Sub-categorisation of OBC

2023 NOV 18

Mains   > Social justice   >   Government Policies   >   Reservations


GS 2: Social Justice: Government policies: Reservation


Prime Minister Modi’s pledge to explore the sub-categorization of Scheduled Castes (SCs) in Telangana has rekindled the legal and political debate on the long pending issue of sub-categorization of OBCs.


  • The subcategorization of Other Backward Classes (OBC) involves segregating the broad OBC category into more specific sub-groups, allowing for a more refined application of affirmative action policies. 
  • This stratification is aimed at ensuring that the benefits intended for the upliftment of OBCs are equitably distributed, especially to those sub-sections that are relatively more underprivileged and have not adequately benefitted from the general OBC categorization. 
Caste Enumeration and OBC Sub-Categorization in India - Civilsdaily


  • 97% of all jobs and educational seats have gone to just 25% of all sub-castes classified as OBCs.
  • 24.95% of these jobs and seats have gone to just 10 OBC communities.
  • As many as 983, or 37 percent, of the 2,600 communities under the OBC category have zero representation in jobs and institutes.
  • 994 OBC sub-castes have a total representation of only 2.68% in recruitment and admissions. (The above data is as per the Rohini Commission constituted in 2017 to recommend on subcategorization of OBC).


  • SC: Indra Sawhney case (1990) 
    • There is no Constitutional or legal bar to sub-categorization. 
    • So, Nine States of the country viz., Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Puducherry, Karnataka, Haryana, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have already carried out sub-categorization of Other Backward Classes. 
  • Article 340 
    • It allows the President of India to appoint a commission to investigate into the issues related to SEBC.
    • The government has already appointed a commission under Justice G. Rohini to look into the issue of OBC subcategorization.


Large number of castes under the OBC:

  • Existence of a large number of castes under the OBC umbrella makes their scientific sub-categorization highly challenging in the Indian context of federal governance in which separate Central and State lists of the OBC castes are drawn.
  • Ex: The Central OBC list contains over 2,600 castes. States like Tamil Nadu have their own extensive lists, reflecting regional diversities.

Localized presence of large number OBC:

  • The highly localized presence of large number OBC makes it difficult to come up with a consolidated list beyond the state-level.
  • Ex: OBC groups like the Yadavs and Kurmis are dominant in certain North Indian states but may have a negligible presence or different social status in other regions like the South. This makes creating a uniform national policy challenging.

Methodology for sub-categorisation:

  • The methodology to identify castes that are more backward is difficult to arrive at unless there is proper statistical information about the representation of respective castes in central government educational institutions and employment services.
  • Ex: The Mandal Commission Report of 1980, which was pivotal in establishing the current reservation system, faced criticism for methodological flaws, highlighting the complexity of gathering and analyzing such data.

Use of older data:

  • The commission has based its recommendations on quota within quota on the population figures from the 1931 Census, and not on the more recent Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC) 2011.

Agitations and resistance from dominant sections:

  • Sub-categorization may result in agitation among some dominant sections within OBC as the reservation benefits will get redistributed.
  • Ex: Jat agitation in Haryana or the Maratha protests in Maharashtra.


All-India survey:

  • Because there is a lack of data on the population of various communities to compare with their representation in jobs and admissions, an all-India survey can be conducted independently, or, as announced by the Home Minister in 2018, data on OBCs can be collected alongside census 2021.

Split into two or three sub-quotas:

  • The overall 27 per cent quota can be split into two or three sub-quotas and the OBC list accordingly split into those many parts.
  • Those castes that have taken disproportionate advantage so far could be clubbed together and given a sub-quota as per their population share.
  • This would ensure that the most backward communities would have a sub-quota of their own and won’t be required to compete in an unfair race.

Rationalize Creamy layer:

  • The creamy layer should be filtered out so that the most disadvantaged groups get the benefits of reservation.

Shift towards development:

  • The rising demand for reservation and related issues stems out of the weak state of Indian economy, such as stark unemployment levels and agrarian distress. 
  • Hence, the government has to take substantial steps to bring about structural changes in areas such as agriculture, education, skill development and employment generation.

The sub-categorization of OBCs is a critical step towards ensuring equitable distribution of affirmative action benefits among the most disadvantaged sub-groups, while also highlighting the need for comprehensive data collection and structural economic reforms to address underlying socio-economic disparities.


Q: Discuss the need and challenges of the sub-categorisation of OBC. How will it affect the existing reservation policy and social justice agenda?(15marks,250words)