Establish separate OBC ministry, says BC Commission chief

Caste census is a serious concern of the nation

February 03, 2023 08:35 am | Updated 08:35 am IST - HYDERABAD

Telangana State Backward Classes Commission Chairman Vakulabharanam Krishna Mohan Rao. File.

Telangana State Backward Classes Commission Chairman Vakulabharanam Krishna Mohan Rao. File. | Photo Credit: NAGARA GOPAL

Telangana State Backward Classes Commission Chairman Vakulabharanam Krishna Mohan Rao has been championing the cause of Backward Classes. A two-time member of the BC Commission in the united State of Andhra Pradesh, the present Chairman in a freewheeling interview to The Hindu spoke on the BC empowerment, demand for establishment of a OBC Ministry in the Centre and concerns over caste census. Here are the excerpts of the interview:

Since its setting up after the bifurcation of the State, what are the significant activities take by the Telangana BC Commission under your leadership?

This is the second BC Commission, set up by the Telangana government after the formation of the State in 2014. I am fortunate enough to work as member of the united AP BC Commission and also in the first TS BC Commission. For the first time, the Regular Commission is designated as the Dedicated Commission in the backdrop of recent judgments of the Supreme Court which are insisting for quantifiable data and compliance with mandatory ‘triple test’.

As we are in receipt of mandate from the State Government, we are closely examining the judicial pronouncements and simultaneously toured Tamil Nādu, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh to gain insights into the implementation of ‘Political Reservations’ in the local bodies and the reservations in public educational institutions and employment in proportion to the BC population. We have also collected information on the legal challenges faced by them at all stages of survey, compilation and output.

The task of the commission is to have a OBC data which will withstand the legal scrutiny by satisfying the triple test laid down by the Supreme Court in 2010, which will help the State to implement the OBC reservation in the local bodies’ elections.

Do you also echo the demand for a separate Union Ministry for the OBCs in the Union Government?

I strongly support the demand for OBC Ministry headed by a Cabinet Minister with 40% per cent annual budget for OBC specific schemes based on sound policy inputs. OBCs constitute 56% of our population as per Mandal Commission estimation and it could be certainly more now if we believe the NSSO Data (around 65%). Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment may not have the capacity to formulate a policy nor pitch for more allocation of budget; interesting fact is that over the years, the Budget for the OBCs is shrinking. Last Budget, it showed less than ₹1,000 crore earmarked for the OBCs.

Several States including Telangana and political parties are demanding Caste Census. What is it all about?

If a caste census is held it will help us to understand the exact percentage of OBCs and reasons for their backwardness. Today, accurate data is central to everything and it will enable us where to pump our focus, energy and funds in a realistic manner. Factly speaking, it has become main point of political manifestos. The fact is still we are depending on 1931 Caste Census and more to with inferences. Let there be straight caste census as a part of Census of India (2021) and there is no harm in doing it.

The BJP Central government submitted in affidavit to the apex court that Socio Economic Caste Census - 11 data is unusable with inaccuracies. Former Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced in Lok Sabha in 2018, the government would undertake the Caste Census in 2021 but in a u-turn, Union Minister of State for Home Nityananda Rai made it clear that it has no such intention. At least 15 State Assemblies have passed unanimous resolutions asking the Centre to hold the caste census immediately. If the Central government is not interested in taking it up, it can allow the States by shifting the ‘Census’ entry to the ‘Concurrent List’.

What is the Triple Test formula for notifying quota for BCs?

The Supreme Court has laid down the triple test formula or conditions that State governments need to satisfy before they can notify quotas for BCs in local body elections. The triple test conditions are: (a) setting up a dedicated commission to conduct contemporaneous, rigorous, empirical inquiry into the nature and implications of the backwardness;

(b) Making of recommendations by the commission on the number of seats to be reserved for BCs, local body wise;

(c) Ensuring that cumulatively, seats reserved for SCs, STs and OBCs do not exceed 50%

This triple test, which has now become mandatory for all State governments to follow, was born out of the issue of BC reservations in Maharashtra. The issue then spread to Telangana, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka.

Why caste census is the need of the hour? In local body elections - why unnecessary legal complications are cropping up in BC reservations?

The triple test requires quantitative data on BC population and backwardness. Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, who have come out of this problem successfully, have depended on secondary data and projections on secondary data. There is always a possibility of raising a question that these statistics are approximates but not accurate. The act is that, we have to produce contemporary, accurate, quantifiable data for substantiating and protecting the existing reservations and for enhancement too. Caste census is the only solution to this.

Why is there resistance to the current income ceiling of OBC creamy layer?

OBCs creamy layer income ceiling is to be reviewed every three years and it’s standing guiding point now. The present ceiling of ₹8 lakh was fixed in 2017, and it expired in 2020. OBCs are demanding the ceiling limit has to be enhanced to ₹15 lakh considering the ground situation.

Are you satisfied with the initiatives of the Telangana government for the welfare of the BCs?

The initiatives of the Telangana government are need-based with a strong vision to bring the neglected, downtrodden and weaker sections into the mainstream. It supports the policy of upliftment and inclusiveness, hence taking this into account and the huge percentage of the BC population and their plight, 40% of the State Budget is spent on the welfare of OBCs under various schemes. Free residential education for boys and girls under Jyothibha Phule is unique. MBC Finance Corporation for the benefit of Category A is an added feature.

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