Patels, Jats,Marathas and Kapus are among the castes set to benefit from the move.
Close on the heels of providing Constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC), Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to shock and surprise the Opposition parties by pushing for categorisation of the Other Backward Classes in the country before the next elections.
The Justice (Retired) G. Rohini commission appointed in October 2017 to study the categorisation of OBCs is expected to submit its report to President Ramnath Kovind by the month end, recommending splitting as many as 4200 castes currently in the central list into different groups under A, B, C, D and E, according to sources in the commission.
Justice Rohini who became the first woman chief justice of Delhi High Court for three years from April 2014 to April 2017 has been chosen to look into the controversial subject of categorisation of OBCs due to her interest in social justice. Along with her, Dr J.K. Bajaj, and director of Anthropological Survey of India and Registrar General of Census Commission of India are the members of the commission.
Union Social Justice and Empowerment ministry joint secretary is the secretary to the commission which was supposed to complete its work by 31 July 2018. Now the term has been extended by another three months till 1 November 2018. However, the commission is ready to submit its report before 1 September, an official with the commission told The Sunday Guardian. The official who preferred not to be identified said that the report would also make recommendation for including some more castes from different states in the country in the OBCs list. This assumes significance in view of the sporadic demands from various castes across the country that they be accorded the OBCs status.
Patels in Gujarat, Jats in Rajasthan, Marathas in Maharashtra and Kapus in Andhra Pradesh are on the struggle path for the last few years demanding OBC status. Though the states are ready to accede to the demand, their inclusion in the list at the national level remained an obstacle till now.
With the submission of Justice Rohini commission, that obstacle will go, sources in the BC Development ministry in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh told this newspaper. Andhra government has already taken a Cabinet decision to provide 4% reservation to Kapus in public jobs and educational institutions, but the Kapus leaders want the same privilege at the national level too.
This bold initiative on part of the Modi government at the Centre is expected to reap rich dividends to the ruling BJP. A majority of the states in the country have already to categorised the OBCs into four or five groups, but the same is pending with the Centre for the last 25 years. A statutory study of the subject and a Constitutional status to the OBCs commissions had been the two pending issues before the Centre.
Experts who are involved with the process of OBCs categorisation at the national level are of the opinion that PM Modi has bitten the bullet and taken risk to divide the backward classes into four or five classes and give the NCBC a Constitutional status.
“This is a bold and laudable move and this would change the fate of OBCs in India,” said V. Krishna Mohan, member of Telangana BC Commission.
Telangana’s TDP MLA R. Krishnaiah who met the PM several times in the last four years on the issue of OBCs categorisation is satisfied with the move of according a constitutional status to NCBC. Krishaniah, who has spent around four decades of his life for the cause of OBCs, told this newspaper: “We thank the PM for passing the 123rd Constitutional amendment Bill on 2 August.”
The MLA who heads the All India OBC associations’ federation is planning to hold a rally in October this year in Delhi to felicitate the PM.
Many leaders from the ruling TRS and other Opposition parties have admitted that the move would benefit the BJP which is trying hard to find a constituency among the numerically strong OBCs. “If the OBCs are categorised into four to five groups, then the BJP will emerge stronger among these castes,” said a member of Telangana BC Commission, preferring anonymity.
The ticklish issue of reservations to OBCs exceeding the present limit of 50% too would be solved by the NCBC in its new avatar—as a constitutional body. From now on, the NCBC’s word might be final on such matters.
The NCBC’s Constitutional status Bill came immediately after the Modi Cabinet cleared another Bill of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, restoring the same protection to the aggrieved persons which was there before the Supreme Court’s order in March this year. These two deft moves by the Modi government have caught the Opposition unawares in the run up to the elections.