Cabinet extends term of panel on OBC reservation for the 8th time

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New Delhi: The Union cabinet has extended, for the eighth time, the term of the committee studying the impact of 27% reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) because “repetitions, ambiguities, inconsistencies and errors of spelling or transcription etc appearing in the existing Central List of OBCs need to be cleared”, according to a government statement.

The committee was set up in October 2017 to study the beneficiaries of reservation for OBCs; there was concern that much of these were going to a few OBCs, with many left out.

That’s a controversial issue as pointed out by several analysts as well as members of parties opposed to the Bharatiya Janata Party that have grown their political footprint on the strength of a significant OBC base.

“They have been using ‘typos’ as a cover to hide their real intent. We have always believed that any reorganisation would sound acceptable and plausible when the SECC data is out in the public domain. Creation of a hierarchy amongst OBCs done without engagement with substantial data regrading location of castes on socio-economic parameter is an eye wash and it shows the government of the day in a very poor light,’’ said Manoj Jha, a Rajya Sabha MP belonging to the Rashtriya Janata Dal.

His reference is to the Socio Economic Caste Census data collected along with the 2011 Census; the data on caste is yet to be released.

The government’s claim is that typos and other inconsistencies caused double counting in many cases. As a result, there were 2,633 entries in the central list of OBCs whereas the real number is between 1,200 and 1,300, according to an official of the government.

“These lists were made during the British era,’’ said Union minister Prakash Javadekar explaining the discrepancies and the reason behind the extension. “So like the Dhankar caste is D but in Maharashtra it is spelt differently (with R)… this is being sorted out by the commission.’’

However, the extension may also be because the panel’s findings are expected to be politically sensitive, According to an official privy to the developments. An initial report showed that a fourth of the benefits from reservations were going to 10 particular OBC groups, leaving 983 with almost no benefits, according to a draft report reviewed by HT.

Justice G Rohini, who heads the panel, was unavailable for comment.

One member of the four-member panel confirmed that the report is ready. This person spoke on condition of anonymity.

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