as the Mandal Commission, its chairman being B. P. Mandal, submitted a report in December 1980 that stated that the population of OBCs, which includes both Hindus and non-Hindus, was around 52 per cent of the total population according to the Mandal Commission. The number of backward castes and communities was 3,743 in the initial list of Mandal Commission set up in 1979–80. The number of backward castes in Central list of OBCs has now increased to 5,013 (without the figures for most of the Union Territories) in 2006 as per National Commission for Backward Classes. Mandal Commission developed 11 indicators or criteria to identify OBCs, of which four were economic.
The National Sample Survey puts the figure at 41%. There is substantial debate over the exact number of OBCs in India, with census data compromised by partisan politics. It is generally estimated to be sizable, but lower than the figures quoted by either the Mandal Commission or and National Sample Survey.
27 percent of reservation was recommended owing to the legal constraint that the total quantum of reservation should not exceed 50 percent. States which have already introduced reservation for OBC exceeding 27 per cent will not be affected by this recommendation. With this general recommendation the commission proposed the following overall scheme of reservation for OBC:
These recommendations in total are applicable to all recruitment to public sector undertakings, both under the central and state governments as well as to nationalised banks. All private sector undertakings which have received financial assistance from the government in one form or other should also be obliged to recruit personnel on the aforesaid basis. All universities and affiliated colleges should also be covered by the above scheme of reservation. Although education is considered an important factor to bring a desired social change, "educational reform" was not within the terms of reference of this commission. To promote literacy the following measures were suggested:
In October 2017, President of India Ram Nath Kovind notified a five-member Commission headed by Delhi High Court's former Chief Justice G. Rohini under Article 340 of Indian Constitution, to explore the idea of OBC sub-categorisation. The National Commission for Backward Classes had recommended it in 2011 and a standing committee too had repeated this. The committee has a three-point mandate:
The committee will have to deliver the report in 12 weeks of its constitution. The lower OBCs form around 35% of the population in Uttar Pradesh. OBC sub-categorisation have already been implemented at State level by 11 states : West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Bihar, Jammu and kashmir region and Haryana, and the union territory of Puducherry. The term of the commission has been extended to 31 May 2019. Its report stated that prime beneficiaries of 97% OBC reservation includes Yadav, Kurmi, Jat (Jats of Rajasthan except those of Bharatpur and Dholpur district are in Central OBC list), Saini, Thevar, Ezhava and Vokkaliga castes.
The term creamy layer was first coined by Justice Krishna Iyer in 1975 in State of Kerala vs NM Thomas case, wherein he observed that "the danger of 'reservation', it seems to me, is three-fold. Its benefits, by and large, are snatched away by the top creamy layer of the 'backward' caste or class, thus keeping the weakest among the weak always weak and leaving the fortunate layers to consume the whole cake". 1992 Indra Sawhney v Union of India judgment laid down the limits of the state's powers: it upheld the ceiling of 50 per cent quotas, emphasized the concept of "social backwardness", and prescribed 11 indicators to ascertain backwardness. The nine-Judge Bench judgement also established the concept of qualitative exclusion, such as "creamy layer". The creamy layer is only applicable in the case of Other Backward Castes and not applicable on other group like SC or ST. The creamy layer criteria was introduced at Rs 100,000 in 1993, and revised to Rs 250,000 in 2004, Rs 450,000 in 2008 and Rs 600,000 in 2013. In October 2015, National Commission for Backward Classes proposed that a person belonging to OBC with an annual family income of up to Rs 1.5 million should be considered as minimum ceiling for OBC. NCBC also recommended sub-division of OBCs into 'backward', 'more backward' and 'extremely backward' blocs and divide 27% quota amongst them in proportion to their population, to ensure that stronger OBCs don't corner the quota benefits. In August 2017, NDA government announced the creamy layer ceiling in the OBC category from getting reservation in jobs, has been raised from Rs 6 lakh a year to Rs 8 lakh.
On 29 March 2007, the Supreme Court of India, as an interim measure, stayed the law providing for 27 percent reservation for Other Backward Classes in educational institutions like IITs and IIMs. This was done in response to a public interest litigation — Ashoka Kumar Thakur vs. Union of India. The Court held that the 1931 census could not be a determinative factor for identifying the OBCs for the purpose of providing reservation. The court also observed, "Reservation cannot be permanent and appear to perpetuate backwardness".
On 10 April 2008 the Supreme Court of India upheld the government's initiative of 27% OBC quotas in government-funded institutions. The Court has categorically reiterated its prior stand that those considered part of the "Creamy layer" should be excluded by government-funded institutions and by private institutions from the scope of the reservation policy. The verdict produced mixed reactions from supporting and opposing quarters.
Several criteria to identify the portion of the population comprising the "creamy layer" have been recommended, including the following:
In March 2015, Supreme Court of India scrapped Jat Reservations saying that Jats are not socially and economically backward in reference with National Commission for Backward Classes' (NCBC) opinion. Supreme Court judgement quashed the proposed inclusion of Jats in Central list of OBCs on the basis that Jats are already given OBC status in 9 States. On 21 July 2015, Supreme Court rejected Centre's review plea for its verdict of quashing Jat reservation in OBCs.
The Karnataka State Government has issued notification granting OBC reservation benefits to Brahmin Christian, Kuruba Christian, Madiga Christian, Akkasali Christian, Sudri Christian, Scheduled Caste converted to Christianity, Setty Balija Christian, Nekara Christian, Paravar Christian and Lambani Christian.
Lists of OBCs are maintained by both the National Commission for Backward Classes and the individual states. The central list does not always reflect the state lists, which can differ significantly. A community identified as a nationally recognized OBC in the NCBC central list may be so recognized only in specific states or only in limited areas within specific states. Occasionally, it is not an entire community that is thus classified but rather some parts within it.