Explained: What is the Rohini Commission on OBCs?
After 13 extensions, the committee submitted its report on sub-categorisation of OBCs. Its contents will have huge consequences for our poll-bound country
The Commission set up to examine the sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) submitted its report to President Droupadi Murmu on Monday after receiving 13 extensions to its tenure.
The four-member commission headed by Justice G Rohini, former chief justice, Delhi high court, was appointed on October 2, 2017, and entrusted with the task to ensure that the more backward among OBCs can benefit from the advantages of reservation.
The commission’s report has not yet been made public. It is expected to be politically sensitive when it is done, and will likely impact social and political equations in the country.
Why the sub-categorisation of OBCs?
In accordance with the Mandal Commission report, 27% of seats are reserved for the OBCs in central government institutions and public sector organisations.
However, over the years, a perception has grown that out of the 2600-odd communities included in the central list of OBCs, only a few receive the benefits of reservation.
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government in 2017, proposed sub-categorisation of OBCs, ostensibly to devise a “more equitable distribution” of quota benefits among various castes. Subsequently, the Rohini commission was set up to ensure a rational division of reservations within the OBC community.
Earlier in 2015, the now-scrapped National Commission for Backward Classes had recommended three categories for OBCs — extremely backward classes, more backward classes, and backward classes. However, the recommendations were not implemented at that time.
What were the terms of reference of the Rohini Commission?
On October 2, 2017, the President appointed the Commission to examine the sub-categorisation of OBCs, exercising the powers conferred by Article 340 of the Constitution.
The Commission was given 12 weeks to submit its report.
According to its initial mandate, the commission was entrusted with three tasks including one to examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among the castes or communities included in the broad category of OBCs with reference to such classes included in the central list.
It was also tasked with working out the mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters in a scientific approach for sub-categorisation within such OBCs; and to take up the exercise of identifying the respective castes or communities or sub-castes or synonyms in the central list of OBCs and classifying them into their respective sub-categories.
Although the commission was scheduled to end on January 3, 2018, it was given 13 extensions since then.
What has the commission done so far?
In 2018, the Commission suggested a fresh survey to get a countrywide caste-wise population since there is no data after Independence on the employment and education status of OBC.
In its consultation paper, the panel pointed out that old data indicates a “high level of inequity in the distribution of benefits across different communities included in the central list”.
However, in May 2019, the commission wrote to the government stating that it had decided not to carry out the survey at that stage.
In 2018, the commission analysed the data of 1.3 lakh central government jobs under the OBC quota and admissions to Central government institutions including Indian Institutes Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), AIIMS and other universities.
The committee observed that 97% of the jobs and admissions at the central level had gone to 25% of sub-castes under OBC, and 24.95% of these opportunities had gone to just 10 OBC communities.
It also highlighted that as many as 983 OBC communities have zero representation in jobs and educational institutions, and 994 sub-castes have a representation of only 2.68% in admissions and recruitment.
However, experts said that many OBC communities lack data on their own population to effectively compare that with the community’s representation in central government jobs and admissions.
In August 2018, the home ministry had announced that data on OBCs will be collected by Census 2021. However, the census was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Progress so far
In December 2019, HT reviewed the first consultation paper of the committee, and according to which the panel recommends breaking this up into three bands — those that have got no benefits should get 10%, those with some benefits 10%, and those with maximum benefits 7%. However, nothing has been released officially so far.