The Justice G. Rohini-led commission for the sub-categorisation of other backward classes (OBCs) has now been given yet another extension in its tenure by the President, according to a gazette notification issued by the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment last week.
This is the 14th extension in tenure that the commission has been given. The commission, formed in October 2017, was initially given 12 weeks to finish the task of sub-categorising the nearly 3,000 castes within the OBC umbrella and recommend division of the 27% OBC quota among them equitably. Initially, the government cited more time required by the panel to gather information and data and then it cited the pandemic.
The fresh six-month extension comes weeks after multiple members of the commission told The Hindu in December 2022 that their report was “in the final stages” and that they were prepared to submit it to the government by the end of January 2023.
After the notification of the extension of tenure to July 31, 2023, one commission member told The Hindu on Sunday, “Nothing is left for the panel to do. We are now just attaching annexures as required and finalising the compilation of the report.”
Even as the notification issued on January 25 said the commission “shall present its report by 31st July, 2023”, the panel member said they might be finished with it before the fresh deadline.
As part of its work, the commission had identified dominant caste groups among all OBC communities in the Central list, finding that a small group of dominant OBC communities were crowding out a large number of communities from the 27% OBC quota.
Consequently, the commission decided to divide all OBC communities into four broad categories, with the largest share of the quota pie going to the group that has historically been deprived of OBC quota as a result of being pushed out by dominant OBC groups.
The fresh extension comes as the Bihar government is in the middle of its much-anticipated caste-based survey in the State and the Uttar Pradesh government is in the process of conducting a fresh survey to assess the need for OBC reservation in its local body elections, with other States like Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra also looking to form panels to implement OBC reservation in local body polls.
The last time a country-wide survey was conducted to enumerate the number of castes and their population was in 2011 as part of the Socio-Economic Caste Census. However, data from this were never made public.