At a time when President Ram Nath Kovind has appointed a five-member commission to examine sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) “to achieve greater social justice,” a reality check shows that representation of OBCs in the workforce in Central Government offices falls far short of achieving the 27% quota recommended by the Mandal Commission.
Data furnished under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by 24 of the 35 Union Ministries, 25 of the 37 Central departments and various constitutional bodies reveal that 24 years since the implementation of the Mandal Commission recommendations, across various groups of employees, the OBCs have not optimally benefited from it.
According to the Union Ministry for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, the reservation for OBCs is being implemented from September 8, 1993. Replies provided under the RTI Act by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) show that as on January 1, 2017, only 17% of the Group A officers in the 24 Ministries belong to the OBCs. The representation among the Group B officers is even lower at 14%.
Likewise, only 11% of the Group C employees are from the OBCs and in Group D, the figure is 10%.
Incidentally, in July last year, Union Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh informed the Lok Sabha that as on January 1, 2014, OBC representation in 71 Ministries/Departments was 19.28%. A reason, he cited, for the shortfall in meeting the Mandal Commission mandate was that OBC candidates appointed up to 1993 (when reservation kicked in) were not included for counting their representation. Besides, he said, there is generally a time gap between occurrence of vacancies and filling them as recruitment is a time-consuming process.
Cut to the present: in the cumulative staffing position of the 24 Ministries, 25 departments (out of 37) and eight constitutional bodies (such as the PMO, the President’s Secretariat and the ECI), which provided information under the RTI Act — 14% of Group A officers are from the OBCs. The figures for Group B, C and D employees are 15%, 17% and 18% respectively. In some cases, the under representation of OBCs is glaring. For instance, in the Cabinet Secretariat, which has 64 Group A officers, not one is from the OBCs, whereas 60 belong to the Open Competition (OC) category and four are from the Scheduled Castes.
In the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, only 25 of the 503 Group A officers belong to the OBCs.
In 2015, the representation of Group A OBC officers was only 10.71% and Group B officers 7.18% across 12 ministries, 10 departments and five constitutional bodies which furnished information under the RTI Act then. In 2013, OBCs constituted 9.43% of the Group A officers in 55 Central Government agencies.
“These figures don’t tell the entire story because among the 11 ministries which refused to provide employee data under the RTI Act this year are the Railways, Defence, Home and Finance, which are large recruiters. The bigger ministries account for 91.25% of the central government jobs. Whereas the data provided by the 24 ministries account for only 8.75% of the total jobs. If you go by the March 2011 Census of Central Government Employees, the Railways has 13,28,199 regular employees and we don’t have the community-based employee data for it,” points out Dr. E.Muralidharan, a Chennai-based activist, who filed the application under the RTI Act. In real terms, as against an estimated 31 lakh Central Government employees, the data pertains to only 2,71,375 employees, he added.
In 2015 when he had sought details of OBC employees, as many as 40 ministries and 48 departments refused to part with the information. “An Office Memorandum (O.M. -No.43011/10./2002-Estt.Res) dated December 19, 2003 issued by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions makes it mandatory for each Ministry/Department to send a report regarding representation of SCs, STs and OBCs in services. But this is followed in breach,” rued the IIT Madras alumnus.
Dr. Muralidharan recalled that in June 2013, the Ministry of Personnel had issued a detailed memorandum (No. 36038/1(i)/2013 Estt.Res), on measures to be taken to fill up backlog vacancies reserved for SCs/STs/OBCs “at the earliest” monitored at the “highest level”.
The memorandum had identified certain reasons for non-filling up of reserved vacancies such as lack of finishing skills - English fluency or interview skills - and scarcity of qualified reserved category persons.
Among the recommendations given by the Ministry was that the Departments concerned may take a decision within six months on launching a special recruitment drive providing certain relaxations so that the vacancies may be filled up. It had further said that finishing training be imparted for reserved category candidates. Another recommendation was to constitute a committee with representations from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Tribal Affairs, major ministries like Railways and Home Affairs to find out specific reasons for backlog in filling up of vacancies and suggest measures to enhance the employability of reserved category candidates.
“The memorandum of June 2013 directed all ministries / departments to take follow up action on the decision taken by the Government and sent quarterly progress reports on implementing the recommendations to the Ministry of Personnel,” the RTI Act applicant said.
Subsequently, the Union Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh informed Parliament that based on the recommendations of a committee headed by the Secretary, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, time bound action plan for filling up backlog reserved vacancies was intimated to all Departments/Ministries on November 11, 2014 for filling up such vacancies by August 2016. This Action Plan included study of reasons for non-filling of backlog reserved vacancies, review of prescribed standards, if required; conducting Special Recruitment Drive and conducting pre-recruitment training programmes.
“If the Action Plan was put into motion, we wouldn’t have had the kind of poor representation for OBCs (as of January 1, 2017), as the details furnished under the RTI Act show,” contended Dr. Muralidharan.
S.K. Kharventhan, former member National Commission for Backward Classes, said among the reasons for under-representation of OBCs is non-filling of backlog vacancies and non-implementation of the communal roster system for filling vacancies. “As per Supreme Court judgment, they should follow only a post-based roster system. But in many departments only vacancy-based communal roster system is followed,” he alleged.
K. Danasekar, secretary general, All India Confederation of OBC Employees’ Welfare Associations, said, “Some two-three years ago, of the 83 Deputy Secretary level officers in Central Government only three were from OBCs and five belonged to the SC/STs.” According to him, only OBC candidates who enter government service at the age of 23 or so eventually qualify to get promoted as Deputy Secretary or Under Secretary. “Many enter the service when they are 30 and therefore retire below the rank of Deputy Secretary. That is why the OBC representation will be higher in Group C and D category of employees and not in Group A or B,” he said.
Mr. Danasekar added that in the Finance Ministry, the OBC representation in Group A is likely to be better. “Usually in the UPSC examination, many from the OBCs qualify for the Indian Revenue Service, which is lower in order of preference as opposed to the IFS, IAS and IPS,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Dr Muralidharan is critical of the attempt to introduce sub-categorisation among OBCs. “Presently the OBCs constitute the largest group among in India. By constituting a committee to explore sub-categorisation, the government is trying to divide the OBCs,” he said.