Free Press Journal

New OBC panel to have powers of civil court, says Gehlot


Modi Government’s slogan of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ is just not a political slogan but the government is actually working for uplift of all strata of society, including elderly, backward communities and those with physical disabilities, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawarchand Gehlot said.

Speaking to the Free Press Journal after a media interaction, Gehlot said that for the first time, the government has been trying to give constitutional cover to a large section of backward classes in the country through the proposed National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC). “The new National Commission for Backward Classes will repeal the existing National Backward Class Commission (NBCC) because it does not have the powers of listening to the grievances of OBCs,” he said.

It was in 1953 that the Kaka Kalelkar Commission was formed by then Prime Minister Pt Jawaharlal Nehru and later in 1978, the Janata government had formed the Mandal Commission under Article 340 to look into the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes.

When VP Singh implemented the Mandal Commission recommendations, he eventually lost his government in the unending political fire that was sparked off following it. Mandal Commission was wound up in 1980 but Singh had reopened it in 1989, only to dig his own “grave”. Gehlot stayed clear of any controversy and said the new commission was meant only for betterment and for redressing grievances and complaints of OBCs as the new body would have powers of a civil court for this purpose.

Gehlot said as a constitutional entity, once the commission is formed, it would do a lot of good for underprivileged people across the country and the states will have a greater say in notifying castes and communities in the Central List

At present, the work related to grievances was being done by the SC panel but not satisfactorily, he said, adding that a parliamentary committee too had recommended it some time ago. Known to be close to the PM and said to be in the race for a promotion in the next few weeks, Gehlot told the media men that his ministry was also trying to look after the well-being of over 11 crore elderly people through various schemes, besides aiding the sanitation workers by providing them additional financial support since the last three years.

What is politically significant is the creation of a new commission for people of backward classes who were considered as vote-banks of regional outfits like BSP or at the national level for the Congress for many years but won over by the BJP slowly. The country already has a commission dealing with the Scheduled Castes (under Article 338 of the Constitution) and another one for the Scheduled Tribes (under Article 338A) and now the BJP, in its efforts to reach out to all sections of society, has proposed a Constitutional amendment for the backward classes.

The Minister said two bills related to the proposed commission had been passed by the Lok Sabha last week. The Rajya Sabha had sent it to the select committee for further examination. He hoped it would be ratified by the Upper House soon, paving way for the new panel. Though Gehlot tried to underplay its political benefits, he said the country had many castes classified under the backward classes and it is Prime Minister Modi’s concern that they are protected socially and educationally through the Constitution and thus the bills had been moved in Parliament.

The existing NBCC was constituted in 1993 in pursuance of the Supreme Court’s judgement and directions in the Indra Sawhney case but it had a limited function of recommending to the Union Government on inclusion and exclusion of castes and communities in the Central List of OBCs and therefore it was of no greater use for the OBCs. Gehlot said as a constitutionalentity, once the commission is formed, it would do a lot of good for the underprivileged people across the country and the state governments will have a greater say in notifying castes and communities in the Central List.