The government should effect a "judicious and realistic" enhancement of the income ceiling for determining the 'creamy layer' category among the OBCs, keeping in view the factors such as rise in GDP, inflation and all-round economic growth, a parliamentary committee has said.
The Committee on Welfare of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) also said, in a report, that the income ceiling to determine the ‘creamy layer', should be revised periodically – three yearly or less.
"The committee feels that there is a limit to which the income of a person can be taken as a measure of his social advancement. Therefore, policy decisions should not prescribe unusually rigid income limits because such restrictions have the effect of taking away with one hand what is given with the other," said the report tabled in Parliament on Monday.
"They (committee), therefore, observe that the economic criteria prescribed should be a realistic one," it said.
The committee said that taking into account the trend of rise in GDP, inflation, per capita income, all round economic growth, rise in cost of living, increased costs of health care, transport and education, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment should "ensure a judicious and realistic enhancement of the 'income ceiling' for determining the 'creamy layer' category among OBCs to a reasonable level."
The committee said that as per the income criteria originally stipulated in the office memorandum (OM) of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) dated September 8, 1993, under 'Income/Wealth Test' category, "the rule of exclusion had to be applied on the son(s) and daughter(s) of the persons having gross annual income of Rs. 1 lakh or above or possessing wealth above the exemption limit as prescribed in the Wealth Act for a period of three consecutive years.
"It was also stipulated in the Schedule to the said OM that the income criteria will be modified taking into account the change in its value every three years. Further, if the situation so demands, the interregnum may be less."
The report added, "However, the Committee finds that the income ceiling for identification of creamy layer was revised for the first time after a lapse of more than ten years, i.e. on 9th March, 2004, when the income ceiling was raised from Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 2.5 lakh per annum. The ceiling limit was subsequently revised to Rs. 4.5 lakh on 14th October, 2008 and to Rs. 6 lakh with effect from 16th May, 2013."
As per the latest revision made vide DoPT OM dated September 13, 2017, the income limit has been enhanced from Rs. 6 lakh to Rs. 8 lakh per annum for determining the creamy layer amongst the OBCs, it said, adding the revised ceiling has been made effective from September 1, 2017.
"Thus, the committee observes that the provisions laid down in the DoPT OM dated 8th September, 1993 on the basis of the Expert Committee report for modifying the income ceiling at three yearly intervals or less, as may be needed, is not being followed by the Government and the revisions are being made at larger intervals, which is not in consonance with and, therefore, violative of the norms set by the Government themselves," the report said.
"With a view to ensuring justice for the OBCs, the Committee desire that the revision in the income ceiling for determining the creamy layer category amongst the OBCs should be effected as per the periodicity stipulated," it added.
The Committee said that in spite of four revisions of the income criteria, the 27 per cent vacancies reserved in favour of OBCs "are not being filled up which is amply clear from the data received" from 78 Ministries/Departments regarding representation of OBCs in the posts and services of the Central Government (Ministries/Departments including their attached/subordinate Offices) as on January 1, 2016.
"This leads to the inference and also apprehension that when stringent conditions or restrictions are imposed for determining the creamy layer, the objective of the Government to fill up 27 per cent of the vacancies by OBCs may not be achieved," the report said.
"Also, in the course of the examination of various subjects taken up by the Committee, they have often been told that the shortfall in filling up OBC vacancies is due to non-availability of suitable OBC candidates," it added.