New Delhi: The National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) is all set to demand that the annual income ceiling to determine the ‘creamy layer’ among OBCs is doubled from the present Rs 8 lakh to Rs 16 lakh, as opposed to the Narendra Modi government’s proposal to increase it to Rs 12 lakh, ThePrint has learnt.
OBCs are eligible for 27 per cent reservation in educational institutions and government jobs, provided they do not fall in the ‘creamy layer’ category.
According to sources in the Commission, the panel will, however, agree to the government’s controversial proposal to include salary as a component to determine the income ceiling for the creamy layer of OBCs, something it had categorically opposed in March this year.
“We have not had any internal meetings or discussions since the lockdown began, so as of now, the stand of the Commission remains the same as before … But since the government has sent the Cabinet note to the Commission again, we might agree to including the salary as a component,” a senior office-bearer of the Commission told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity.
The office-bearer, however, added that the Commission will “definitely press for” increasing the income ceiling to determine the creamy layer from Rs 8 lakh to Rs 16 lakh. “If the income limit was reviewed properly since 1993, it would have been about Rs 20 lakh today … So we will propose that it be increased to Rs 16 lakh at least,” the office-bearer said.
The contentious salary issue
The issue of including salary as a component had become a point of confrontation between the NCBC, which includes several leaders from the BJP as its members, and the Modi government.
The thinking in the commission is that while including salary as a component could significantly shrink the pool of OBCs eligible for reservation in government educational institutions and jobs, doubling the income limit will allow some to maintain their eligibility under the 27 per cent reservation.
The Commission had in March told the government that it should not tweak the OBC reservation in a manner that it flouts the basic principle guiding reservations norms in India.
As reported by ThePrint earlier, in a letter written to the government in March, the Commission had taken strong exception to the government’s proposal, and said the underlying principle behind reservation is to accord it on the basis of social and not economic backwardness — a principle that is fundamentally violated by the new proposal.
Another office-bearer told ThePrint that the commission is set to review its stand on 10 July in a full-commission meeting.
The government’s proposal assumes significance with just three months to go for the Bihar elections due in October this year, which has a OBC population of over 40 per cent.
‘Lack of clarity on income’
Under the current rules, a household with an annual income of Rs 8 lakh or above is classified as belonging to the ‘creamy layer’ among OBCs and hence is not eligible for reservation in government jobs and government-funded educational institutions.
This basically means that those with annual parental income (excluding earnings from farming, agriculture land, salary among others) of Rs 8 lakh and above are not eligible for reservation benefits.
Further, those who hold constitutional positions and enter Class-A positions in the government sector are automatically included in the creamy layer.
However, what then constitutes income is steeped in confusion.
According to the 21st report of the Committee on Welfare of Backward Classes, the DoPT spokesperson in a meeting held on 5 September, 2018, accepted before the committee that the interpretation of the applicability of Income or Wealth Test on Class B and C employees is a “grey area”.
“I admit that there is a grey area. It is being interpreted in different ways. Its clarification is very necessary,” he had said.
When implemented for the first time in 1993, the income limit for determining creamy layer among OBCs was Rs 1 lakh. This limit is to be reviewed regularly keeping in mind inflation, and was last increased by the Modi government in 2017 from Rs 6 lakh to Rs 8 lakh.
Before 2017, the ceiling was raised thrice — from Rs 1 lakh in 1993 to Rs 2.5 lakh in 2004, to Rs 4.5 lakh in 2008 and then to Rs 6 lakh in 2013.
But apart from raising the ceiling to Rs 12 lakh, the new change also calls for including the salary in calculating the gross annual income.