Tuesday, August 5, 2014

OBCs and the Budget of 2014-15

 Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBCs or OBCs or BCs) and the Budget 2014-15
                                                                                   
                                             by P. S. Krishnan, IAS (Retd.)”


In the first instalment of this analysis which was titled “A. Scheduled Castes and Budget”, I had examined the question of extent of fulfilment of expectations in respect of SCs in the Union Budget 2014-15.  In this paper, I am examining it from the point of view of STs in the Part titled “B. Scheduled Tribes and Budget 2014-15” and in the Part  titled “C. Socially and Educationally Backward Classes and Budget 2014-15” from the point of view of the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (BCs). The “Introduction and Background” given in the Paper on SCs is common to SCs, STs and BCs. For the sake of continuity and clarity, it is reproduced below.

                                                INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

I.          SC, ST and BC – Blindspot of Media and Commentators

The Budget 2014-15 has attracted particular attention because of the expectations raised by Shri Narendra Modi’s election campaign speeches. All aspects of the Budget have been discussed in the print and electronic media except one. That one is the Budget in relation to Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), and also Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEdBCs), also known as Other Backward Classes (OBCs) or Backward Classes (BCs). These three social classes constitute about two-thirds to three-fourths of the population of India and they contribute the near-totality of its physical labour force.  Yet, the media and commentators have been blind to them. My analysis is only about this important matter, which has been totally neglected by commentators (with two exceptions) and the media

II.        Shri Narendra Modi’s Election Campaign Commitments to SCs, STs and BCs and Consequent Duty of Budget in Relation to Them

During his election campaign Shri Modi made momentous commitments to the SCs, STs and BCs.  He has especially stated at Kochi on 09-02-2014 during the Centenary of the historic Kayal Samaram that he takes it as his destiny to fulfill their rights which have not been fulfilled in the many decades of our Independence.  He has also announced that the coming decade will be the decade of the Dalits, Adivasis and Backward Classes.  These commitments and the fact that he is the first person from a community, which is genuinely of the Backward Classes, to become a top leader on his own strength roused expectations from the people of these three deprived classes.  As a result, an unprecedented proportion of SCs, STs and BCs and among BCs the More, Most and Extremely Backward castes of BCs, who have not been traditionally BJP voters, voted for Shri Modi. It is this non-traditional incremental vote which helped the BJP to get 32.2 percent of votes as against 18.8% in 2009 from its traditional upper caste voter base, and swept it to an absolute majority on its own in the Lok Sabha.

It is fair therefore that the Budget and also other measures of the Government should meet the needs, entitlements and rights of these three deprived social classes. From the BJP’s own point of view, to stabilize its new non-traditional incremental votes from these three classes, it is necessary to meet their legitimate expectations.


III.       Equality – A Fundamental Human and Constitutional Goal – Meaning of Equality in Indian Context

Therefore, the question, unaddressed by the powerful media voices is whether and how far the legitimate expectations of these three classes have been fulfilled by Budget 2014-15.  In this, we must start with the goal.  Shri Narendra Modi had rightly underlined that the only Dharma Granth of every Indian is the Constitution of India. The Constitution in its Preamble itself lays down Equality – i.e., Equality of Status and Equality of Opportunity – as one of its foundational principles. 

We must be clear about the meaning of Equality.  In the peculiar Indian context, Equality necessarily means Equality of each of the three deprived / disadvantaged social classes, namely, the SCs, STs and BCs with the Socially Advanced Castes (SACs), i.e. the Non-SC, Non-ST, Non-BC castes (NSCTBCS), in all parameters – i.e., economic, occupational, educational, residential, health-and-nutrition related.  Then only can the SCs and STs, and also the BCs, especially the More, Most and Extremely Backward castes of BCs will, in reality, be able to secure Equality of Status and Equality of Opportunity.

Following up the Preamble, the Constitution mandates specific lines of action through various Articles for the economic and educational advancement of SCs and STs and their protection from all forms of injustice, exploitation and violence and for the advancement of BCs. The Governments and Parties which have ruled India and the States have failed to fulfill this Constitutional duty in a comprehensive and sustained manner. No wonder that Shri Narendra Modi’s campaign pronouncements relating to SCs, STs and BCs and his own social origin have created expectations that a new comprehensive, integrated and radical path will be initiated by the new Government.
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      SOCIALLY AND EDUCAITONALLY BACKWARD CLASSES (SEdBCs) AND THE BUDGET 2014-15


C-I.     Introduction –  Delay in Recognition of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes and Absence of Integrated and Comprehensive Developmental Planning For BCs

In this Part, I am examining the Budget 2014-15 from the point of view of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEdBCs), who are also known as Other Backward Classes (OBCs) or Backward Classes (BCs) (hereafter referred to as BCs)

While BCs were recognized as a distinct social class, who deserved reservation in employment and education and other supporting measures for advancement in the peninsular States, especially the South Indian States, well before Independence and though the Constitution of India recognized their existence by Articles 340, 338 (10), which is the same as the earlier 338 (3), 15(4), 15(5) and 16(4), the Central Government and North Indian and East Indian States turned a blind eye towards this social reality.

BCs were recognized and to start with provided Reservation of 27% in the services of the Central Government only as late as 1990.  This decision was taken on the basis of my Note when I was Secretary, Ministry of Welfare (the predecessor of the present Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Ministry of Tribal Affairs and the Ministry of Minority Affairs).  This order was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1992. It took another 14 years for Reservation for the BCs in education, especially higher education, to be introduced. At that stage again, it was my privilege to make a crucial contribution in helping to effectively defend the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admissions) Act, 2006.  The Act was  upheld by the Supreme Court in 2008.

This delay has been compounded by failure to comprehensively plan for the advancement of the BCs so as to enable the BCs as a whole, each category of BCs (Backward castes, More Backward castes, Most Backward castes and Extremely Backward castes) and each BC caste to reach the level of Equality with the Socially Advanced Castes (SACs) or the non-SC, no-ST, non-BC (NSCTBC) castes in each and every parameter of life, development and welfare.  The half-heartedness shown in this has also been reflected in programmes for the advancement of BCs.

C-II.    Schemes for BCs under Demand No. 90 of Ministry and Department of SJ&E – No New Trail Blazed with Two or Three Exemptions

The schemes introduced for the BCs under Demand No. 90 of the Ministry and Department of Social Justice & Empowerment (SJ&E) are only a pale and truncated imitation of what was being provided for SCs and STs, but with much smaller outlays.  There has been no attempt to formulate schemes keeping in view the specific features of the BCs and the different categories of BCs (such as Nomadic, Semi-Nomadic and Vimukta Jati and non-SC scavenging castes; artisan and artisanal castes; service-providing castes; share-cropping and similar peasant castes and land-owning peasant castes – in other words the extremely backward castes, the Most Backward Castes; More Backward Castes and Backward Castes, of which the first three require maximum attention), though the Report of the Working Group on the Empowerment of Backward Classes in the X Plan 2001 of which I was Chairman provided a clear road-map. This road-map was also reiterated by the Report (2002) of the National (Justice Venkatachaliah) Commission for Review of the Working of the Constitution set up in 2000 and by the National Commission for Backward Classes in its Annual Report (February 2000).  I have also written to Shri Narendra Modi ji in July 2013 and subsequently, i.e., since before he was designated as the PM candidate about the legislative measures and programmatic/schematic measures required for the BCs, including BCs of minorities.   

The situation in this regard in the Budget 2014-15 is no different from the previous Budgets and there is no attempt to blaze a new trail.   This does not meet the legitimate expectations roused among the BCs by the pronouncements and commitments made in respect of them, along with the SCs and STs, by Shri Narendra Modi ji during the election campaign 2013-14 and commitments in the BJP Election Manifesto that the BJP will focus on tangible development and empowerment of OBCs and that a high priority for SC, ST and OBCs and other weaker sections would be to create an ecosystem for education and entrepreneurship.

The following are the schemes for the Backward Classes under the MSJ&E’s Demand No. 90:-

Relevant Extracts from Demand No. 90 of MSJ&E of Budget 2014-15

(In Crores of Rupees)

2012-13 Actuals
2013-14
BE
2013-14
 RE
2014-15
BE
Pre-Matric Scholarship
46.85
135.00
110.70
150.00
Post-Matric Scholarship
666.72
810.00
740.00
785.00
Boys and Girls Hostel
14.76
40.00
21.18
45.00
Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship for OBC and Economically Backward Classes

5.00
00.00
9.90

Other Programmes
0.46
17.00
3.43
25.78
Total
728.79
1007.00
875.40
1015.68

            Among the total of five schemes / programmes for BCs in Demand No. 90 of MSJ&E, while there has been a total increase of outlay of Rs. 33.68 crores for the four programmes together, i.e., for the programmes other than Post-Matric scholarship scheme, there has been a decrease of Rs. 25.00 crores in the outlay for the Post-Matric scholarship scheme compared to the BE 2013-14.   The net increase in BE 2014-15 for all the five schemes / programmes for BCs is only Rs. 08.65 crores – an increase of a mere 0.86%.

            In the Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship scheme, a non-constitutional category designated as “Economically Backward Classes” has been added with the “OBC”. The Constitution recognizes only three social classes as needing Social Justice measures for their comprehensive advancement towards Equality with the SACs, namely, SCs, STs and Socially and Educationally Backward Classes, because these are the three social classes, each of which has been collectively deprived and disadvantaged by the working of the traditional social system or the Indian Caste System, i.e., Caste System-with-“Untouchability” over the centuries of history, continuing through the decades after Independence.   Shri Narendra Modi ji in his speech on 9 February, 2014 at Kochi to mark the Centenary of the first Conference of the SCs, assembled in their boats, in the lake adjoining the capital of the Princely State of Cochin, because they were prohibited from setting foot on the land of the State capital, highlighted the continuing deprivation of these three classes during the post-Independence decades. There is no objection and in fact it is justified and necessary to provide scholarships and fellowships for the genuinely poor among the NSCTBC castes, but without referring to them as “Economically Backward Classes”, which is not a social class recognized by the Constitution. Provision of such support for the genuinely poor students among the NSCTBC castes should be made with adequate safeguard against spurious poverty certificates and without eating into the funds that should be available to the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes. In the present instance, the outlay for the NSCTBC poor students should be shown separately while retaining the meager outlay in the Budget for the BCs.

C-III. Comprehensive Developmental Programme for BCs

            But apart from this, a much larger programme is required for the BCs, tailored to the requirements of different categories and occupational groups of BCs, following the road-map referred to above. There are rudiments of the approach required in the provision of outlays for Handicraft Industries, Village and Small Industries, Handloom Industries, Traditional Industries, Fisheries in the Budget 2014-15.  Most of the artisans and producers in these industries and occupations belong to the BCs. But the inadequacy of these schemes and their outlays is shown up by the sorry plight of the artisans and artisanal workers in them.  
           
            The schemes provided in the present Budget for these schemes are the same as in the past with the same or reduced or slightly increased outlays, except for two new items. The scheme “National Development Handloom Programme” (given as “National Handloom Development Programme” in the Note under Table of Demand No. 95 of the Ministry of Textiles) seems to be no more than a renaming of the two earlier schemes, viz. “Comprehensive Handloom Development Scheme” and “Revival Reforms and Restructuring Package for Handlooms” which have been merged in the National Handloom Development Programme. From the outlay it does not appear that there is anything more than what the two earlier merged schemes provided for. But the new nomenclature implies an integrated and comprehensive approach which should be undertaken.  It is also seen from the Note under the Table of Demand No. 95 of the Ministry of Textile that the outlay of Rs. 354 crores provided for the “National Handloom Development Programme” also includes Rs. 50 crores for “Handloom Museum and Trade Facilitation Centre at Varanasi”. This is also mentioned in the FM’s speech.  This is one of the two new schemes relevant to the BCs in this Budget. This new scheme will reduce the outlay that was available in the past for the two merged schemes which needs to be made good.

C-IV.  Two or Three Rays of Hope
           
            The Varanasi-based handloom scheme is one of the two or three rays of hope.  The weavers of Varanasi are BCs of the Muslim society.  In fact, the weaver community of Muslims, known earlier as “Julaha” and now as “Julaha-Ansari” and “Momin-Ansari” are the largest single community of Muslims in North India.  While this scheme is welcome, its amplitude will have to be widened.  Outside North India also, the weavers are a major community of the BCs. In the Peninsula, they are almost entirely BCs of Hindus.  In North India, they are mostly BCs of Muslims. In the Western part of North India, including Gujarat, they are mainly Scheduled Castes and in the North East, they are Scheduled Tribes.  In the totality, the BCs form the largest proportion of this occupational category, which is in the doldrums.  In recent times, on account of lack of care and concern for them, which should have been given to them while embarking on globalisation and global competition, about half of the traditional weavers have left weaving and most of them have become wage-labourers.

            The other new scheme is “Blue Revolution – Inland Fisheries”.  This too holds promise provided it is accompanied by an integrated Plan, some elements of which were described by Shri Narendra Modi ji in one of his election speeches in Andhra Pradesh.

            The Finance Minster stated in his Budget speech that, “a programme for the up gradation of skills and training in ancestral arts for development for the minorities called “Up gradation of Traditional Skills in Arts, Resources and Goods”.  The traditional artisans of Muslims belong to the BCs. This proposed initiative is welcome but its amplitude should be comprehensive and cover not only upgradation of skills but also access to and control over raw materials, access to and control over their markets, access to Venture Fund support and working capital flow and a process of hand-holding until they become fully modernized, viable and sustainable.  But, I could not see any financial provision in the Budget for this programme. This lacuna must be made good and funds provided so that the implementation of the good intention in the FM’s speech is quickly commenced and undertaken.  This approach is required for all BC artisan and artisanal castes and service-providing castes as mentioned above. I can, on request, provide the Government/Governmental agencies necessary guidance in respect of comprehensive planning and programmes for each of the Backward castes, especially the Extremely, Most and More Backward castes of BCs including BCs of Minorities.

            I may also mention that this approach is also necessary for the smaller number of artisans among SCs, particularly leather-related artisans.

            A comprehensive Plan has to be worked out for each of these occupational categories of BCs keeping in view their present plight and what is required to make them viable and sustainable and adequate outlays have to be provided for this purpose along with qualitatively and quantitatively adequate organisational structures and systems and associating the people concerned with the entire process of planning and implementation.

C-V.    Developmental Approach for the Younger Generation of BCs – Modern Education for Occupational Mobility and Economic Progress

            The next generation of BCs should not be channelized only into their traditional occupations.  That will perpetuate the design of the Caste system.  The younger generation should have all occupational options before them from which they will have freedom of choice. For them, with special focus on the Extremely, Most and More Backward casts of BCs, there should be educational measures which were also mentioned for SCs and STs, such as the following:-

(1)   Anganwadis in isolated habitations of BCs like habitations of fisher-folk
(2)   High-quality residential schools up to Class XII.
(3)   Coaching schemes to enable them to compete for IITs, IIMs, Medical and other professional institutions 
(4)   Removal of self-defeating restrictions like family income-ceiling for eligibility for scholarships and economic assistance and, as recommended by the Expert Committee on Backward Classes in 1993, elimination of the condition of exclusion of Socially Advanced Persons/Sections (SAP/S) [commonly referred to as “Creamy Layer” (CL)] in the case of Extremely and Most Backward castes of BCs
(5)   In the case of castes of BCs other than those mentioned in (4) above, raising of the family income-ceiling to a reasonable level and transferring jobs in the services of the State and seats in educational institutions for which not enough number of non-SAP/S/non-CL BC candidates are available, to BCs of the SAP/S / CL category, instead of transferring them to general category as recommended by various bodies including the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the  Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admissions) Act 2006.

Other measures are detailed in the documents mentioned in first para under C II above.

            It is my sincere hope and earnest wish that the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi gives the benefit of his tremendous energy and tenacity to comprehensive developmental planning, in line with his pronouncements and commitments in his election campaign 2013-1, for the BCs especially the Extremely, Most and More Backward castes of the BCs, including BCs of Minorities, BC women and children, as I have also suggested for SCs and STs, for each class in accordance with its features and needs to enable each of them to rise to the level of Equality with the SACs or NSCTBC castes. Fulfillment of their legitimate aspirations in this manner and through legislative measures, all of which I have listed in my letters to him in July 2013 and subsequently, are essential for these three historically deprived and disadvantaged social classes of our people and thereby to secure social integration and harmony and national unity and optimal national progress.  This will become possible when the Prime Minister begins to give the same amount of attention to the issues of SCs, STs and BCs and their nitty-gritties as he is giving to issues of infrastructure development, stimulation of investment and economic growth.   In this important national enterprise, I can, from my six-and-half decades country-wide experience and knowledge, give all details of inputs necessary in addition to the inputs I have already furnished to him since July 2013 and to other concerned leaders of the Government and other leaders after the present Government assumed office and to some of them even earlier.   These measures and removal of lacunae pointed out above do not have to wait till the next Budget.  The deprived classes of people and the country cannot afford to wait. They can be taken up and implemented even after the Budget and reflected suitably in the RE 2014-15.




                                                                                                                                     04. 08. 2014