Monday, January 30, 2023
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Ahead of Bihar polls, Modi govt extends term of OBC sub-categorisation panel by 6 months

Justice Rohini Commission’s mandate was also looking into how 27% OBC quota in jobs & education is being implemented and if all categories of OBCs are benefitting from it.

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New Delhi: The Modi government Wednesday extended the tenure of the Justice Rohini Commission, which was set up to look into the issue of sub-categorisation within the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), by another six months until January 2021 — a move that is construed as the ruling BJP’s attempt not to stir the caste cauldron ahead of Bihar assembly elections scheduled in November.

The current term of the commission was expiring on 31 July.

This is the ninth time that the tenure of the commission constituted in October 2017 has been extended. According to its original mandate, the four-member commission headed by retired Delhi High Court chief justice G. Rohini had to submit its report in 12 weeks.

Besides looking into the issue of sub-categorisation within the OBCs, the commission’s mandate also included looking into how the 27 per cent reservation for the OBCs in jobs and education is being implemented and if all categories of OBCs are benefitting from it.

As of now, the 27 per cent quota is distributed among 2,633 castes that are part of the OBCs. Given how some dominant castes among the OBCs end up cornering the benefits of the reservation, their sub-categorisation would ensure a more equitable distribution.  

Asked about the reason for seeking another extension, retired Justice Rohini told ThePrint: “The commission could not do any work for the last three months because of the Covid-19 outbreak. That is why we asked for more time.”

Also read: OBC quota is for social backwardness, not economic, don’t change that — panel tells govt

Delay in coming out with its report ‘deliberate’

Political commentators and experts, however, have questioned the repeated delay in submission of the report by the commission.

“One of the main mandates of the commission is to look into the basic issue of whether the implementation of the 27 per cent quota for the OBCs is happening and how much it has benefited. Why should it take the commission so long? It raises questions that maybe the delay is deliberate,” political theorist and social activist professor Kanchan Ilaiah told ThePrint.

Ilaiah, who is also an author, further said the delay this time around could be on account of the assembly elections in Bihar due later this year.  

“Maybe the commission has found loopholes in implementation of schemes and does not want to say it because of its political ramifications,” he added.  

The BJP is in alliance with the Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United) in Bihar and has already started its poll campaign in the Hindi heartland state despite the limitations posed by the Covid pandemic. Union Home Minister and former BJP president Amit Shah has also held a virtual rally earlier this month as part of the BJP’s poll campaign.

Any OBC issue will ‘cast shadow’ over Bihar polls

Supreme Court advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan said it could be a Catch-22 situation for the government.

“Report of any such commission around issues related to caste is bound to be politically sensitive, especially in an election season. That could be one reason to keep deferring it,” he added.

Elaborating further, he said if the commission says that various schemes have only been availed of by certain OBC groups, it will reflect badly on the government and they will have to make accommodation for other sub-groups with fixed percentages, which could be unpopular.

“On the contrary, if they say that there is no need for fixed percentages for sub-groups, those who have perceived exclusion all these years would be disgruntled, making it uncomfortable for the alliance ahead of the Bihar elections. Caste is at the heart of Bihar elections for the last 30 years and any OBC issue will cast a shadow over it,” he added.

Also read: To tweak OBC creamy layer or not. A Modi govt decision that can cost BJP the Bihar election


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