The committee, comprising four members headed by retired Supreme Court Justice G Rohini, was formed in October last year.
Minister Krishna Pal Gurjar said the committee has been tasked with examining if OBC reservations are benefiting all eligible groups equally, or whether there are big differences in how the benefits are getting absorbed.
In case there is, said Gurjar, the committee has been asked to work out the “mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters” in a scientific way to further divide the OBC group.
A similar exercise has already been done in states like Bihar, where categories such as ‘most backward communities’ or MBCs also exist.
OBCs comprise about 45% of India’s population, and have been given 27% reservation in government jobs and certain higher education institutions run by the government.
Despite this, OBCs still make up only about 12% of central government staff.
OBCs, as a class, were created to ensure representation of the so-called intermediate castes in government machinery, and to prevent the monopolization of government by traditional upper castes.
Intermediate castes, such as Yadavs of North India and Devas (Thevars) of South India, have traditionally focused on agriculture, martial arts and industry, rather than government service and bureaucracy, to generate livelihoods.
As such, they continue to be poorly represented in government service and higher educational institutions, even though their financial conditions are today comparable to those of upper castes.
OBCs were also severely under-represented in mainstream political parties, particularly the Indian National Congress, which lead to a lack of say for the communities in governance.
However, since the JP Movement of the 70s, socialist parties based on OBC support, such as Samajwadi Party, JDS and RJD, successfully challenged the Congress Party and took power in several states, leading to the modern political phenomenon of ‘OBC unity’.
It is expected that splitting the OBC community into different categories will help non-OBC parties increase their appeal to the community.