Redefining the reservation policy

ForumIAS announcing GS Foundation Program for UPSC CSE 2025-26 from 18th June. Click Here for more information.

Synopsis: Political parties should consider making substantive changes to the way reservation is implemented.


Recently, Tamil Nadu adopted a bill to provide 10.5% reservation for Vanniyakula Kshatriyas within the quota of MBC (Most Backward Class) and DNC (Denotified Communities)

With the 105th Constitutional Amendment, center empowered the states/ UTs to prepare their own list of Socio-Economic Backward Class (SEBC).

Read more: Centre to allow states to make their own OBC list

From this year onwards, 27% of all India quota for admissions for medical and dental courses will be reserved for Other Backward Classes (OBC).

Why there is a demand for Caste Based Census?
Read here: Caste based census in India – Explained, pointwise
What are the constitutional provisions?

Article 15(4) (5), Article 16 (4): Scheme of reservation for SEBC is permissible but meant for only those OBC which are not adequately presented.

What are the court judgements?

Indira Sawhney Case (1992): There must be extraordinary circumstances justifying the quantum to exceed the cap.

Maratha case: Maratha Reservation Case Judgment and Federalism

Why sub categorization is required?

Reservation has not translated into an equitable distribution of benefits for many groups in our heterogeneous society. This has generated the need for sub categorization.

NCBC (National Commission for Backward Classes) in 2015: It emphasized on the need for “Classification of OBC” than on streamlining the provisions on creamy layers to ensure free implementation of reservation policy.

Rohini Commission: It was constituted in 2017 for purpose of sub-categorization of communities in the Central list of OBC.

What are the important issues that need to be addressed?

All these call for an objective definition of Creamy Layer. For example, Tamil Nadu’s First Backward Classes Commission recommended that the “affluent sections” or the “creamy layer” in the backward classes should be excluded from reservation.

The annual income limit is one of the parameters that determine the creamy layer. But we observe that since September 1993, this was revised only five times against the norm of revision every three years. Moreover, the norms like GDP inflation, per capita income and a rise in the cost of living should also be considered.

We also see that income from salary and agriculture are not considered, but “income from other sources” is taken into account. The differentiation is unfair.

We should also work to quickly fill the posts of OBC’s. The parliamentary committee highlighted OBC employees in 78 ministries constituted only 21.75%, against the stipulated quota of 27%.

What we need to do next?

Instead of fighting over abstract issues, we should focus on concrete issues that can bring tangible results.

Source: This post is based on the article “Redefining the Reservation Policy” published in The Hindu on 7th September 2021.

Terms to know


Print Friendly and PDF