Two more weeks for data
The centre today got two more weeks to file its reply to petitions challenging the recent OBC quota. The last time a petition came up before the bench, the SC had granted two more weeks which would have expired a week back. See this post.
The petitioners said the law notified on January 4 was invalid, as it had not excluded the `creamy layer’ for purposes of reservation. People who were politically powerful were responsible for the enactment of the law without any scientific data to provide for 27 per cent quota for the OBCs. Some petitioners also challenged the validity of the 93rd Constitution Amendment, which enabled the Centre and the States to enact laws to provide for quotas. It abrogated and abridged the basic structure of the Constitution, transgressing the concept of equality embodied in Articles 14, 15 and 16. They sought quashing of the impugned law and an interim stay on its operation.
Source : The Hindu
How much more time does the centre need ? The parliamentary committee on OBC quota itself has said that there was no data about OBCs (See here). What can come of extending these two week extensions ?
What data are we talking about ?
Some dravidian activists claim that even the worst estimates (the National Health Survey) peg the OBC count at 33%. That is 6% more than the 27% quota. Isnt this data enough ?
Answer is NO. The data we are talking about is not aggregate OBC counts.
The data is :
1. How does a given caste get to be classified as OBC and remain to be so ?
2. Where is the caste wise data for OBC beneficiaries ? Which OBC castes are benefiting the most from their classification ?
3. Even more fundamental : What is an OBC ? Yes, we know it is Socially and Educationally backward castes (SEBC). If that is the case, then what is an SEBC ? According to the definition, a caste must be socially AND educationally backward to get membership into the OBC group. Is this being interpreted as socially OR educationally backward ? What is the definition of each one of those ?
A lot of folks might ask at this point. Shit, this kind of data is so messed up. It might enhance caste feelings and arouse jealousy among castes. Why measure each individual caste ? Why not just measure OBCs as a whole ? This way the OBC brotherhood remains intact.
The connecting thread
This brings us to the most important question of all in the OBC quota issue. The issue of “connecting thread” between the individual OBC castes.
I will write a post about the “connecting thread” test for group affirmative action policy. In the meantime, ask yourself how strong is the connecting thread between a black american from Philly <-> black american from Chicago, between a Bhumiputera from Keluang <-> Bhumiputera from Penang, between various tribes of south africa.
Contrast with the connecting thread for OBCs. Will a real OBC (likely to be genuinely backward due to lack of political encroachment) say from Jammu, Bengal, Assam, be empowered if a dominant “OBC” from TN gets a medical seat in AIIMS ? Also , within a same state – will a gypsy (truly backward) feel empowered if a landlord OBC gets an IAS job ?
Only current social-educational profiles for each caste can ensure that the connecting thread remains strong. If the connecting thread is weak, then the entire rationale for group quota collapses.