More families belonging to the Other Backward Classes or OBCs will now be eligible to get benefits of reservation in government jobs and educational institutions after the government raised the income limit for such benefits.
Under the new rules, candidates from households with annual income of up to Rs 8 lakhs — or Rs 66,666 per month — can apply under OBC reservation quota, unlike earlier when those who earned above Rs 50,000 were automatically disqualified.
The ‘creamy layer’ exemption was introduced by Sattanathan Commission in 1971.
It was defined as families earning more than Rs 100,000 rupees per annum in 1993, and revised to Rs 2.5 lakh in 2004), then Rs 4.5 lakh in 2008 and Rs 6 lakh in 2013.
In October 2015, the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) proposed that a person belonging to OBC with an annual family income of up to Rs 15 lakh should be allowed for OBC benefits.
The creamy layer clause has been the subject of much controversy as some argued that since the purpose reservations was to ensure representation to all ethnic groups and prevent any caste from monopolizing the government, the income level of the individuals did not matter.
They have been calling for the scrapping of the creamy layer system, arguing that reservations are not meant to be an anti-poverty measure that needs to be limited to low-income people, but are intended to ensure an optimum balance of castes and groups in government service.
Many ethnic groups in India, known as Jatis, are chronically under-represented in government institutions and offices due to various reasons.
Some are under-represented as they often do not have money to pursue higher education and ‘coaching’ for entrance exams, while others are under-represented simply because these communities traditionally focus on non-bureaucratic occupations like business, agriculture and so on.
Some relatively well-off ethnic groups, such as Marathas, Patels and Jats, have also sought reservations, pointing out that they are under-represented in the government, and that this could affect the governance process.
However, the courts have said that at least 50% of the seats must be made available to the ‘unreserved’ or ‘general’ category applicants in all cases.
The decision to relax the limit to Rs 66,666 per month could prove beneficial to Narendra Modi, who has been riding an ‘OBC wave’ of support in recent elections.