On 24th June, 2020, the Union Cabinet approved the extension of the commission created to examine the sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBC) by 6 months, till 31st January, 2021. Created in 2017 and headed by the retired Justice G Rohini, the commission had come into being by the President’s approval, under Article 340 of the Constitution. The purpose of this commission has been to determine the case of around 5000 castes in the central list of OBCs and categorise them to ensure equitable distribution of opportunities to them.
The commission requested for an extension in the wake of the covid-19 induced lockdown and delay arising due to restrictions of movement. In 2015, the National Commission for Backward Classes (NBC) had recommended that OBCs be categorised into extremely backward classes, more backward classes and backward classes. Reports have suggested that there has been an inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among the castes in the list of OBCs. Only half of these have availed only 3% of the existing reservation in jobs and education, whilst the rest have not availed any of the benefits available to them. Hence, the commission has been assigned the task of devising a mechanism that would allow the benefits to be distributed evenly by creating norms, parameters and criteria for sub-categorisation. Initially constituted for 12 weeks ending in January, 2018, the commission was granted an extension. Apart from identifying a scientific approach for sub-categorisation, the commission has also been asked 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.
Its progress so far has revealed that till 2018, out of the 1.3 lakh central jobs given to OBCs and admissions offered to educational institutions like IITs, NITs, IIMs, etc. 97% have gone to just 25% of all sub castes; 24.95% of these jobs and seats have gone to just 10 OBC communities; and 994 OBC sub-castes have a total representation of only 2.68% in recruitment and admissions.
In 1953, the Kalelkar Commission was set-up first to identify backward classes other than the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) at the national level. The Mandal Commission Report in 1980 estimated the OBC population at 52% and classified 1,257 communities as backward. Through Article 16(4), the central government reserved 27% of seats in union civil posts and services for OBCs and later by Article 15(4), the quotas were subsequently enforced in central government educational institutions.