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OBC groups see hope in Congress's pledge for caste census, removal of 50 per cent quota cap

P.C. Patanjali, chairman of the Most Backward Classes Forum, said that OBCs, more specifically the EBCs, have dismal representation in government jobs and higher education. The Congress is focused on OBCs, particularly the EBCs who have largely voted in favour of the BJP in previous elections

Our Special Correspondent New Delhi Published 11.10.23, 05:41 AM
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Organisations representing the Other Backward Classes have welcomed the Congress's promise of a nationwide caste census and the removal of the quota cap of 50 per cent to provide reservation to OBCs, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in line with the share of their population.

The Congress Working Committee (CWC) on Monday passed a resolution supporting a nationwide caste census as part of the decadal population census. The CWC also resolved to bring a law, if it comes to power, to remove the 50 per cent reservation ceiling.

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SCs, STs and OBCs are together entitled to 49.5 per cent reservation while the Economically Weaker Sections among the general category have a 10 per cent quota in central government jobs and admission to central educational institutions. The Supreme Court had ruled that reservation for social groups should not exceed 50 per cent.

Former acting chairperson of the National Commission for Backward Classes, Justice V. Eswaraiah, said the Congress appeared serious about proportionate representation. “It seems the Congress has understood its mistake and is now serious about a caste census,” he said.

Eswaraiah said the forward caste lobby in the Congress might not be comfortable with the party's decision. Ticket distribution by the party in the ensuing polls in Telangana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram will provide more clarity on the Congress's commitment to social justice, he pointed out.

“As the BJP remains defiant on the issue of a caste census, the stand of the Congress is certainly a significant decision. It is very encouraging that the issue of social justice has gained prominence,” Eswaraiah said.

P.C. Patanjali, chairman of the Most Backward Classes Forum, said the Congress might have taken the decision out of political compulsion but it had created hope among the OBCs in general and the extremely backward classes in particular.

“The Congress-ruled states may undertake caste surveys before a national census. It is a fact that the OBCs, more specifically the EBCs, have dismal representation in government jobs and higher education. The Congress is focused on OBCs, particularly the EBCs who have largely voted in favour of the BJP in previous elections,” he said.

Patanjali said the NDA government should implement the report of the Justice Rohini Commission on the sub-categorisation of OBCs for rational distribution of reservation benefits.

“If the BJP wants to control damage to its support base, the government should immediately implement the Rohini Commission report, which has been already submitted. Also, it should notify the artisan castes and keep them out of the ambit of the creamy layer so that they receive quota benefits,” he said.

Hansaraj Jangra, president of the All India Backward Classes Federation, said the 50 per cent quota ceiling had created obstructions for the progress of the OBCs. SCs and STs have got reservation close to the share of their population, but the OBCs have had to be satisfied with 27 per cent because of the ceiling, he said.

“The Congress cannot dump this promise. If the ceiling is removed, it will help the OBCs to a great extent,” Jangra said.

Sanjay Harshwal from the Jangid Brahmin Mahasabha said the decision appeared to be an election stunt.

“If the Congress was serious, they could have conducted caste surveys in the states ruled by it. But they have done nothing. At the time of elections, such announcements create suspicion,” he said.

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