By Dhurjati Mukherjee
The Government’s decision, of implementing the concept of ‘creamy layer’ by disallowing a section of OBCs reservation benefits in the UPSC examination, is welcome. It may be recalled that 12 OBCs were left out of the UPSC list in 2012, 11 in 2015, four in earlier years and 29 this year, as per figures compiled by the aggrieved group. The axe on these OBCs this year comes despite a Delhi High Court judgment in March which slammed the Centre’s method of calculating the ‘creamy layer’ for wards of employees of PSUs.
The Centre, in recent years, has been resorting to different methods to calculate ‘creamy layer’ for employees of Central, State governments and the PSUs. According to government guidelines while Group A and Group B are ineligible for Mandal quota, others are eligible if their annual income from other sources does not exceed Rs 5 lakh. While the DoPT has been determining the ‘creamy layer’ for PSU background by including the salaries of parents, it has been excluding the salaries of parents employed in Central and State governments, putting the first category at a serious disadvantage. This, no doubt, was a faulty approach and all those with family income say over Rs 9 to Rs 10 lakh per annum need not be considered.
If a rich OBC is seen as someone who should no longer be eligible for the same reservations available to a poor OBC, surely the same logic should apply to SC/ST as well? The government can argue that the Constitution does not mandate any such division into rich and poor SC/ST, but if the Constitution was such a holy book, it wouldn’t have been amended 101 times since 1950. And, if the government is going to go by the Constitution, it would do well to note that the founding fathers wanted the SC/ST reservation for just 10 years, but this was extended from time to time by an amendment to the Constitution.
One may quote the old example, if a Jagjivan Ram’s daughter can avail of reservations there is something clearly wrong in the scheme. And if, like last year, the government decided that OBCs, who are working in PSUs, will no longer qualify for reservations, not applying this to SC/ST implies that the benefits will always be cornered by the better off SC/STs.
Recall, in the case of M Nagaraj (2006) that dealt with reservations in promotions for SC/ST, the Supreme Court ruled that while the government was free to mandate this, “the State will have to see that its reservation provision does not lead to excessiveness so as to breach the ceiling-limit of 50 per cent or obliterate the creamy layer or extend the reservation indefinitely.”
With unemployment rates increasing at a fast pace, it is those from the poorer sections who need to be considered first. The basic concept of reservations was to give extra facilities to those from backward communities which meant that these sections are poor and economically deprived. There is no logic to extend reservations to SC/ST candidates whose family incomes are quite high and thus do not fall within the ambit of economically deprived section.
Few years ago, a group of economists had pointed out there is no logic to extend reservations to those families who are well-settled. Thus, the question of uplifting their conditions does not rise and, as such, reservations should look into the dual criteria of backward communities as also the economic condition i.e. family income. Moreover, it was also argued that reservations should only be at the entry point and not for subsequent promotions.
The result of the reservation policy followed in the country has resulted in SC/ST candidates at the helm of affairs in PSUs and government getting jobs, irrespective of whether they have the necessary efficiency and expertise. This obviously needs to change for improving governance and increasing efficiency in the government sector.
In this connection, it may be pertinent to point out that since a section seems to be justifying reservations by referring to the Constitution, one should not forget Article 335 that deals with it and clearly states: “The claims of the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration, consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State”.
When is the last time the government did an exercise to see if “efficiency of administration” hadn’t been compromised? And, in the case of teachers in schools/colleges, the yardstick has to be quality of the teaching, not efficiency of administration-given the multitude of teacher-tests, and surely scoring should be done to see if quality has been given the go-by?
The government has not yet adhered to suggestions that those who come from well-off families, whether belonging to SC, ST or OBC categories, should not be given reservations, fearing a possible backlash from leaders of these communities, who are mostly corrupt, and keeping an eye on the vote bank. But there is need to be strict in this regard as there is no logic in providing reservations to the so-called ‘creamy layer’. It needs to be remembered that when someone is given reservation, this happens at the cost of meritorious candidates from the general category.
Besides, there are wanton reservations even in the highly competitive medical exams, whether for MBBS or MD or MS where the family income is not considered. It is well-known that those who qualify in the written exams are quite meritorious and finally a major portion of seats are reserved. It has been found that in the reserved category, candidates mostly from well-off sections get the seats, only because they fall within the ambit of reservation.
Several candidates have told the undersigned how reservation for those who are quite rich, nor just middle class, got the facility only because they belong to the reserved category. Thus the discrimination in such matters towards those belonging to the general category needs to be checked to ensure there is no social injustice.
Sadly, a section of politicians have misguided the nation on what actually is social justice, ignoring the economic factor. This is because Indian politicians, by and large, have not cared for those who are truly poor and impoverished sections, which need real help and support to join the mainstream of life and activity. This has to change and reservations must focus primarily on the economic status of the candidate and perhaps the caste/community to which he/she belongs. —INFA