NCBC flags OBC quota for Muslims in Karnataka

Congress-ruled Karnataka‘s reservation policy for backward classes has come under the scanner with the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) red-flagging Other Backward Classes (OBC) reservation given to Muslims on the basis of religion.

NCBC has raised objections following a field visit in July 2023 and detailed examination of Karnataka’s reservation policy for OBCs in educational institutions and government jobs. According to Karnataka government’s reservation policy (based on the order issued in March 2002), backward classes are grouped as Category I, Category IIA, Category IIB, Category IIIA and Category IIIB and provided 32% reservation. The entire Muslim community is treated as socially and educationally backward under Category IIB.

At the same time, the state government is providing reservation to 17 socially and educationally backward communities of Muslims under Category I and 19 communities under Category IIA. NCBC has flagged that if the entire Muslim community is provided reservation under Category IIB, why are certain communities being provided in the other two categories.

When contacted, NCBC chairman Hansraj Gangaram Ahir told ET, “Reservation to OBCs is based on social and educational backwardness and not on religion. Extending religion-based reservation deprives the deserving backward classes their right to reservation. We have been repeatedly flagging the issues to Karnataka but the state government has not given a proper response.”

The Commission has also pointed out that the state governments are required to review various aspects of its reservation policy every 10 years. “There has been no review of reservation policy. The last government order was issued in 2002 but no reviews have taken place over the last 22 years,” said Ahir.

Following the review, the Commission has written to the state pointing out, “The Commission is of the considered opinion that the religion-based reservation affects and works against the ethics of social justice for categorically downtrodden Muslim castes/ communities and identified socially and educationally backward Muslim castes/ communities under Category I and Category IIA of the State List of Backward Classes. Hence, socially and educationally backward castes/ communities cannot be treated at par with an entire religion.”

Apart from OBC reservation in educational institutions and government jobs, the Commission has also taken a strong exception to religion-based reservation in local bodies. A senior NCBC official, who did not wish to be identified, said that though there is no sub categorisation (like for reservation in educational institutions and government jobs), 32% reservation is provided to backward classes in local bodies.

The Commission has observed, “Muslim community of Karnataka constitutes 12,92% of the population in Karnataka and the entire Muslim community of Karnataka have been included in the state list of backward classes resulting that 100% Muslims have been entitled to contest the election of local bodies on the reserved backward classes seats as well as unreserved seats.”

Harry Byrne

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