Mains Articles

Sub-categorization of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) [Mains Article]

The Mandal Commission had brought changes in the country’s political landscape by granting 27% reservation to OBCs. Now, the sub-classification panel is being looked at from the optics of Mandal 2.0. It will ensure “more equitable distribution” of opportunities in central government jobs and educational institutions.
By IT's Mains Articles Team
August 03, 2019


  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Objective of commission
  • About Backward Classes
  • What are the political and social implications of formation of this commission?
  • Conflicting move
  • What is “Creamy layer”?
  • Eligibility criteria for OBC non-creamy layer
  • Need for sub-categorization of OBCs
  • Present flaws in OBC Policies
  • Mandal Commission
  • Evolution of OBC category
  • Highlights of Mandal commission report
  • National Commission for backward classes
  • The National Commission for Backward Classes (Repeal) Bill, 2017
  • The Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill
  • Key Facts
  • Conclusion

Sub-categorization of Other Backward Classes (OBCs)

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  • The Union Cabinet has approved the extension of the term of the Commission to examine the issue of Sub-categorization of Other Backward Classes in the Central List for six months beyond 30th November, 2018 till 31st May 2019.



  • In August 2017, the Union Cabinet had set up a commission for the sub-categorization of OBCs.
  • Sub categorization of the OBCs will ensure that the more backward among the OBC communities can also access the benefits of reservation for educational institutions and government jobs.


Objective of commission:

  • To examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among the castes included in the broad category of OBCs with reference to such classes included in the Central List.
  • To work out the mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters in a scientific approach for sub-categorisation within such Other Backward Classes.
  • To take up the exercise of identifying the respective castes or sub-castes in the Central List of OBCs and classifying them into their respective sub-categories.


About Backward Classes:

  • The Central Government of India classifies some of its citizens based on their social and economic condition as Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST), and Other Backward Class (OBC).
  • The OBC list presented by the National Commission for Backward Classes can be modified based on social, educational and economic factors.
  • The Backward Classes Division in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment looks after the policies as well as planning related to social and economic empowerment of OBCs.
  • It also looks after matters relating to two institutions set up for the welfare of OBCs which are — National Backward Classes Finance and Development Corporation (NBCFDC) and the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC).

What are the political and social implications of formation of this commission?

  • Politically, this can be seen as an attempt by the government to reach out to the most backward castes among the OBCs.
  • Not only will such a move offer more opportunities to the most backward castes among the OBCs but also give the government an opportunity to carve out a new political constituency.
  • However, it may adversely impact the more advanced castes among the OBCs, such as the Yadavs, reducing the number of seats available for the better-off OBCs, as OBC quotas at the Centre cannot exceed the present 27%.

Conflicting move:

  • In august 2017 The government has increased the creamy layer ceiling for the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category to ₹8 lakhs per annum from the existing ₹6 lakhs for Central government jobs. Hence, those in the OBC category earning up to ₹8 lakhs per annum would now get the reservation benefit.

What is “Creamy layer”?

  • The term creamy layer and non-creamy layer was first used in the recommendation of the Sattanathan Commission in 1971.
  • The commission came to a conclusion that creamy layer candidates of the OBC should not get any benefits from the central government pointing towards the reservation or quota in the government jobs.
  • In other words, only the weaker people of the OBC community should get the benefits by the central government and not the creamy layer candidates who are fared better and do not face the same social and economic backwardness as others.

Eligibility criteria for OBC non-creamy layer

  • If the income of OBC person is below Rs. 8 Lakhs, the person would belong to non-creamy layer category.
  • Except for the Tamil Nadu Government, every state government has made it mandatory to obtain an Other Backward Classes (OBC) certificate for the people who fall under this category while applying for central government jobs.

The certificate is valid only for a year’s time from the date of receiving of the certificate.

Eligibility criteria for obtaining a non-creamy layer certificate:

  • A person belonging to non-creamy layer category
  • If anyone of the person’s parents is working under Group C and D officer category of the Central Government or under Group II, III and IV officer’s category of the Tamil Nadu State Government then he/she will be eligible to apply for the certificate.
  • If a person is working under Group B officer category of the Central Government or Group I of the Tamil Nadu State Government then he/she is eligible to obtain the certificate provided that his/her parents do not receive any kind of income.
  • If the applicant’s husband is working under Central Government, his wife is eligible to apply for OBC certificate provided that the wife’s parents do not receive any kind of income.

Need for sub-categorization of OBCs:

  • Due to inequalities within unequal entities i.e. OBCs, the benefits of reservation have not been distributed equitably.
  • Large segments of the weaker sections and backward classes continue to have no access to quality education or meaningful employment.
  • The relatively rich and dominant sections among the backward castes have tended to take up a disproportionately larger share of the reservation quota.
  • The government had introduced the concept of ‘creamy layer’ (relatively forward and better educated members of the OBCs) in 1971 to isolate the well-off among those eligible for reservation.
  • However, failure in effectively preventing large sections of the creamy layer from taking advantage of the quota system necessitates formation of commission to examine sub-categorization of OBCs.
  • According to the National Sample Survey (NSS) data from 2011-12, about 19% of the sample claims to be Dalit, 9% Adivasi, and 44% OBCs accounting for total of 72%.
  • Among the population aged 25-49, less than 7% have a college degree. By most estimates, less than 3% of the whole population is employed in government and public-sector jobs.
  • Consequently, a vast proportion of the population eligible for reservations has to compete for a tiny number of reserved and non-reserved category jobs resulting tremendous internal competition within groups.
  • Hence, the viable solution is to reduce the size of the eligible population along the lines of sub-categorisation.
  • Another factor for not identify the inequalities by government is lack of credible data of ‘The Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) of 2011’ as SECC data have not been able to shed light on socio-economic disadvantages faced by different caste groups.

About Backward Classes

Present flaws in OBC Policies:

  • The present OBC policies focuses on preferential admission to premium colleges and coveted institutions.
  • However, these benefits may come too late in the life of a low OBC caste such as Kurmi due to cumulative disadvantage beginning from early childhood which grows progressively at higher levels of education.
  • The India Human Development Survey of 2011-12 found that among families where no adult has completed more than Class X, 59% children from the forward castes are able to read a simple paragraph while the proportion is only 48% for OBCs, 41% for Dalits and 35% for Adivasis.
  • Currently, any OBC person can get multiple benefit from obtain admission to a prestigious college till getting a prestigious using the same caste certificate. Even his/her children are also able to obtain preferential treatment using the same caste certificate. Thus, use of the OBC quota must be limited to once in a person’s lifetime.

OBCscol IASToppers

  • Currently, there is a single Central OBC list with entries from each State.
  • People belonging to all of these castes can seek reservation from within the single 27% OBC reservation quota for Central government jobs and Central educational institutions.
  • Nine States, however, have already sub-categorised OBCs. These are Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Puducherry, Karnataka, Haryana, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

Mandal Commission:

  • Mandal Commission report which categorised many castes as constituting backward classes deserving quotas, was implemented in August 1990 by then VP Singh government which changed political scene in India like never before.

Evolution of OBC category:

  • Reservations for OBCs began in 1880, when the British government observed that the small number of children of the lowest castes reading in schools is deplorable, which was cited as one of the reasons for the 1857 Mutiny.
  • Consequently, some educational reforms especially for the SCs and STs and the Muslims which included special schools and fee concessions were carried out.
  • After Independence, the First Backward Class Commission in 1953 was headed by Kaka Kalelkar. He suggested 70 per cent reservation of seats in all technical and professional institutions apart from substantial reservations for government jobs.
  • This recommendation was based on lack of accurate population estimates without any rational basis. The government refused to accept the recommendations.
  • The Second Backward Class Commission formed in 1979 and headed by B.P. Mandal, a former Bihar chief minister and an MP, was again hampered by a lack of figures.
  • The Mandal Commission, bolstered its deductions based on the 1931 census. It recommended a reservation of 27 per cent for OBCs to all government services as well as technical and professional institutions both at the Centre and state levels.
  • The recommendation of ‘Mandal report’ were implemented during prime minister V.P. Singh tenure in 1990.

Highlights of Mandal commission report:

  • The reservation of 27 % jobs for those who do not qualify on the basis of merit. It pointed out that reservations for SCs and STs had already been fixed at 22.5 per cent. According to report, as reservations for all categories is up to 50 per cent, the remaining 27 per cent should go to the OBCs.
  • The reservation of 27 % for promotions at all levels.
  • The commission adopted 11 criteria which could be grouped under three major headings: social, educational and economic in order to identify OBCs.
  • The commission estimated that 54% of the total population (excluding SCs and STs), belonging to 3,743 different castes and communities were ‘backward’.
  • The reserved quota, if unfilled, should be carried forward fora period of three years and de-reserved thereafter.
  • Age relaxation for the backward classes should be the same as it is in the case of the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes.
  • A roster system should be prepared for the backward classes on the pattern of that for the SC/ST.
  • The principle of reservation should be made applicable to all the public sector undertakings, banks, and private undertakings receiving grants from the central and state governments, universities and colleges.

National Commission for backward classes:

  • India’s National Commission for Backward Classes is a statutory body (awaits Constitutional body status) is under India’s Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment established in August 1993.
  • It was constituted pursuant to the provisions of the National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993.
  • Lists of OBCs are maintained by both the National Commission for Backward Classes and the individual states.
  • NCBC can only recommend inclusion or exclusion of a community in the central list of OBC, while hearing complaints of the OBC remained with National commission for schedule casts.
  • According to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) guidelines, to be classified as OBC, a caste has to satisfy the following criteria:

National Commission for backward classes

  1. Social: The caste should be considered as socially backward by other castes.
  2. Educational: The caste’s school non-enrolment rate should be at least 25% above the state average.
  3. Economic: The assets of the average caste family should be at least 25% below the state average.

The National Commission for Backward Classes (Repeal) Bill, 2017:


  • The National Commission for Backward Classes (Repeal) Bill, 2017 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment which was passed in August, 2018.
  • The Bill seeks to repeal the National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993 which established the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC).
  • The reasons of the repealing bill clarify that after the setting up of the National Commission of Backward Classes under the Constitution, the Act will become redundant, and therefore, may be repealed.
  • The Bill states that the repeal of the Act will not affect: (i) any rights, privileges or liabilities acquired under the Act or any penalty incurred because of previous violation of the Act.

The Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill:

The-Constitution-(123rd-Amendment)-Bill Sub-categorization of Other Backward Classes (OBCs)

  • This bill was passed after the House repealed the National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993.
  • The Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill seeks to establish the NCBC under the Constitution providing it the authority to examine complaints and welfare measures regarding socially and educationally backward classes.
  • The Act provides that the Commission shall consist of five Members, comprising of a Chairperson who is or has been a judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court; a social scientist; two persons and a Member-Secretary.

Key Facts:

  • The Mandal Commission report of 1980 had quoted OBC population of the country at 52%. However, the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) survey of 2006 quoted OBC population at 41%.
  • In March 2015, Supreme Court of India scrapped Jat Reservations saying that Jats are not socially and economically backward in reference with National Commission for Backward Classes’ (NCBC) opinion.
  • The Kerala government grants OBC reservation benefits to Latin Catholics, Anglo Indians and Nadar Christians included in South India United Church (SIUC).
  • Article 340 of the Constitution provides for the appointment of a Commission to investigate the conditions of and the difficulties faced by the socially and educationally backward classes and to make appropriate recommendations.


  • The Mandal Commission had brought changes in the country’s political landscape by granting 27% reservation to OBCs. Now, the sub-classification panel is being looked at from the optics of Mandal 2.0.
  • A sub-quota could affect educationally and socially advanced communities within the backward classes like Yadavs, who are considered to have benefited from the policy of positive discrimination.
  • However, the primary hurdle being faced by the commission is the availability of caste data.


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