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Government mulls including muslims in OBC list

Should Muslims be considered a part of Other Backward Classes (OBC)? Or should reservation be made separately for the community?

Puja Mehra | Print Edition: September 20, 2009

Should Muslims be considered a part of Other Backward Classes (OBC)? Or should reservation be made separately for the community?

In his proposal on reservations for Muslims, Union Minister for Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid has recently submitted both these options.

Though it is not on the government’s 100-day agenda, the politicallysensitive issue is part of the Congress Party’s manifesto.

Khurshid personally feels the first option, drawn from the Kerala and Karnataka models of reservations, would work better. “Your competition then will only be with the other backward classes,” he explains, adding: “You give them reservation as a minority and their competition will be with the majority.” The PM will now place the proposals before the government and the party.

The second option of reserving jobs for Muslims as a minority group runs against the conventional understanding of reservations: That it can’t be done on religious grounds and that only a group or a class can get it. “Whether it can be done or not, if there is separate reservation for Muslims, it may create a precedent,” warns Khurshid.

The biggest problem, however, is that existing reservations for various classes have already touched the 50 per cent mark and further reservation will leave precious little for ordinary citizens.

Khurshid’s preferred option, therefore, maybe to go the Kerala way where the Backward Commission judged that Muslims could be included as part of OBC. But if this happens, will Muslims compete for the 27 per cent reserved seats with other OBCs? Or is it better to reserve a share of the 27 per cent for them?

At present, the AP government’s theory is to exclude upper class Muslims and provide 4 per cent reservation for the rest (since Muslims form about 11 per cent of the population in AP). The matter is currently in court. The question is: How many new jobs would such reservation mean for the community beyond a few in the Railways and certain PSUs?

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