‘Creamy layer’ is the income limit beyond which OBCs are not eligible for quotas. A group of ministers has decided to raise the ‘creamy layer’ bar from Rs 4.50 lakh to Rs 6 lakh annually as part of the revision done every four years. Thus OBCs earning over 6 lakh will not be eligible for reservations in jobs and education with The increase, however, marks a setback for the ‘backward lobby’ of ministers that blocked the proposal for fixing creamy layer at Rs 6 lakh in the Cabinet last June, arguing it did not reflect the fall in value of currency and inflation.
A group of ministers headed by P Chidambaram is learnt to have weighed in favour of retaining the income level suggested by social justice ministry that ran into resistance in the Cabinet last year. Narayanasamy, along with petroleum minister Veerappa Moily and overseas Indian affairs minister Vayalar Ravi, had opposed the Rs 6 lakh proposal in the Cabinet, saying that it should be at least Rs 7 lakh. The resistance forced the prime minister to refer the issue for consultations.
Thus finally after consultations the Chidambaram-led ministerial panel’s move to keep a “uniform Rs 6 lakh salary bar” is way below the recommendation made by National Commission for Backward Classes that it should be Rs 12 lakh in urban areas and Rs 9 lakh in rural areas.
The income ceiling was introduced at Rs 1 lakh in 1993 and was revised to Rs 2.50 lakh in 2004 and Rs 4.50 lakh in 2008.
As against NCBC’s suggestion of Rs 12 lakh that reflected Mandal satraps’ long-held aversion for the concept of creamy layer, the Centre seems to have been deterred by the backlash of a huge hike.
While there can be a judicial challenge arguing that setting the bar too low is designed to neutralize the income ceiling, there are fears in the ruling dispensation that quota for rich OBCs would lead to demands from upper castes that their poor too be given reservations.