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Caste card with cream

New Delhi, Feb. 4: Racing to beat the poll announcement bell, the Vajpayee government tonight raised an income ceiling that will allow more people among the backward classes to enjoy the benefit of reservation.

The government also increased allowances for students from the Scheduled Tribes. The decisions capped another day of baits that saw finance minister Jaswant Singh announcing sops for small investors, businesses, travel trade and tea gardens.

The Cabinet has approved raising the income limit for determining the creamy layer (socially-advanced) among the OBCs to Rs 2.5 lakh from Rs 1 lakh.

This will allow children of persons belonging to the OBCs within the income limit benefits of 27 per cent reservation in direct recruitment in civil posts and services, an official spokesman said after a Cabinet meeting.

Chaired by the Prime Minister, the Cabinet took the decision with two days to go for the dissolution of the Lok Sabha. The Election Commission is expected to announce the poll dates soon after, which will bring the model code of conduct into force and prevent the doling out of any more inducements.

The Cabinet has raised the limit to define the creamy layer by approving the recommendations of the National Commission for Backward Classes.

In 1992, the Supreme Court had upheld 27 per cent reservation for the OBCs in civil posts and services under the states subject to the exclusion of the creamy layer. The court had also asked the government to specify the socio-economic criteria to identify the creamy layer.

The Cabinet has enhanced post-matric allowances for students from the Scheduled Tribes. The maintenance grant has been raised from the existing range of Rs 90-425 per month to Rs 140-740.

The studentsí annual study tour grant will be doubled from Rs 500 to Rs 1,000. Allowance for typing and printing thesis will go up from Rs 600 to Rs 1,000 a year. The grant to buy correspondence course books has been raised from Rs 500 to Rs 750 a year.

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