If accepted, the recommendation to relax the salary bar for OBC reservations would bring more backward aspirants for central jobs and educational institutions in the reservation net.
‘Creamy layer’ is the income ceiling that separates poor OBCs from the well-off who are ineligible for quotas.
Also, the NCBC has suggested that qualifying standards be relaxed for OBCs to fill the 27% seats, lamenting that backward representation in Central jobs is well short of the target.
Though non-binding, the recommendation on creamy layer would test the Modi government given its political sensitivity. A high income bar would be cheered by OBCs but has the potential to rile the forward castes that are hostile to reservations, especially for affluent individuals.
A nearly Rs 1 lakh monthly salary for quota eligibility would be seen by upper castes as virtual abandoning of the “creamy layer” that is integral to the Supreme Court judgment that upheld the Mandal reservations.
This consideration prompted the UPA-led Centre to rebuff the NCBC in 2013. Though the Commission had recommended dual income ceilings of Rs 9 lakh and 12 lakh for rural and urban areas, the Centre chose to fix a unified ceiling at Rs 6 lakh.
Ahead of crucial Bihar elections, the issue assumes political significance because of the state’s reputation as an OBC stronghold as also because PM Narendra Modi has branded himself as an OBC politician. The ‘OBC parliamentary forum’ hailed Modi as the “first OBC PM” in a meeting last week. During the meeting, Union ministers Ram Kripal Yadav and Upendra Kushwaha had demanded raising of the income ceiling for creamy layer.
The NCBC has slammed the low income bar for not enough OBCs qualifying in Central jobs. “In spite of three revisions of income criteria, the 27% vacancies reserved for OBCs have not been filled up because of the elimination of OBCs having income above the prescribed income limit,” the Commission headed by Justice V Eswaraiah wrote to ministry of social justice recently.
According to the proponents of higher income bar, competitive OBCs hail from urban middle class owing to their advantage of quality education and keeping them out negates the Mandal objective.
The creamy layer was introduced at Rs 1 lakh in 1993, and revised to Rs 2.5 lakh in 2004, Rs 4.5 lakh in 2008 and Rs 6 lakh in 2013.
According to the Commission, the data provided by government departments show that representation of OBCs is not even half of the 27% quota.