OBC panel backs off, won’t make ‘creamy layer’ reservation criteria stringent

NEW DELHI: Back-pedaling in the face of pressure from OBC protagonists, the national panel on backward classes has relaxed its move to make criteria for the ‘creamy layer’ — which bars a person from availing 27% reservation — more stringent.

The National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) has now proposed that a person with an annual family income of up to Rs 15 lakh should be eligible for quotas, as against its earlier suggestion pegging the ceiling at Rs 10.50 lakh.

It has also decided that only sitting MPs will be part of ‘creamy layer’ in terms of the eligibility of their children availing quotas. However, children of former MPs will be out of its ambit. The NCBC has also sought to remove state legislators from ‘creamy layer’ definition.

The fresh proposals mark a major relaxation in the ‘report on creamy layer’ that NCBC submitted to the Centre in March.

In the March report, the OBC panel had suggested a radical overhaul of ‘creamy layer’ criteria. For the first time, present and retired MPs and MLAs/MLCs were disqualified from quota benefits while a smaller hike in income criteria from the present Rs 6 lakh to Rs 10.50 lakh was suggested.

The OBC panel, headed by Justice V Eswaraiah, has also made concessions on quota eligibility for Group A officers promoted from Group B, and in the income criteria for non Group A/B employees of private companies, corporates and statutory/autonomous bodies.

The easing of earlier recommendations comes after NCBC’s March report triggered unrest among backward satraps who saw it as undoing the Mandal benefits for OBCs.

The opposition reached a tipping point when the ‘parliamentary committee on welfare of OBCs’ took up cudgels on behalf of those unhappy with the stringent norms to weed out quota beneficiaries.

In a meeting on October 14, the parliamentary panel lashed out at the NCBC recommendations. It said hike in income bar to Rs 10.50 lakh was “unrealistic”, underlining that OBC share in government had not reached 16% despite 27% quota for two decades. It sought a hike in income ceiling to Rs 20 lakh.

It also said past/present MPs and MLAs/MLCs be taken out of ‘creamy layer’.

The NCBC has largely obliged the parliamentary forum by proposing a higher income ceiling and by retaining only sitting MPs under ‘creamy layer’.

Top sources said present and former constitutional post-holders (President, Vice-President, governors, judges etc) would continue to be ineligible for quota. The clarification came in the context of NCBC’s new report making a change in the relevant section which can be interpreted as saying that retired persons were no longer in the ambit of ‘creamy layer’.