Quota Politics UP Government To Include 17 OBC Groups Among Scheduled Castes

jyoti
By jyoti July 8, 2019 14:37

A move by the UP government to include 17 OBC groups among Scheduled Castes has drawn sharp criticism

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  • Earlier Uttar Pradesh government has included 17 communities belonging to the Other Backward Classes in the Scheduled Castes list.
  • The additions are — Nishad, Bind, Mallah, Kewat, Kashyap, Bhar, Dhivar, Batham, Machua, Prajapati, Rajbhar, Kahar, Pottar, Dhimar, Manjhi, Tuhaha and Gaur.
    • These 17 castes are socially most backward, and many survive on small occupations in rural areas. For example, Nishads earn from fishing and Kumhars from making earthen pots.
  • The June 24 letter from the UP Social Welfare Department, sent to all divisional commissioners and district magistrates, refers to an order of the Allahabad High Court (dated March 29, 2017) and directs district authorities to issue caste certificates as per that order after scrutiny of documents.

Background

  • In 2005, the UP government amended the Uttar Pradesh Public Services Act, 1994, to provide reservation for SC, ST, and OBCs in public services and posts, and to include 17 OBC castes in the SC list.
    • The Allahabad High Court quashed the amendment, terming it unconstitutional since only Parliament has the power to make such an inclusion. 
    • Mulayam had also directed district authorities to issue SC certificates to these 17 OBC castes after the move was cleared by his cabinet. 
    • The Centre, however, did not clear his proposal.
  • In 2013, the UP-government cabinet cleared the same proposal, but the Centre once again rejected it. 
    • The same year, the state Assembly too had passed a resolution asking the Centre to include these 17 castes in the SC list.
  • In 2016, UP Government with the cabinet clearing the proposal, this time after consulting legal experts and getting a survey conducted through the SC-ST Research and Training Institute, an autonomous body. 
    • The government decided to send the fresh proposal to the Centre, with the argument that these cases are similar to those already listed as SCs.
      • Although the proposal had been previously rejected, the state government claimed that legal experts had advised that these 17 cases can be given the benefits that are due to SCs by adding a clause to an existing notification of the Personnel Department.
    • The matter reached the Allahabad High Court, but in an interim order in March 2017, the court observed that in case any certificates were issued on the basis of the notification, these would be subject to the outcome of the litigation.

Political Significance

  • This move is seen as an attempt to provide these socially and economically backward classes with the benefits of the reservation after removing legal irritants that have stalled the issue in the past.
  • According to an estimate by the UP Backward Classes Welfare Department, these 17 castes make up around 15% of the state’s population. Caste in the SC list gets more government benefits than one in the OBC list. 
  • Also, since the OBC population is large, there is close competition among OBC groups for reservation benefits. If these 17 castes are moved to the list of SCs, they will face less competition because the SC population is smaller.

The distinction between an OBC and SC

  • While extreme social, educational and economic backwardness are common qualifications for both groups, SCs draw such backwardness from untouchability.
    • For OBCs, apart from social, educational and economic backwardness, lack of adequate representation in government posts and services is a criterion. 
    • The positive rights guaranteed under the Constitution to SCs are to correct the historical wrongs of untouchability, and critics argue that the addition of other castes in the group dilutes that guarantee.

Procedures for listing a caste as an SC

  • The name ‘Scheduled Caste’ derives from the fact that this is annexed as a Schedule to the Constitution. 
  • Article 341(1) of the Constitution prescribes the procedure for regarding castes as “Scheduled Castes”. 
    • As per the procedure to make additions or deletions to the Schedule by amending the concerned Presidential Order for a state under Article 341(2), state governments first propose to modify the Schedule. 
    • Only proposals agreed by both the Registrar General of India and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes are introduced as a Bill in Parliament. 
    • This procedure was adopted by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in 1999 and was amended in 2002.
  • A similar provision exists for Scheduled Tribes under Article 342.

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jyoti
By jyoti July 8, 2019 14:37