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National Commission for Backward Classes Revisits OBC Quota

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The National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) has evolved a methodology to review OBC list from the State to include them in the Central government’s list of OBC quota, says Rakesh Srivastava, Secretary, NCBC, in conversation with Gautam Debroy of Elets News Network (ENN) while sharing much more. Excerpts:

Rakesh Srivastava
Secretary, NCBC

How did the NCBC come into existence?
This commission was created as a result of a Supreme Court judgement. In 1992, the Supreme Court in its judgement in Indira Sahni vs Union of India case directed the central government to set up a central body and state bodies which can examine the requests of different castes and communities in the Centre’s Other Backward Class (OBC) list. The work of the NCBC is to examine the requests that are coming from the State governments, various organisations, different castes and communities for inclusion in the central list and give the recommendations to the central government. This commission also holds the responsibility, when asked by the central government, to give recommendations about removal of those castes who were earlier in the OBC list but over the last decade or so ceased to be backward. Therefore, they should be removed from the list of the OBC and placed in the general category.

What is required to qualify the criteria for any caste’s inclusion in the central OBC list?
We go by the Mandal committee recommendations. It was the second chairman of this commission who set this criteria on the basis of social, economic and educational standing of any community. For example, in the social criteria, we see that a particular community people are involved in menial jobs or not or whether the education-level is less than the state average or where the school dropout rate is very high or where the boys and girls get married before 18. These are the criteria on which we base our recommendations. We then send these recommendations to our guiding ministry — the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Why do you think communities, already included in the OBC list, seek to get included in the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) list?
The formalities that need to be completed to be included in the Centre’s OBC list are rather simple. The state government first includes them in their own list. Then, it sends the proposal to our commission who go through various records and make recommendations to the central government. For a particular caste to be included in the SC or ST list, first it has to go to the Registrar General of India. He has to concur and then it has to go to the National Commission for the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes as may be the case. Then they give recommendations to the ministry. The process is more taxing. Now as per the scheme of the law, 27 % of the reservation has been alloted to the OBCs. Similarly, there are reservations alloted to the SCs and STs. More benefits are available to the SCs and STs as compared to the OBCs. So, there is always a demand from OBCs to include them in the SC and ST list. There have been instances when declared a community OBC in the Centre’s list but the same community has been declared as SC or ST in the state list. So, if such a proposal comes to us, we delete that name from the OBC list because one person cannot claim both OBC and SC quota in a particular state. We also ensure that the same community has been declared as SC by a gazetted notification in the state.

We have our own website where we are putting many reports online. The commission is IT- oriented and we hope to increase it in times to come.

You are dealing with a very critical department of caste classification, what challenges do you normally face?
Sometimes, a particular caste of a state wants to get itself declared as OBC in the Central list but they are registered as OBC in the state list. To get themselves registered as OBC in the central list, they first need to be declared OBC in the state list. People keep coming to the commission pleading their case to the commission without knowing this criteria. This is one of the biggest challenges we are facing. Secondly, at the moment, the Commission’s chairman has to be appointed. The Commission has the powers for a public hearing and making recommendations and as Chairman is not there, many projects are pending approval. Our chairman has retired recently, completing his three-year term. The government is soon going to appoint a new Chairman and we will speed up the work then.

Have you ever come across violence while working on caste reservations?
We have evolved a methodology in which once a report is received from the state government and a demand has come from a public community to be included in the OBC list, we fix a public hearing in the state. Then a notification is issued calling upon all to give evidence for or against the case. We have had instances where people of that particular community who want to be included in the list are present and there are equal number of people who are opposing it and situation sometimes become very very violent. So, we have public hearing in the state and based on the criteria of social, economic and educational level of the community, the commission recommends to the central government for inclusion in the central OBC list.

In case the criteria is not met, can community still appeal in the higher courts?
Yes, our recommendations are always appealable in the high court and later in the Supreme Court. Our recommendations are normally binding to the Central government. But it does not prevent a person to approach the judicial courts.

What IT initiatives your commission has undertaken?
As per the orders of the Government of India, not more than Rs. 5,000 are taken in cash for any purpose. Any payment more than Rs. 5,000 is made either by cheque or through Electronic Clearing Service (ECS). We are in the process of introducing e-governance to the commission. Some initial training programmes have already been held. Public grievances and Right to Information applications are fully online. We have our own website where we are putting many reports online. The commission is IT-oriented and we hope to increase it in times to come.

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