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OBC sub-categorisation panel is working without Socio Economic Caste Census data, Centre’s reply reveals

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File photo of Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment A. Narayanaswamy. Mr. Narayanaswamy on March 14 informed Lok Sabha that the Justice G. Rohini Commission which is looking into the sub-categorisation has been working without the data from the last SECC conducted in 2011. 
| Photo Credit: The Hindu

Even as experts have said that it would be impossible to conduct an accurate sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBC) groups without some form of a caste census, the Union Government on March 14 informed Lok Sabha that the Justice G. Rohini Commission which is looking into the sub-categorisation has been working without the data from from the last Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) conducted in 2011. 

The commission, headed by the former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, Justice (Retd.) G. Rohini, was formed in 2017 by the Social Justice Ministry, in a bid to sub-categorise the nearly 3,000 caste groups that are currently listed as OBCs in the Central list. The goal was to determine which caste groups were dominating benefits, thereby crowding out less privileged caste groups. 

The commission, initially tasked with submitting its report within 12 weeks, has been given 14 extensions till date, the most recent one being in January this year. 

In response to a question in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday from A.K.P. Chinraj of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), who had asked if the government had shared caste data from the 2011 SECC with the commission, Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, A. Narayanaswamy, said: “No sir. No such request has been received from Justice G. Rohini led Commission.”

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Reacting to this, Professor Sukhadeo Thorat, former Chairman of the University Grants Commission and the Indian Council of Social Science Research, said, “There has to be a study on socio-economic indicators like education, land-holding, poverty and also on levels discrimination faced by these caste groups. Without this, any such work would not be possible.”

Further, Assistant Professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Centre for Political Studies, Harish S. Wankhede, noted that developments related to the sub-categorisation panel showed that the government’s intent is to “not let the OBC question come into the spotlight”.

“The importance of conducting a socio-economic census of OBCs cannot be understated,” Mr. Wankhede said. 

While the commission is yet to submit its report to the government, its preliminary findings had led it to sub-categorise OBC caste groups into four broad categories. Among these, the existing 27% OBC quota will be divided — with the maximum reservation going to caste groups that have been historically crowded out, and minimum reservation for the dominant caste groups. 

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