New Delhi, March 16: The Union cabinet appears set to veto the recommendation to enhance the “creamy layer” ceiling for other backward classes from Rs 4.5 lakh to Rs 6 lakh, with most OBC ministers insisting the cap should be raised further to increase representation of the “Mandalised” castes in education and government sector jobs.
A group of ministers, headed by finance minister P. Chidambaram, recently decided to accept the social justice ministry’s suggestion to raise the income bar of the “creamy layer” of OBCs and allow those earning Rs 6 lakh annually to qualify for the 27 per cent quota. Those with a yearly income exceeding the proposed cap will be out of the quota purview.
The “creamy layer” cap is revised every four years. But what is a routine exercise is fraught with political implications and the potential to drive a wedge within the OBCs in the prelude to the Lok Sabha elections.
“It is unlikely to go through the cabinet because the OBC ministers are planning to resist the recommendation,” said a cabinet minister privy to the discussions.
The large and powerful lobby of OBC MPs, mostly comprising those from well-off castes and sub-castes, is pushing the ministers to articulate a case for raising the cap.
“I, for one, feel the ceiling should be at least Rs 7 lakh, if not more. The reality is that it is only those from the so-called creamy layer who are presently properly qualified to take advantage of the quotas. Those from the more and most backward classes have some way to go before the field is levelled out for them,” a minister said, adding that if the OBC crème de la crème was looped out, the 27 per cent quota would go “vastly unfulfilled”.
But a member of the GoM refused to be persuaded, saying that most of the better-off OBCs were now placed to compete “efficiently” with general category peers and ought to think of helping out the more deprived sections.
“The argument that the posts would remain vacant is a ruse for the creamy layer to corner the privilege for itself. Most OBCs are still stragglers in the race and, in fact, need more facilitatory mechanisms apart from quotas to find a place under the sun,” the member said.
The GoM’s proposal is way below that mooted by the National Commission for Backward Classes. The commission said the ceiling should be Rs 12 lakh in urban and Rs 9 lakh in rural areas. The social justice ministry rejected the dual ceiling idea.
Apart from the Congress’s OBC votaries, the leaders of the Samajwadi Party, RJD and the DMK are expected to speak out against the proposal, given that they draw their core political support from the “creamy layer”.