Inclusive growth shouldn’t mean ignoring OBCs

April 6th, 2008 - 1:58 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of P. Chidambaram
(Commentary)
By Rajeev Ranjan Roy
The Indian government’s slogan of inclusive growth is in conflict with ground realities. Other Backward Classes (OBCs) - a major chunk of the needy - have been left out of efforts for multi-dimensional development of all sections of society. A cursory glance at the much-hyped “inclusive growth budget” of Finance Minister P. Chidambaram is indicative of how the government ignored the OBC segment while making allocations for education for the 2008-09 fiscal.

Poor Scheduled Castes (SC) and tribes (ST) and minorities have been taken care of, but not those belonging to OBCs. They too need special attention to shed the tag of backwardness.

Around 52 percent of India’s billion plus people are OBCs, according to the Mandal Commission. It is presumed that OBCs are educationally better off than other marginalized sections of society and hence do not need affirmative measures. But that is a myth, going by the government’s own data.

Only 30 percent OBC children aged 18-22 were found to be studying in a survey by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) in 2004-05.

Though 27 percent posts have been reserved for them since 1993, their representation in central government services is abysmally low at 4.53 percent as against 17.05 percent for SCs, and 6.54 percent of STs as of Jan 1, 2004, say the latest figures available with the department of personnel and training (DoPT).

Had the OBCs been educationally so advanced, their representation in government jobs would certainly have shot up after quotas were created for them. Since the government’s own facts paint a grim picture, Chidambaram should have allocated more funds to be disbursed as scholarships among poor OBCs.

The budget allocates Rs.10 billion for minorities in the new fiscal. The ministry for tribal affairs has got Rs.21.21 billion.

The ministry of social justice and empowerment has been given only Rs.1.85 billion to be spent on educational enhancement and other welfare schemes.

Chidambaram in his budget speech announced scholarships worth Rs.8.04 billion for SC students in pre- and post-matriculation classes and Rs.1.95 billion for ST students. The government will disburse only Rs.1.64 billion as scholarships to the OBC students in pre- and post-matriculation classes.

The government has given Rs.1 billion to be disbursed as scholarships among minority students in post-matriculation classes in 2008-09. Chidambaram proposed to allocate a sum of Rs.750 million in 2008-09 to the Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship Programme.

Census 2001 says the literacy rate among SCs is 54.69 percent, 47 percent in STs, and 68 percent among OBCs, including Muslims. According to the assessment of the Planning Commission, the gross enrolment ratio among OBCs in higher education is seven percent compared to five percent and 6.43 percent among SCs and STs respectively. Thus educationally, there is not a vast difference among these sections.

Government statistics do not leave any scope to doubt that there is need to make inclusive growth more accommodative, especially in the education sector as it is the main driver of socio-political and economic emancipation for any social group.

The centre has rightly taken note of widespread educational backwardness among minorities in general and Muslims in particular. A similar attempt has to be made in the case of OBCs, who are pathetically placed in terms of access to quality facilities.

If this aspect is ignored then the gap between different social groups will continue to widen.

(Rajeev Ranjan Roy is a senior journalist who writes on socio-political issues. The views expressed here are personal. He can be contacted at rajeev.r@ians.in)

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