Sub-categorisation of OBCs

2023 AUG 10

Mains   > Social justice   >   Government Policies   >   Reservations


  • The long awaited report of a commission set up to examine the sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) was submitted to the President. The contents of the report have not been made public as yet.


  • The commission headed by retired Delhi High Court Chief Justice G. Rohini was appointed to examine sub-categorization of Other Backward Classes (OBC) in 2017 with an initial deadline of 12 weeks.
  • The five-member commission was set up under Article 340 of the Constitution – which allows the President to appoint a Commission to investigate the conditions of backward classes.
  • The Article mandates a copy of the report be presented by the President along with the memorandum explaining the action taken before each House of the Parliament.
  • Apart from obtaining caste-wise data of OBCs in higher educational institutions and recruits in central departments, CPSUs, public sector banks and financial institutions, the commission is reported to have consulted various stakeholders from State governments to community associations.
  • It was originally set up with three terms of reference:
    • To examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among the castes or communities included in the broad category of OBCs with reference to such classes included in the Central List.
    • To work out the mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters in a scientific approach for sub-categorisation within such OBCs.
    • To take up the exercise of identifying the respective castes or communities or sub-castes or synonyms in the Central List of OBCs and classifying them into their respective sub-categories.
    • A fourth term of reference was added on January 22, 2020
      • To study the various entries in the Central List of OBCs and recommend correction of any repetitions, ambiguities, inconsistencies and errors of spelling or transcription.


  • The idea is to create sub-categories within the larger group of OBCs for the purpose of reservation. OBCs are granted 27% reservation in jobs and education under the central government.
  • This has been a legal debate for other reservation categories too: in September last year, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court reopened the debate on sub-categorisation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for reservations.
  • For OBCs, the debate arises out of the perception that only a few affluent communities among the over 2,600 included in the Central List of OBCs have secured a major part of the 27% reservation.
    • According to the Rohini commission 25% of benefits from OBC reservations have been availed by only 10 sub-castes.
    • Also, various researches founds that the Mandal Commission recommendations helped the economically better positioned OBCs more than the most backward castes.
  • The argument for creating sub-categories within OBCs is that it would ensure “equitable distribution” of representation among all OBC communities.
  • It was to examine this that the Rohini Commission was constituted on October 2, 2017.

Findings of the Rohini Commission so far:

In 2018, the Commission analysed the data of 1.3 lakh central jobs given under OBC quota over the preceding five years and OBC admissions to central higher education institutions, including universities, IITs, NITs, IIMs and AIIMS, over the preceding three years. The findings were:

  • 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 per cent, 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


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Certain castes may enjoy educationally and socially a better position in north India and the same may not be true in the southern states.
    •  There might be inter-state variations of a particular caste.
    • The decision to sub-categorise may face judicial hurdles if the government fails to provide strong empirical analysis of educational and social backwardness of such groups.
  • Lack of information:
    • A major hurdle for the Commission has been the absence of data for the population of various communities to compare with their representation in jobs and admissions.
    • Various sources opined that the data of Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC) was not considered reliable.
  • 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 results in agitation among some dominant sections with in OBC as the reservation benefits will get redistributed.


  • 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, government has to take substantial steps to bring about structural changes in areas such as agriculture, education, skill development and employment generation.


Q. “Sub categorization of the OBCs will ensure that the more backward among the OBC communities can also access the benefits of reservation for educational institutions and government jobs”. Discuss.