President, Dravidar Kazhagam
The president of Dravidar Kazhagam, Dr. K. Veeramani has vehemently condemned the move of the Central government to reckon the salary and agricultural income for identifying the creamy layer and excluding them from Other Backward Classes (OBCs) to avail the reservation benefits. The significant statement was released and published in the Tamil Rationalist daily ‘Viduthalai’ dated July 07, 2020. The move is against social justice, according to him. He has protected against including salary while calculating income per month, besides agricultural income. He has stressed that it is unconstitutional too. It reminds him of a camel in a fable which just thrust its head inside a tent but occupied it fully later, driving away the inmates. Similarly, the camel called ‘economic yardstick ‘seems to peep into the tent of social justice, only to annihilate it gradually.
Dr. K. Veeramani’s statement is in nutshell, as follows:
The hike in Creamy Layer Ceiling
The OBCs (Other Backward Classes) who form the majority of the deprived communities in the country were shortlisted in the name of ‘creamy layer’, which itself was unconstitutional. In Mandal Reservation case, the nine-judge Bench of the Supreme Court had pronounced in its judgment that economic backwardness cannot be the sole criterion for providing reservations. But now it has become the yardstick. “Creamy Layer’ classification would depend on economic level of the family.
The income criterion on creamy layer has usually been reviewed every three years. At present an OBC candidate with an annual income of Rs.8 lakh and above is classified as belonging to the ‘creamy layer’ among the OBCs. They would not be entitled to get the benefit of reservation available to the Other Backward Classes. This ceiling is likely to be hiked to Rs.12 lakhs per year. Agricultural income per month and salary per month would also be reckoned for the computation of the ceiling of income to identify creamy layer and exclude those who come above the level.
This proposal was cleared during February 2020 by the Group of Ministers headed by the Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. As per certain insiders in the Government, the proposal would be brought before the cabinet shortly.
Collective fight-the dire need
As per Article 340 and Article 15(4) in our Constitution, social and educational backwardness alone have to be reckoned to classify the backward classes. Economic criterion is against our Constitution. The very purpose of reservation would be defeated in future if economic condition infiltrates as one of the yardsticks. Patrons of reservation policies and custodians of social justice as well as all the suppressed people should collectively fight to prevent the imminent peril. This is my humble appeal.
Volte-face of the National Commission for Backward Classes
When B.P.Sharma Committee constituted by the Central Government suggested including salary to reckon ‘creamy layer’ among the OBCs, the National Commission for Backward Classes did oppose it. But it has now retracted and started backing the latest move of the BJP led Government. The volte-face of the National Commission is shocking indeed. This is detrimental to the advancement of backward classes who are entitled for reservations as per the Mandal Commission Report. It is the principal duty of the National Commission for Backward Classes to withdraw its support before it is too late. The OBCs should not be betrayed.
Our protest against ‘Creamy Layer’ concept
When ‘creamy layer’ terminology was pointed out by the nine judge bench of the apex court, it was only Justice S. Rathinavel Pandiyan who had opposed the ‘creamy layer’ concept. He rejected the income ceiling in the name of ‘creamy layer’ when other judges favoured and thrust it (Indra Sawhney case). But the ‘creamy layer’ concept crept in through the irrelevant and unfair verdict delivered by Justice Jeevan Reddy, on behalf of the other judges in the bench. It was an absolute mess against which Dravidar Kazhagam protested and pointed out that it was a wrong decision.
Four Vital Points
- Economic condition as a basic criterion has not been specified in any of the provisions of the Constitution to provide reservation. During the debate on the first amendment of Indian Constitution, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had clearly stated that ‘economic criterion’ is not a permanent or consistent scale of measurement. It is subject to review and changes every year.
- The classification of ‘creamy layer’ was introduced only for the Backward classes. We do not mean to argue that it should apply to all others. Our stand is that no one requires it.
When a three-tier segregation is already in existence as i) Upper caste brahmins ii) Backward Classes and iii) SC/ST, why should the backward classes alone face the injustice of ‘creamy layer’ label?
- ‘Among the backward classes, those who are economically more privileged would have enjoyed and exhausted all benefits, leaving over nothing for the underprivileged’! Could this be the logic behind the advocacy of ‘creamy layer’? It would be like the saying, ‘entire food exhausted even before the serving starts’ what makes ‘creamy layer’ inevitable? Why is it indispensable?
- In case, ‘Creamy Layer’ is essential, the backward classes themselves should have demanded. Why should upper caste brahmins who have made advancement in life promote, seek and support it?
Delimited and Prescribed Clearly
The Ministry of Labour Welfare at the Centre granting 27 per cent reservation for the backward classes in Central government jobs had clearly specified in its order dated 08.09.1993, that income from agriculture and salary are not to be reckoned for computation of ‘Creamy Layer’.
But the same ministry changed its policy and declared on 06.10.2017, its own independent order that income through salary would be included for the computation of creamy layer. Was it fair on the part of the Ministry concerned to change its stand and retract upon its own will?
Several OBC welfare associations strongly protested against this which led to the formation of an exclusive enquiry committee comprising parliament members. The committee held a public opinion poll and also held an enquiry meet inviting the chief officers of labour welfare departments, public welfare department, human resource development officials, UPSC executives etc. This committee tabled its statement in the Parliament on 9.3.2013 after the entire process. It had specified that agricultural income and income through salary should not be reckoned in the computation of Creamy Layer.
Too many cooks to spoil the broth
The statement submitted by the enquiry committee was completely ignored and no action was taken by the Government. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment formed a committee of three members to analyse the welfare of backward classes. This committee was headed by B.P. Sharma who was the secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Employment. It is noteworthy that none of this three member committee belonged to the backward classes.
This committee submitted its conclusive statement to the Central Government in September 2019. It wanted to scrap totally the order of the 08.09.1993 order passed by the Ministry of Labour and Employment and approve including salary in computation for ‘creamy layer’ classification. It had stated that the creamy layer yardstick must be based on the income level of the backward classes. This news report was published in leading newspapers.
The U-Turn of the National Commission for Backward Classes
It was also reported by leading newspapers that the National Commission for Backward Classes had voiced its protest against the recommendations of the Sharma Committee. It had sent its report in March-2020, opposing the move to include salary in the computation of gross annual income of the backward classes. But now the National Commission has changed its stand. The latest move of the Government has the backing of the National Commission for Backward Classes.
According to a news report published in The Times of India on 03.07.2020 in its Delhi edition, the Sharma Committee Report was again sent to the National Commission for Backward Classes and it has now conveyed its consent, and voiced its support to the latest move. What an amazing U-Turn!
The imminent threat to the Welfare of OBCs
While injustice is already being meted out to the backward classes in reservations, adopting the Sharma Committee suggestions would certainly ruin the welfare of the backward classes. There exists a danger of shifting the criteria of social and educational backwardness provided by the Constitution to the contrary criterion of economic backwardness.
If the ‘creamy layer’ determination is based on the economic condition of the backward classes, it would be absolutely unconstitutional and against the very idea of reservation guaranteed by the Constitution.
Since the latest move of the BJP led Government is detrimental to the welfare of the backward classes, all the patrons of social justice must unite at national level and fight against it.
The Sneaking Camel
The camel viewed by us as the economic yardstick is surreptitiously sneaking into the tent of social justice. The fungus should be nipped in the bud. If we fail to do this by collective efforts, words such as reservation and social justice would become obsolete in future. Social justice is the hallmark of liberty but eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Let us all unitedly fight to safeguard the welfare of the backward classes!