From: Nikhil Anand <email@example.com>
Date: Mon, Nov 14, 2011 at 8:25 AM
Subject: upper castes who do not pay income tax are akin to other backward castes (OBCs),
NEW DELHI: A national commission has said that upper castes who do not
pay income tax are akin to other backward castes (OBCs), a policy
recommendation which can have far-reaching consequences.
The Commission for Economically Backward Classes, formed in response
to the clamour for reservation benefits for the poor among upper
castes, has equated them to OBCs. It has recommended that they be
given special treatment in key sectors like education, housing, health
and social sector.
Since preferential treatment in employment boils down to job
reservations, it can be asssumed that the Commission's recommendation
implies that if the government is to accept reservation for EBCs,
there will be need for a constitutional amendment to get past the 50%
ceiling on total quota.
The panel had been asked to suggest criteria for identifying EBCs,
welfare measures and reservations for them, and to suggest
constitutional and legal ways for their implementation.
The report of the Commission, chaired by SR Sinho and including
Narendra Kumar as member and Mahendra Singh as member-secretary, may
test the government at a time when it is facing quota conflicts.
The panel's recommendation that EBCs, which it has estimated at six
crore, deserve state support on a par with the OBCs flies in the face
of the post-independence policy that favoured only socially backward
classes for affirmative action.
The EBCs would comprise upper castes from all religions.
The introduction of economic criteria to affirmative action may
trigger a new debate if it is expanded to include reservation. The
present quota regime is limited to SC/STs and OBCs which are
communities facing social backwardness. The new move would lead to
insertion of economic criteria in reservation policy. This is first
move of its kind at the central level.
Sources said the commission has said that non-IT paying upper castes
would qualify as EBCs. It has argued that while they are not socially
disadvantaged like the untouchables, they are on a par with OBCs.
The panel has even given a rough estimate of the EBCs -- six crore.
After visiting 28 states over four years, the Commission has stated
that EBCs form 20% of the population which is roughly one crore
families. At an average of six members per family, the figure stands
at six crore.
Acceptance of the recommendation will mean a clutch of preferential
treatment policies for the non-IT payees among upper castes. While in
education, the EBC children will be eligible for soft loans for higher
education, scholarships, coaching for IAS/PCS exams, they will also be
eligible for subsidized health facilities. Government help in housing
sector can be in the form of loans, soft loans with lower rates of