the larger picture: the state's missing

Any OBC family with an annual income above Rs 2.5 lakh would be treated as part of the creamy layer. Families where the key bread-earner is either a doctor, engineer, lawyer, son of present or past MP and MLA or working in 11 equivalent professions will also be part of the creamy layer.

The verdict has set off a demand among regional parties that the creamy layer criteria be changed.

from what would perhaps be called an incisive news report in the telegraph (italics mine). if the reporter had bothered to check the creamy layer categories and criteria (read appendix x in this ncbc annual report) a little more carefully, he'd have realized that not all obc doctors, lawyers, engineers fall in the creamy layer category. nor do all past mps, mlas and others working in 11 equivalent positions- the income criteria would apply to every one of them.

it's not just the upper caste dominated academia that does shoddy work- the media overdoes it all the time. all their reporting/analysis of dalit/obc issues displays a poor grasp of facts, an unwholesome appetite for drama and a penchant for sweeping conclusions. is this how the reporter's mind worked? 1) obcs: largely undeserving, 2) hence, large creamy layer 3) therefore, large-scale discontent. how many obcs could the reporter have possibly met in such a large state (both in terms of population and size) as uttar pradesh, keeping in view that the deadlines on such issues are possibly shorter, to draw such a large picture?

here's a part of the larger picture of the obcs: according to the third census of the small scale industries in the country, 57 % of the unregistered 91, 46, 216 ssi units in india were managed by businessmen or entrepreneurs from the socially backward classes.

that little factoid, along with other information i've discussed in my earlier posts, should tell you a lot of things about the obcs- but i do hope you've noticed one significant feature that characterizes their existence: i refer to their relationship with the state. it's very tenuous. the state would like to ignore them, mostly, and they'd like to keep away from it, mostly.

and another feature that i'd also like to point out: agriculture is not the whole of their culture.

this is what i mean by jnu gyan

check this interesting article by chandrabhan prasad: a critique of buffalo nationalism that kancha ilaiah seeks to promote. i'd not like to attempt here a critique of the critique (i think it'd be useful), but i'd definitely like to point out some factual inaccuracies and inconsistencies that many knowledgeable folks from indian academia seem to consistently indulge in. especially those articulate folks who work, or have spent a few years (like prasad), in jnu.

for instance, the jats. the jats from uttar pradesh are not obcs- not according to the national commission for backward classes (check the u.p. list). neither are the jats from punjab. nor haryana. only the jats from rajasthan (excluding jats from bharatpur and dhaulpur districts, where nearly half of the state's jats live) are in the central list of backward classes.

which means around 95% of the jats in the country are not obcs. which also means: the jats cannot be taken to represent the obcs.

let me quote here a paragraph from this excellent article, in frontline, on why some jats from rajasthan are in the central list):
The NCBC further reasoned in its advice: “No doubt, after the effective abolition of jagirdari and zamindari systems, the condition of Jats in Rajasthan have begun to improve, but considering the time-span required for advancement of a community as a whole from a position of backwardness, the time that was available for Jats in Rajasthan (excluding Bharatpur and Dholpur) to move up from a position of social backwardness to that of social advancement, cannot be reasonably considered as adequate. The exceptional circumstances dating at least from the late medieval age through the modern period, which were available for communities like Kamma and Reddy of Andhra Pradesh and the Jats of Punjab, etc., have not been available for Jats of Rajasthan (excluding Bharatpur and Dholpur). (italics mine)
so, if you wish to place the jats in any category, place them alongside the reddies and kammas of andhra pradesh, or the marathas of maharashtra or the patidars of gujarat. they don't belong in the obc category. their ascendancy- social, economic, political- is not recent: it has been happening over the last three, four centuries at least. and in the non-aryavarta states, these castes have emerged, as if naturally, to assume the place of the absent kshatriyas.

call them the intermediate or intermediary castes, or the middle castes: in most indian states they're the upper castes. but that news doesn't seem to have reached jnu until now. for a lot of the tv stars from jnu, and other universities across india, the intermediate castes (or upper castes not of upper varna origin) are quintessential obcs.

there is not just socio-economic, but also a consistent historical logic to the castes in the central list.
it's another matter that there have been reports from some state commissions for backward classes that have found inconsistencies pertaining to a few castes in the respective states' lists (but not in the central list). prominent among doubtful inclusions are a couple of castes from tamil nadu and karnataka and uttar pradesh. but by and large, there have been more, many more, non-inclusions, of small unknown castes, than inclusions, of large, prominent castes.

look at this way: if the obc population of india, let's assume, is around 50 crores. what would be the average size, in terms of population, of the 2000 odd obc castes? around 2,50,000. if we exclude those few castes whose numbers run into lakhs and a few times, a couple of millions, what would be average size of the average obc caste? many wouldn't even reach the one lakh mark. no, you've never really met the average obc, even though you've met him hundreds of times: he might be the hawker who sells vegetables at your door, the janitor in the lift, the plumber or the electrician, the thelawallah selling plastic goods, the mechanic, the paanwallah...but how would you recognize him if he isn't a yadav or a jat or a kurmi or a lodh? most likely, not even the government has heard of the name of the plumber/electrician/janitor's caste.

why does the focus of the committed academia (and the media and most of the chattering classes who follow their performances in the media) in india remain fixed on the few prominent intermediate castes at the top of the social order in many states, historically, even when most of them are not even obcs, according to the ncbc? considering, even those among them who are obcs, probably constitute around 5% of the obc population in the country, and less than 1% of all obc castes?

and the popular myths propagated by this set of jnu led dons is based on such poor research- it's ages since most of them have actually done any field work, i think. most of the best research has been done by researchers from outside india. and even when they do do field work: they seem to know beforehand what to find.


the majority is the creamy layer

i have gone back to this paper (that i found here, ), Caste and democracy: Reservations and the return to politics by Susie Tharu, M. Madhava Prasad, Rekha Pappu, K. Satyanarayana, quite often in the past few months. yes, it does articulate some scholarly insights that seem to reflect some of my own not-so-scholarly views. abi's answer prompted this latest excursion:
Thus an entire range of contributions is marked by one shared presupposition: that there exists a coherent and hegemonic political subject who is interested simultaneously in maintaining the standards of merit and excellence naturally assumed to be of primary interest to a majority, and rendering social justice to the rest (assumed to be a “minority”) through policies of positive discrimination. In keeping with this strict policy orientation, these arguments rarely pause to question the categories such as majority and minority that are fundamental to the very possibility of such an orientation. While some have noted that the ‘general category’ itself functions as reservation for the upper castes (Ghosh), the political significance of the fact that this “majority” which is fabricated by negation and represented symbolically by the 50 percent limit on reservations, is an artificial majority without demographic or political foundation, is rarely discussed.
the debate was over a policy that the majority needed to be convinced about: the government was convinced, but the majority would rather believe in the courts, in this particular instance. so the court spoke for them. where does the minority come into the picture?

the debate was about the efficiency of the policy:
The primary orientation of the debate is toward policy, and the discourse is strewn with terms like costs, benefits, efficiency, and with demands for more accurate information about population segments, and a multiplicity of other factors that affect access to opportunities, etc. They remain within an academic-bureaucratic framework where the question of the right policy measures is already assumed to be the shared ground on which to stage the debate. They have differences about what policies should be adopted, but rarely do they question the assumption that what we have here is basically a question of policy.
i guess the americans, ranged on opposing sides, were as vocal about their government's policy on iraq. and the chinese, though not overtly, are as engaged over the autonomous region of tibet. but somewhere in the back of their minds, the iraqis and tibetans do figure, i'm sure. what occupied/s the minds of the majority in india is deprivation, not obcs:
The shift from discrimination—which points to social divisions with structural consequences—to deprivation—a lack that may be compensated—is symptomatic of the policy approach. The policy approach does not examine social divisions or inquire into the consequences for an understanding of Indian society/democracy. It attempts to find a solution to a crisis. The fundamental question is: how do the state and its advisors perceive the crisis generated by the struggle for reservations, and, by contrast, how might it be perceived from the point of view of a democracy to come? (italics mine)
the americans wanted to deliver democracy to the iraqis (by invading their country), the chinese want to take the tibetans along on the road to progress (by flooding the region with prosperous chinese)- what does the majority in india wish to address through reservations? deprivation, not caste. and the court has sought to reassure the majority that they shall indeed address deprivation: check this news report on how the majority is still not convinced that the government, a political creature, will implement the verdict 'in its right spirit' (they would dilute the creamy layer!):
If there is one community, then within that community what would count as an indicator of social distress or disadvantage to be remedied would be economic, i.e., that which can be brought under a common measure. If on the other hand there are many communities, and their separate existence is taken as the starting point, then the application of a common measure is out of the question. A single community – such as a homogeneous national community – would take account of the distress of its own members and seek to redress it. It would not then be a matter of providing for reservations, but of acting to relieve distress with effective measures. If then, there are reservations in a nation-state, we can read this as a sign that there is no unified community that coincides with the national population.
there were two major arguments thrust before the court: a) many of the castes included in the lists might not be as deprived as they were in 1931, b) many individuals among those castes were not as deprived as in 1980. primarily, the court was asked to verify claims of deprivation. the court ordered a review, every five years, of the level of deprivation of castes in the list [seeing merit in argument (a)] and the exclusion of the creamy layer [upholding argument (b)] . clearly, the objective was to prevent the few from cornering the rights of the many (what was the evidence before the court to substantiate this fear?)

why didn't the court ponder over the question: how can the majority be prevented from cornering the rights of the castes/communities that have been compressed into a deprived minority? the need for reservations itself constitutes sufficient evidence on that issue. that question was not answered in 1993 too. nor in 1947.


the creamy layer score card: one department, two ministries, four culprits

indian identity is forged in diversity, says shashi tharoor:
Worse, this stock Hindu male has only to mingle with the polyglot, multicoloured crowds - and I am referring not to the colours of their clothes but to the colours of their skins - thronging any of India's major railway stations to realise how much of a minority he really is. Even his Hinduism is no guarantee of his majorityhood, because caste divisions automatically put him in a minority. (If he is a Brahmin, for instance, 90% of his fellow Indians are not.)
if this stock hindu male, let's assume he is a brahmin, were to visit the offices of the ministry of mines, government of india, he'd find every guarantee of his majorityhood at most desks.

the ministry of mines, like the department of fertilizers, has only one obc in a creamy layer position
: one group (b) officer among 63 group (a) and (b) officers. (check chapter 2 of the ministry's 2007-08 annual report.)

shashi tharoor had also written a book on nehru, the statesman who dropped the phrase 'unity in diversity' almost as often as he made close/distant/unknown kashmiri pundit relatives top bureaucrats, intelligence chiefs, diplomats, governors. that's a cheap shot at a dead man? well, the dead man started it. he was not so dead, and mostly, stark raving statesmanlike when he told the country's chief ministers he didn't want to 'swamp the bright and able people and remain second-rate or third-rate' around fifty years ago. and almost thirty years later, rajeev gandhi quoted his grandfather's argument in parliament. and fifteen years ago when the creamy layer was defined: wasn't that a cheap shot too?

the ministry of mines, one notices, doesn't want to 'swamp the bright and able people and remain second-rate or third-rate', either. yes, it's an ethic the indian state has consistently adhered to over half a century. actually, it's more than an ethic- it seems to be one of the most important guiding principles of the indian state.

do colours have a place in nehru's/indira's/rajeev's/sonia's india? the materials that went into forging india and the indian identity weren't 'second rate or third rate'. they were, with insignificant exceptions, first rate. therefore, no one who is 'second rate or third rate' is indian. india, through all the defining and redefining since independence, has shown itself incapable of accepting a little more than a tiny cluster of 'multicoloured crowds' in its fold. in india, the majority can only be a minority. it's time, i think, the 'second rate or third rate' started thinking of giving up knocking at india's doors.


two more for the creamy layer

the ministry of steel is one better than the department of fertilizers: it can boast of two obcs of the creamy layer kind and not a measly one!

check the annual report (2006-07, the latest) of the ministry of steel (pages 50-54), government of india: of the 151 group (a) and (b) officers in the ministry, only two are obcs.

and the rest of the (chapter IX) of the report, which deals with 'welfare of weaker sections of society', tells you how creative babus, who everyone presumes lead such dull lives, can be. and also reveals the depth of the great contempt the managing babus of these companies have for reservations policies in general, and for the reserved classes in particular: of the nine psus the ministry controls, only four give you the actual number of obcs they employ, of which only two list out the group-wise numbers of employees!
here's an overview:

* s.a.i.l: employs 1,35,028 people, of whom nearly 61,000 are group (a) and (b) officers. and how many of those officers are obcs? the steel giant doesn't seem to have heard of the obcs. the dalits and adivasis are there, but significantly underrepresented.

* rashtriya ispat nigam ltd (r.i.n.l): employs 16,453 people, of whom around 6,100 are group (a) and (b) officers. how many are obcs? the company seems to have already started implementing the sachar committee recommendations: it lists 'minority' representation in employment but mentions no obcs. seems to have heard of them only recently because it talks about recruiting 6 obc employees in the group (c) category (not creamy layer) in 2006-07- yes, thirteen years after the supreme court discovered the creamy layer.

* kudremukh iron ore company ltd (k.i.o.c.l): employs 1548 people, of whom 219 are obcs. no mention of group-wise employment.

* national mineral development corporation (n.m.d.c): employs 5,532 people, of whom 2,000 (approx.,) are group (a) and (b) officers. obcs? finally, we notice their presence- 153 (out total 2,000, approx., officers) of them are group (a) and (b) officers (or 7.65% of all officers).

* manganese ore (india) ltd (m.o.i.l): mentions no numbers at all! but 'has undertaken several measures for the welfare of sc/st/obc section of society such as: a) adoption of tribal villages, b) training in sericulture for economic development), c) help to the schools insurrounding mines' etc.,

* bird group of companies: mentions only percentages and no figures. says 11% of its employees are obcs. how many of them are group (a) and (b) officers? if the company liked the figures, why would it hide behind percentages?

* mstc ltd: mentions both figures and percentages. it employs 301 people, of whom 254 are group (a) and (b) officers. how many are obcs? 18 (7% of total number of officers).

* sponge iron india ltd (s.i.i.l): mentions neither figures nor percentages. nor obcs.

* mecon ltd: employs 1,618 people, of whom 132 are obcs. how many of them are group (a) and (b) officers? doesn't list out group-wise figures.

forget the creamy layer, do you even get any sense that such a people as the obcs are actually a part of this country from the above listing of facts?

i'd talked of the babus who manage these companies, and their contempt for reservations policies earlier: do you see it now? sixty years after reservations for the sc/sts came into effect, some of these companies do not even bother to mention how many dalits and adivasis they employ! and the figures they do mention, many times, are obviously not very credible. many dalit activists have written about and agitated against the fudging of facts and figures by government ministries, departments and psus at many levels. do you understand their frustration now? transparency? who can force these babus to be more transparent? the government couldn't make their kids budge off the aiims grounds for weeks. corporate social responsibility? oh yes, most of these companies' websites have long pages devoted to it.

and to think that the lower castes too paid for the investments that built these companies.

...and don't forget to add him to the creamy layer

if you wish to find the creamy layer, be prepared to plough through more manure than you can handle. look at the stinking department of fertilizers of the government of india: looks like all it can contribute to the fat, greedy, oppressive creamy layer is one lone obc!

one obc among among 152 group (a) and (b) officers: where did the rest of the scummy cream slip away?

but the 11 psus the department controls seem to be better skimming grounds : around 9% (2,200 individuals) of the group (a) and (b) officers working in those psus are obcs. is it because one'd have to actually handle manure at the plants instead of just thinking it up, like in the department? anyway, how many of the 200 odd central psus would have that kind of obc representation? not many, i'm sure.

[ here's another post on shuddh cow shit that you may like].


the layers above, around and apart from the creamy layer

a commenter on this post argues that reserving seats in kendriya vidyalayas would ensure that more obc students would get into iits and iims etc:
The policies I talked of addresses both caste and deprivation while recognizing that they are to a reasonable extent inter twined.

I said, reservations in KVs along with financial help for the reserved category students for tutorial classes so that they would be in a position to compete.
yes, i'm quite sure more obc students would get into iits/iims if those policies are followed. problem solved. whose problem? a ruling class that wishes to tell the world that the nation it's building is inclusive would definitely need this representation to prove its credentials.

does it solve the obcs' problem? no, it doesn't recognize their problem (or the dalits' problem or the muslims' problem). and their problem is this: a state that promotes hierarchy, separation and division. in other words, institutions such as the iits and the kendriya vidyalayas themselves are a part of the problem. this is how hierarchy, separation and division operate in the indian educational system- let's look at the schools first:

* private schools
* government aided schools
* government schools

those are the three broad categories of schools in india- do you see the separation? private schools, on an average, produce better results than government aided schools and government schools. so the rich and the middle classes go to the private schools, and some government aided schools but the poor mostly go to the government schools, or more likely, drop out of government schools.

but almost 80% of indians go to the same government schools! no, they don't. look at the broad divisions within government schools:

* central schools
* state/local government run schools
* special schools for certain categories of students from different segments of society- like dalits, adivasis, backward classes etc.,

don't they all deliver the same kind of quality? no, again. a hierarchy operates here too: the kendriya vidyalayas access the best kinds of intake and resources, the navodaya schools cater to the most fortunate among rural students, the residential schools for the dalits/adivasis etc., offer students from those sections..the best, but not adequate, deal they can get from government schools.

on the surface, all this might seem very natural: do i expect a liberal democracy that has chosen a mixed economy model (because it believes in economic freedom) not to have a class system? and think of the geographic spread and linguistic diversity of the country.

a class system in which children of public sector workers and agricultural workers go to different kinds of schools run by the same government? why? we can't say the government is a business organization like hindustan lever, say, which produces different brands of soap, or education, for different income segments. is geography an explanation? many public sector units are located in remote, isolated areas, separated from other residential neighbourhoods so they need their own schools. that explains separation and not the hierarchy. but does geography explain this separation: kids from the same neighbourhood go to different schools- a government school located in the same neighbourhood and a private school several kilometers away. hierarchy, denoted by different income groups, might explain that situation but it doesn't solve the problem of separation. where everyone goes to the same rural school, you notice divisions in seating arrangements in classes, some kids sit on the floor while others occupy the benches. you notice that persistent effort to divide students in all rural government schools: different seating arrangements, cooking and dining arrangements and even teaching practices. and in more prosperous villages, recognized or unrecognized private schools suddenly spring up to offer a welcome opportunity for the prosperous to separate their kids from the hoi polloi.

a class system? hierarchy, separation and division are the chief elements of the caste system- they work together.
but you might not notice all three elements operating at the same time- one or a combination of any two elements might be more visible. you think the kendriya vidyalayas are separated from other government schools for valid, secular reasons- but you'll not notice that the public school system has divided students according to their assigned capabilities, just like in the caste system, where in the name of division of labour, different groups are assigned different occupations and statuses. so the kendriya vidyalayas get more funds, resources and attention (from the central government itself) but the village school- most times, it'd be very difficult to find the certain babu who runs it from the certain block, district, department, ministry- gets very little. so the kvs rank higher in this caste hierarchy.

the indian education system is the way it is because all the key players in this system- the government, the teachers, the bureaucracy, the private schools, the parents- like it that way. the lower castes are part of only one important constituent, or key player, in this system: the parents. and here too, their economic and social incapacities impose harsh limits on their role.

kendriya vidyalayas work well because the kids are from upper caste backgrounds. government schools work well (but not equally well for everyone) in villages where upper caste parents still have a stake in their performance- in prosperous villages in which they can afford private schooling, government schools stop working for everyone else. actually all schools in the village stop working for everyone else. and in cities, where you think caste doesn't exist (because separation and division are not so visible), private schools don't cater to higher and middle income groups, they actually cater to different caste groups because the income group-caste overlap is very real. why do you think the government (at different levels) allows the proliferation of private schools in cities where it'd be much easier to monitor government schools? after all, government resides in the cities, right?

schools represent a great opportunity for government and society: they could just pick up the duster, and wipe caste off children's minds. the right setting to begin a sincere revolution. but all that's been done until now, and is being proposed, mimics the caste system.

all the key players i mentioned earlier are a part of the carefully orchestrated mess that is the indian schooling system. and there is manu behind this madness. at one point of time, the government controlled almost 90% of the production of goods and services that you used every day: right from the bed you got off in the morning to the the radio and the radio station you listened to when you retired in the evening. and most of this control was very direct: a huge number of products/services were reserved for production in the public sector. and those that weren't, were produced by licensees. and even during those days it never occurred to the government that schools deserved its undivided attention? that in a country divided in a thousand ways, vertically and horizontally, education was the best glue to fix those divisions? why? because those who ran the system never had to shoulder the burden of caste?

and now, in the new india, when the country is so free that an eminent professor in the creamiest of creamy layer educational institutions feels liberalized enough to abuse, in print, certain lower castes in india who also pay taxes that pay for his salary, are we supposed to believe that it is all the lower castes' fault that the schools are in a mess? and the money and attention that should have gone into those schools has gone to build a creamy layer of institutions and reinforce a caste system that ...can only breed bigots like him?


arjun sengupta's creamy layer

arjun sengupta says 2.4 % of the obcs belong to the 'high income' category.

[check tables 5 and 6 in the paper 'India's Common People: Who Are They, How Many Are They and How Do They Live?' by Arjun Sengupta, KP Kannan and G.Raveendran in the April 15 issue of the Economic and Political Weekly. thanks, prof.swarup].

yes, they actually call it a 'creamy layer'.

there's a catch: all individuals who spend more than rs.2779 a month (as indicated by the household expenditure survey conducted by the nsso, in 2004-05) fall in the high income category, according to the paper. if a family of five, say, spends around rs.14,000 a month on its household needs, should we also assume that its annual gross income is more than rs.2.5 lakhs? (check criteria specified against category VI, which also applies to a lot of other categories of the creamy layer). and if more than one person in the family works, and each of them earns, individually, less than 2.5 lakhs a year, but together bring home more than that, i don't think the creamy layer criteria would apply. so, how many of those families would actually fall in the creamy layer category?

and lastly, the researchers seem to have relied largely on the nsso for population numbers relating to each social category- obcs, muslims, sc/st, and others. how reliable are they?
The methodology followed by the NSSO was something like this: The NSSO volunteer would ask the head of the family whether he belonged to the backward class. If the respondent said yes, then he would record the whole family as the backward class. If he said no, then it would not be recorded. In 1999, many members of backward classes did not know that they belonged to backward classes. Secondly, the NSSO has no knowledge of backward classes. The NSSO has experience in matters like unemployment. But it does not have experience in social dimension, except in the case of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes. So it came up with a figure of 36 per cent. Five years later, the same NSSO has found them to be 42 per cent.
p.s.krishnan, who had worked with the mandal commission, had remarked elsewhere too, in a few of his articles, that the nsso figure would finally reach 52%. and if you check closely (tables 9 & 11, among others), you'll wonder what are so many poorly educated, 'poor and vulnerable' people doing in the coyly titled 'others' category? especially when the indian state seems to guarantee a middle or high income future for 4 out of every 5 college graduates among the upper castes (the major group in the category)? yes, those are backward classes dragged into neighbourhoods they don't belong to. like at the time of elections, when they're herded into trucks to make up the numbers at rallies addressed by people they'd never meet again. now, in this paper, their presence is necessary for making the 'others' seem like common people too.

arjun sengupta's common people remind me of r.k.laxman's common man: in one cartoon, i remember, he looks greatly disappointed by a hike in air fares.


creamy layer: a figure from the dark ages

OBC job share plunges to 5% in 13 yrs of quota

NEW DELHI: In 1990, other backward classes claimed 12.55% of government jobs. But 13 years after the government created a 27% quota in their favour in 1994, the OBC share in jobs has, in fact, plunged — to an alarming 5.21%.

The figure emerged from the documents submitted by the Centre to the Supreme Court during arguments on anti-quota PILs challenging the validity of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admissions) Act, 2006.
that's from a six month old report in the times of india, always on the right side of upper caste righteous indignation. and this is a frustrated jayanthi natarajan at a debate telecast a couple of days ago by ibn live, a channel that'll dramatize whatever it takes to drive home some politically difficult sense into the lower castes:
Jayanthi countered that politically difficult statement with a politically correct one. “After the Indra Sahni case, when we’ve had reservations for OBCs in employment, only 5.4 per cent of those seats have been filled. So until social inclusiveness is totally achieved, I don’t think it’s time yet to talking about leaving people out. It may be a very attractive argument. It’s also not true to say that it replaces merit,” she said.
and a five month old story from the hindu, that doesn't see any contradiction between being the mouthpiece of the brahminical left and the working classes in the country, says:
Speaking at the end of the rally on Parliament Street, Dr. Ramadoss said Central Government jobs should be distributed to various social groups in proportion to their population. Though the share of the OBC population in the country was over 52 per cent, its share in government employment was only 5.3 per cent.
yes, the core message in all the links is the same: obc representation in the central government has fallen from around 12.5% in 1989 to 5.21% in 2007. then why so many links?

so that some folks, like this commenter at abi's blog, would see the light: the obcs are still in the dark ages. like i had said in a recent post, it is quite impossible for certain folks who've been taught by the army of intellectuals opposing reservations to see the obcs in a certain light, as powerful and prosperous, to accept any information that punctures that picture. hence, the multiple links: choose you favourite rag. and forgive it for slipping up- this isn't the kind of news you'd like to read or reread. what you like is more objective stuff, right? the headlines should say, in your kind of politically correct language: the students opposing reservations aren't elitist, and the editorial should say: the poor among the upper castes deserve a break too.

the figure i'd suggested in this post, a couple of days ago, that only 0.5% of all obc families belong to the creamy layer, isn't from the dark ages, as the commenter suggests. as you can see, things were better for the obcs in the dark ages.

in 1990, when the estimate of obc representation in central government jobs, according to mandal, was 12.55%, the size of the central government was 34 lakhs. now it's 31 lakhs (according to the report of the 2004, the latest, census of central government employees ). 5.21% of 31 lakhs- which means the number of obcs in the central government is around 1,62,000.

and how many of those 31 lakh jobs could be group (a) and group (b) officers (check sections II A and II b of the creamy layer categories)? around 7-9% of central government jobs fall in those categories- say, 2,50,000 jobs. ignoring for the moment group (a) and group (b) officers of state services, how many obc group (a) and (b) officers do you think could be skimmed off? how many obcs do you think actually hold those posts? 5%? 6%? 10%? remember, the percentage of obc officers in 1989-1990, was- class I: 4.69%, class II: 10%. less than the number of total representation in central govt jobs- 12.55%. the percentage of sc/st officers too is usually less than their total representation in jobs. a great majority of the obc/sc/st/ employees hold group (c) or (b) jobs- yes, following a historically ordered pattern. they want jobs, right? give them all those menial jobs so that they can gloat about the numbers, but never make too many of them officers! so how many obcs do you think are group (a) or (b) officers in the central government. 4% of the total number of officers? 3%? 2%? 1%?

what will you skim off, mr.balakrishnan, pasayat, bhandari ...?

it's not the ignorance that's staggering, it's the blatant refusal to see an apartheidic divide building over the years. and i'm not talking about only excitable commenters. it's like men and women, so wise and knowledgeable and sensitive on other issues, automatically switch off their minds when a fact that contradicts their flawed understanding of what the obcs and other unfortunate sections of the indian population are. obcs? prosperous, powerful, and too goddamm many- but not enough to deserve any special attention. definitely not the benevolent kind of attention, anyway.

let me end this post with an illustration of the selective blindness i've been talking about- in this post, bhupinder, talking about how and what he learnt about mandal, quotes an excerpt from an article by s.s.gill. the argument in the post and the article is almost the same- most people have failed to see mandal in its true light. let's see what mr.gill does see- here are a few other excerpts from the same article:
And who were the main beneficiaries of this provision? Only the better off among the OBCs — the so-called creamy layer — who already had access to good educational facilities and could outperform their lesser privileged peers at competitive examinations within the reserved quota. This deepened the divide among the OBCs, as those who were already at the top of their community cornered the plum jobs and those at the bottom were left further behind.
plum jobs? he goes on to say:
Of course, Article 16 (4) empowers the State to make job reservation for "any backward class citizens... not adequately represented in the services under the state". But is it anyone's case that the forward castes as a whole are not adequately represented in the services?
is he blind or what? where are the the plum jobs that were cornered, mr.gill? if the obcs' share has fallen from a tokenistic 12.5% to a dregs-at-the-bottom-of-the-glass 5%, and the dalits and the muslims together do not make up more than 20% of the plum jobs, who's been sucking up the milk and the cream, mr.gill?

gill has been a babu in the mandal commission. but it looks like, like many objective observers, he didn't see even 12.5% of the truth then, nor does he see even 5% of it now.


creamy layer: thinly veiled prejudice

what feelings, knowledge could have fuelled the idea that a large, powerful, prosperous creamy layer exists among obcs and other underprivileged classes? a line from a dipankar gupta article i'd quoted a couple of days ago, in this post, provides a clue:
It is ‘demonstrably perverse’ to consider members of certain castes incapable of doing well and getting ahead even if they have the means and the powers to do so.
it isn't 'demonstrably perverse' to assume that 'members of certain castes' do have access to 'the means and powers to do so so' when commissions such as the one headed by mandal clearly pointed out that a large majority of them do not have such access? and again, reading carefully, you notice he mentions only 'members of certain castes'. okay, he's not talking about all the members of the obc castes. he's only talking of members of certain castes. not about random individuals, from any caste, among the broad objectivised category called backward classes. like i said in this post, whatever his protestations, dipankar gupta has always demonstrated an acute consciousness of caste. if he wants to push ahead a pro-economic-and-other-objective-criteria-based alternative policy, why does he have to build it on the foundation of caste?

members of certain castes have the means and the powers to get ahead but they still want reservations because members of those castes are...lazy? greedy? devious? shifty? cunning? stupid dickheads?

as you go on searching for what's implied in that line, progressively less pleasant thoughts strike your mind. words that increasingly slur.

yes, that line could also be interpreted as:

policymakers wish to offer reservations to even members of certain castes who have the means and the powers to get ahead on their own, because they believe such a policy would translate into votes.

now look at what's being implied:

members of certain castes who have the means and the powers to get ahead on their own are so dumb that they'll all stop trying harder if offered reservations, because they will all believe they'll all get seats anyway.

members of certain castes who have the means and the powers to get ahead on their own are so f$@^ing devious that they'll all scheme together and try just hard enough to score just enough marks below the cutoff mark (yes, they'll also be aware of just what the cutoff is going to be, in advance) to grab all the seats, if offered reservations.

members of certain castes who have the means and the powers to get ahead on their own have such a weak grasp of responsible citizenship, of ethics, that they sell their votes.

members of certain castes who have the means and the powers to get ahead on their own are so stupid that they will believe that they'll all get seats because members of other castes who have also been offered reservations will never be able to score better than them.

one could go on because this concept of creamy layer is so stimulating- it offers such varied, and interesting insights into the ..brahminized imagination. no, that's not a slur.


creamy layer: how thick is it?

as a rule, individuals who belong to castes listed in the list of backward classes are socially, educationally and economically backward. the creamy layer is about the exceptions. i had to re-emphasize the, seemingly axiomatic, point that application of the 'creamy layer' is to eliminate individuals, and not castes, in my last post because there seems to be a strongly held belief among opponents of reservations that the creamy layer constitutes a substantial chunk among the backward classes, as a whole, and of individual castes. if any individual caste does have a substantial number of individuals, or a significant proportion of members, who belong to the creamy layer, the caste itself ceases to be a backward class because it'd no longer meet these criteria.

so, how thick do you think is this creamy layer? how many individuals, from the more than 2000 obc castes do you think could be excluded from reservations on the grounds of belonging to the creamy layer? take a guess.

how many obcs have held such constitutional posts as that of the president (there has been none), vice-president (can't think of any, at the moment), supreme court judges (this is amusing), etc ?

how many obcs do you think are class I or class II officers in central or state governments or psus?

how many obcs do you think hold such ranks as that of a colonel in the armed forces?

how many obcs do you think are doctors, lawyers and chartered accountants who make more than rs.2.5 lakhs a year?

and so on and on. how many aspirants from creamy layer families? or, this should be easier: how many creamy layer families? my own estimate is that around 0.5% of all obc families could be classified as belonging to the creamy layer. at best. so, what was the wailing and beating of chests all about?

but the question remains: is this the creamy layer that should be skimmed off?


creamy layer: individuals, not castes

what's the creamy layer? is it a) a set of powerful castes at the top of the broad category of castes listed as backward or is it b) composed of well-to-do individuals from any of the castes in the obc list?

for more clarity, let's check what the national commission for backward classes has to say:
What is Creamy Layer?

The Government of India has evolved the criteria for exclusion of certain socially advanced persons/sections from the benefits of reservation available to OBCs in civil posts and services under the Government of India and this is called the "Creamy Layer criteria"
persons/sections: which i guess should be understood as individuals, primarily, who come from certain sections- the persons and the sections are listed in this page. is there a mention of castes in the sections listed? no. what does that mean? it means that option (a) that i had mentioned in the beginning of this post is ruled out: there is no such creature as a 'creamy layer' of castes. in other words, every caste in this list has passed the test of these criteria. so only individuals would be skimmed off, not castes.
For all the brave face the government is putting up, its perfidy has been exposed. The issue was not whether affirmative action is permissible. What was grossly objectionable was that the government indiscriminately included groups that manifestly ought not to be beneficiaries. They had converted a social policy into a pure power play.
so, what are the groups that pratap bhanu mehta is talking about? is he talking about the same 'groups' (or 'members of certain castes') as dipankar gupta was talking about a few months ago?
It is ‘demonstrably perverse’ to consider members of certain castes incapable of doing well and getting ahead even if they have the means and the powers to do so. This is as much a cultorological loaded argument as are the caste slurs against the Scheduled Castes. By reminding the government to take a second look at not just the number of OBCs but also the principal of identification, the Supreme Court was doing democracy a great favour.
what groups are these two tv stars talking about? dipankar gupta has never minced words on what he thought of obcs, like in this article for instance:
Mayawati thought differently. She knew from experience that it was OBCs, and not Brahmins or Baniyas, who routinely brutalised rural Dalits. She abandoned her early catchwords and reached out to the 'forwards'. She could sense they were politically rudderless and racked by post-Mandal job anxieties. Therefore, by bringing the two together and taking advantage of rampant lawlessness in UP, which again is largely an OBC phenomenon, she rode to power in style. It was this deadly scissors movement, which combined 'forwards' and SCs that cut OBC supporters down to size. This lot had been fattened post-Mandal, pampered as they were by the Left and Right. But Mayawati contributed little to this OBC-led bonhomie. She was preoccupied elsewhere with the thought of bringing Dalit politics back to basics.
pretty sweeping? neither mr.mehta nor mr.gupta ever talked about only individuals, their target was always whole groups or castes or the broad category of backward classes itself. now, when they call the supreme court's judgment 'a landmark' or 'it was not supposed to be caste' (check both articles- see how similar both their arguments sound given the fact they're both trying to reinterpret some of their earlier assertions in the face of obvious rejection of their original arguments by the sc) don't delude yourself into thinking that they were talking about excluding privileged, well-to-do individuals from obc families from reservations- this is not the creamy layer they were talking about. in mr.gupta's view, at least, the whole of the obcs were a creamy layer.

in mr.mehta's defense, one could say that he wasn't as strongly opposed to 'affirmative action' for the obcs, as he calls it, as mr. gupta. he advocates better targeting. but the company of other committed intellectuals opposing obc reservations did show through in some of his articles in which he pointed out at some length that the obcs didn't deserve reservations.

mr.mehta, mr.gupta and also yogendra yadav have all talked about other, more rational/objective methods of measuring backwardness. 'deprivation indices' that focussed on the school an aspirant went to, location (village/town/city etc.,), gender, income and caste etc., all, except for caste, very objective criteria, right? if someone like yogendra yadav thinks that such requirements as income certificates can't be custom-designed, especially by individuals from those sections of indian society who occupy nearly 70% of india's sarkari/quasi sarkari positions, what can one say? and what is more real than the fact that caste determines economic realities in india? these folks live in a different reality.

the problem is not that they live in a different reality, it is that they create a different reality for a large majority of upper caste indians, ever willing to subscribe to any explanation that turns accusing fingers away from them: a reality in which rich obcs travel in chauffeur-driven mercedes cars, own most of the land in rural india, go around in rampaging mobs killing dalits in the countryside, vote in single-minded hordes for parties that promise them undeserved goodies, and send large numbers of disgustingly unruly, illiterate lumpen elements to houses of legislature. don't stop to think of an army of bloodthirsty nayees or kumhars or bunkars and ponder on how absurd a picture that makes, don't stop to think of all the obc famers killing themselves in the countryside, don't stop to think, for instance, of how in madhya pradesh, as ndtv pointed out yesterday (albeit, to press home an altogether different point), obc legislators make up only 15% of the members of the legislative assembly (while the obc population in the state is 51% of the total) and how their representation in most states is much more pathetic. don't stop.

don't stop to think of how round after round of the nsso surveys reveal an ever increasing share of the obcs in the total population and in the population of the poor in the country. don't stop to think of figures that indicate widespread illiteracy, unemployment. of lives wasting away in occupations that define india's heritage...

don't stop, because the creamy layer will melt away. you know you it exists, because you're convinced it exists. it's powerful ('a few prosperous castes eat away all the benefits'), and it's prosperous ('they own most of the land') and it's large ('they're the votebanks'), among a whole lot of evil, immoral things.

that's what the manufactured reality, built on mostly anecdotal evidence and garnished with sparse factual support, has achieved until now: convinced a large number of upper caste indians into believing that the creamy layer is the whole reality of the obcs.

i'd like to ask, picking a line from this blogger: where's the data? where's the data to prove that the creamy layer exists and it is all the things it is garishly portrayed to be? and even if it exists, why should it be excluded? show me the data to prove that it should be excluded.


prabhu chawla's solution to a non-existent problem

Q. Hasn't the reservation policy strengthened caste hierarchy instead of promoting social equality?
A. I agree with you. Reservations based on caste have strengthened caste hierarchy because it has benefited the rich among these castes while the poor have been left out. Reservation should be done only on the basis of economic criteria and not on caste.
from a feature called 'prabhu chawla answers' in india today. you might ask: how would reservations based on economic criteria weaken caste hierarchy? let's see what reservations based on economic criteria would achieve : if 100% of seats in all higher educational institutions are reserved for the poor, 90% of the students would be dalits, muslims and obcs. yes, that'd definitely weaken caste hierarchy.

what's wrong with that conclusion? if poverty is what's stopping all these 'dalits, muslims and obcs' from getting into higher education, where's the need to weaken caste hierarchy anyway? it doesn't seem to exist, in the first place, because its effect on performance is zero. chawla's right.

excellent solution to a non-existent problem, right?


caste will not wither away, aspirations will..and souls too

The view, that once markets are properly freed from government intervention, racist practices and caste-based rewards will wilt under competitive pressure and ultimately wither away, is plain wrong. In the case of caste practices we know that these rose to prominence in India when there was very little government and, the logic of this note shows that they can flourish very well in the absence of government. Indeed once we try to understand markets, cutting ourselves free from the chord- call it umbilical if you wish- of methodological individualism, this is not difficult to see at all.
from this paper, Participatory Equity and Economic Development: Policy Implications for a Globalized World, by Kaushik Basu. referring to a study on the garment industry in tirupur (so often cited by several analysts to make the point that caste plays a positive role in our economy), he tells us:
....the Gounders- an elite cultivator caste that has had a history of being prominent in business and finance- controls a disproportionate amount of capital. The Gounders are a close-knit community and when they go into business they do so with a greater abundance of capital than do the non-Gounders, who comprise 42% of the exporters of Tirupur in the sample that Banerjee and Munshi study.

What these authors manage to demonstrate is that capital in the hands of non-Gounders is as productive or even slightly more productive than in the hands of the Gounders. Output is smaller in a new non-Gounder firm compared with a Gounder firm but the former typically cross over the Gounder firm in five years time.

Why then are the Gounder firms flush with capital? Banerjee and Munshi conclude, rightly, that this suggests the presence of 'community effects'. Clearly community identity matters per se.
if it weren't for caste, an equally qualified dalit given equal access to capital would probably be more successful than a reddy in the bulk drugs industry in hyderabad, a rajaka moviemaker would make more successful films than a kamma, a pardhi would be more successful than a gujarati/marwari bania as a stockbroker in dalal street, a pasi would be a better prime minister than a brahmin or a khatri or a rajput.

thanks to caste, it'll be very, very long...too long before you witness any of those events and not flinch or gasp.. meanwhile, do read and enjoy this piece of wisdom from a commenter on my last post:
look at the quality of non-uppercaste elected members in the parliament and legislative assemblies - so many of them are rapists, murderers, bandits, fraudsters.

Are these role models for the so-called underprivileged, or is it that these are the best they can throw up from their midst?
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