Reality Check India

OBC Quota – centre ready with rebuttal

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on April 12, 2007

It seems the government is ready with its rebuttal to the Supreme Court. From the Indian Express report, the rebuttal does not appear to include any data. It is rather just a reiteration of how the centre views the whole concept of quotas for OBCs.

See Indian Express story here

The great unspoken


First of all, there is a burden of data collection that cannot be passed off by the state to the individual citizen. This is tantamount to a shirking of duties and naturally leads to a suspicion that there is something to hide. As far as educational quotas are concerned, it becomes extremely important to establish the actual educational state of each caste in the lists.  This is as simple as pulling application and admission records from all state universities. We hope the government in goodwill collects and makes public atleast this data. Can castes who are able to compete effectively in the open category claim educational backwardness ? The Supreme Court is asking for this type of data.

The abilities test

Collecting data about the “absence of disabilities” is tough because it involves intangibles. A caste could claim that they still “feel” like they possess some inherent disabilities or “lack of confidence” to compete in the open. However, the “presence of abilities” can be easily extracted from admissions records from state universities. 

This Court has in several instances focused on the
question as to whether Articles 15(4) and 16(4) are a facet
of equality or a derogation from it.

 Equality of opportunity is not simply a matter of legal
equality. Its existence depends not merely on the absence
of disabilities but on the presence of abilities. Where,
therefore, there is inequality in fact, legal equality always
tends to accentuate it.

(See Dr. Pradeep Jain and Ors. v.
Union of India and Ors. (1984 (3) SCC 654).

Let us see each point in the Indian Express story,

Why are general students agitated ? Their share is not going down.

The Centre will also underline that the new OBC quota law protects the number of non-reserved category seats from any reduction. There is no fair ground for grievance on the part of general students that if there had been no reservation for OBCs, they would have been able to get 77.5% of the increased number of seats. If there were no reservation for OBCs, there would have been no such expansion at present, the reply is said to argued.

It doesnt matter if the number of seats are kept the same in 2006.  It is an issue of the unequal treatment of equals. In both the Nagaraj and Nair Service Society cases, the court inter-alia held the “compelling reasons” condition as a constitutional pre-requisite. The compelling reasons bar can be met by quantifiable data regarding backwardness and inadequacy of representation.

The Supreme Court asked the following question in the recent Thakur case

If the stand of learned Additional Solicitor General is accepted that the exercise was not intended to be undertaken immediately and the increase would be
staggered over a period of 3 years it could not be explained as to why a firm data base could not be evolved first, so  that the exercise could be undertaken thereafter 

Thakur and Ors case

The court is asking why a database cannot be first evolved ? If the database already exists then why cannot it be produced in the court.

No need for fresh identification

Norms to change OBC lists have already been laid down by the Supreme Court and the National Commission for Backward Classes. There is no need for any fresh identification.

Changes to the OBC lists such as fresh identification or removing castes is a separate issue from measurement. There is a need for fresh measurement because we are trying to play these benefits in a completely different area (in elite central institutions).

The argument made by other including V.Venkatesan and others is along the lines of “If these lists were good in Indira Sawhney I in 1990, why are they not good today ?”

Answer : No one says they are not good today. It is quite possible that these lists are still pristine and perfect. We might even adopt the exact same lists for IIT/IIM/AIIMs.

All the court is asking for is : SHOW US FRESH DATA TO BACKUP THIS ASSERTION.

Well, then what kind of “fresh” data ? 

  • Convince the court on the “presence of abilities” point
  • Convince the court on the “unequal treatment of equals” point. (Failure to gain representation in open category despite trying )
  • Convince the court on the “equal treatment of unequals” point. This is THE most important point, overlooked by everyone. You have to prove that the bricklayer is not affected by the inclusion of highly educated communities or landlords.

The easiest data to convince the court is this  : Produce the caste wise distribution of quota benefits for the past 10 years. This can probably done in 10 minutes via a database search. Despite all the complaints of the general category, if it can be proved that all castes in the OBC group are benefiting evenly, then it can be argued that the OBC group is homogeneous and is working.

Let me borrow from Barbarindian, it does not stop at 49%.  We still have private educational institutions coming up, then we have private sector quotas, then religion based, and gender based. If the Supreme Court accepts the caste lists today based purely on the fact that it accepted them in 1990, then this is the new floor. The new floor does not stand on the legs of current data. Every other demand from Muslims, Christians, other dominant castes, will have to be evaluated from this new floor. Clearly a recipe for social mayhem.

In 2010, when the next round of quotas are litigated, the arguments will say that you accepted the lists in 2007, why are you not accepting the lists in 2010  ? Ad infinitum.

8 Responses

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  1. Reason said, on April 12, 2007 at 7:17 am

    congress started on this new round of OBC appeasement with 93rd amendment. They had their reasons, including the laughable idea that a party with 10% vote-share in UP is going to win that state with this move.

    But after the stay, BJPs game of chicken and UP elections guarantee that they wont do anything different in the court.

  2. Jai_Choorakkot said, on April 12, 2007 at 12:34 pm


    Relevant to “presence of abilities” I think you may be surprised at this excerpt from Abi. He calls for scaling back the reservations in TN:


    “… Take Tamil Nadu, for example. It’s well known that the students from BC/MBC have made significant inroads into the general category, for which there is open, unfettered competition. These reports in the Hindu (2004, and 2005) show clearly that BC/MBC students have done extremely well to capture the bulk of the open competition seats in medicine. The fraction of seats that went to the reserved categories is larger than their share in the population. Two years in a row!

    To me, this is a clear indication that the rather aggressive reservation policy in that state has done a great job: it has brought a lot of groups upto speed, and made them mainstream. In other words, it is time to start thinking about (a) scaling down BC/MBC reservation, and (b) eliminating from the BC/MBC list the castes that have truly (and, probably disproportionately) benefited from reservation. …”

    The point from the pro-reservation camp, and with which you may disagree, is that:

    – the abilities were created by the reservation benefits given to the group.

    Abi had also stated concerns about the generic nature of OBC grouping and that in his view reservations should have been around 33%. On some other post I have seen Dr.Bruno calling for disqualification of the 2nd generation of beneficiaries from quota benefits.

    There are perhaps fundamental differences I am missing, but I see hope for a middle ground.


  3. Reason said, on April 12, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    // – the abilities were created by the reservation benefits given to the group. //

    In the case of Tamil Nadu, this claim can be easily disproved. Note that they are not offering any data on whether the abilities are *equally* distributed among the communities identified as backward.

    Gounders are a backward community in TN. They figure in the central list as well ( They are stinking forward. There is a wikipedia entry for them so that job is easier –
    “The Gounder caste is a progressive caste which has excellent personae in various fields. The Coimbatore region flourishes mainly due to their innovation and hardwork in Agriculture, textiles (Salem, Coimbatore, Erode, Tirupur and Karur), Education (Namakkal, Coimbatore, Salem), Poultry Namakkal), Automobiles(Namakkal, Salem), Bus body building (Karur), Milk (Erode Aavin), Edible Oils (Erode), Turmeric (Erode has the largest market in South India).Kongunadu has the highest urban proportion and contributes 2/3rd of Tamilnadu’s income. They always form part in all ministeries with important portfolios:”

    Another example is Nadars. Figure both in state and central lists.

    Given their affluence, it would be easy to get a few thousand successful medical candidates from a few million Nadar/Gounder population in TN.

    In the state of TN, the backward classes list is pretty screwed up – that is obvious because only 3% of the population is not backward.

  4. realitycheck said, on April 12, 2007 at 5:17 pm


    I dont know why your comments enter moderation. Try to use a different email id perhaps (put in some junk email id).

  5. Barbarindian said, on April 12, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    There are perhaps fundamental differences I am missing

    You think?

  6. Jai_Choorakkot said, on April 13, 2007 at 5:18 am

    Thanks Reason & barb.

    1. I freely admit that I dont have much idea of the reservation scene in TN. I am attempting to point out that there is agreement “across the divide” on the equal distribution within communities concern, and that it may have to be reduced now.

    2. Agree with the landlord argument: if community X of 10% say has a disproportionately large share of landed property / hereditary wealth etc. there is less incentive to any pursuit of professional education.

    The idea that a quota proportionate to 10% sits around waiting for them is very weak to me. Denial to others actively competing for it is unjust.

    3. But surely, not all sections coming under the OBC benefits are so endowed? If gounders and nadars are forward, are there *genuine* backward classes you can think of. I repeat my request to support an OBC caste that you think will qualify under criteria you specify. This is not to substitute hard data (am with RC all the way on this) but just to know your opinion.

    4. Some of the pro-reservation comments align with RC’s point #3 about the landlord affecting the bricklayer’s interests. There is also some anti-creamy layer sentiment in the pro-quota camp.

    5. Barb, I am aware of the fundamental difference with you (no reservations whatsoever).

    6. I think I am being realistic, the best outcome I see coming from the SC stay is some fine-tuning of the reservation process. The anti-quota victory dances were premature.

    Thru the courts, I am hoping we get periodic review and scale-back enshrined into the process over the vote-banking instincts of the politicians.

    I will be off for quite a while now. It has been an interesting discussion.

    Thanks everybody,

  7. Ninad said, on April 18, 2007 at 11:36 am


    You might be interested in knowing what happened to the Govt’s response in Court today. See

    Also, I have answered the questions you had posed for me though with much dealy. Apologies for that.

  8. […] of this blog will be familiar with what I consider the foremost national secret of contemporary political forces and their supporters. I call this simply “data” or […]

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