Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Frontline on OBC reservation

Equity in Education is the theme of the latest issue of Frontline. The lead article is by V. Venkatesan, who also interviews P.S. Krishnan, former Member-Secretary of the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC).

In addition, there's an article by M.P. Raju questioning the way the Supreme Court has interpreted the concept of creamy layer. Here's a relevant part of his critique:

In the case of the S.Cs and the S.Ts, Parliament has the power to exclude from the list of S.Cs and S.Ts not only any caste or tribe but also any part of or any group within the caste or tribe. Exclusion from the Backward Classes list can be made in the same way. But it is very clear that the Constitution does not contemplate exclusion of individuals from a particular group for the purpose of group rights. The exclusion of individuals for identification of Backward Classes is a contradiction in terms. Exclusion will be permissible for an identifiable section, part, or group of a socially and educationally Backward Class.

Similarly, the test for exclusion should be relatable to the test for inclusion. When inclusion applies to a social group, that is, caste coupled with social and educational backwardness, the exclusionary criteria should apply to caste coupled with the criteria of social and educational backwardness.

It is not reasonable, on the face of it, for the court to say that inclusion should be on the principle of caste coupled with educational and social backwardness but exclusion should be based on economic criteria, affluence, trade, business, profession, occupation, employment or holding of governmental and other offices. The concept of creamy layer needs to be redefined and perhaps even renamed. There is no proper definition of the term and the concept.