Haribhau Rathod is one of the few leaders of Maharashtra who have been fighting for the rights of the Denotified and Nomadic tribes. These days, he is trying to forge a joint front of the Denotified and Nomadic tribes and the EBCs. Associated with the Congress, Rathod has been an MP. Presently, he is a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Council. S. Rale spoke with him. Excerpts:
You are questioning the reservation for OBCs. What is your logic?
The OBCs have been given 27 per cent reservation on the basis of the recommendations of the Mandal Commission. The Denotified and Nomadic tribes, Barabalutedar and other EBCs are included in the central OBC list. It is now been 22 years since the implementation of the Mandal report, but these castes haven’t benefited from it at all. No one from these castes has been appointed to a position in the IAS or the IPS, or in the nationalized banks, railways, post offices and other central government offices. Therefore, like the Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh OBC lists, the central OBC list also needs to be divided. A new sub-category of EBCs comprising castes such as Nai, Khati, Wadde, Luhar, Sutar, Kumhar, Dhobhi, Ramoshi, Gurav, Tamboli, Kasar, Bhat, Jeengar, Sangar, Burud, Shimpi, Gowari, Davri-Gowari, Koshti, Bunkar, Beldar, Kumawat, Bhoi, Kevat, Koli, Gadaria, Teli, Dhangar, etc should be created. We will launch a nationwide agitation for this.
When and from where will this agitation begin?
This agitation will be launched on 27 March from Jantar-Mantar in New Delhi. In India, there are 666 Denotified and Nomadic tribes with a total population of 22 crores and 540 EBCs with a total population 18 crores. This adds up to 1206 communities and a total population of 40 crores. We are preparing for the launch of the agitation. A large number of people from all over the country will be arriving in Delhi for it.
These castes already have 27 per cent reservation. Why do you want more?
We have no problems with the 27 per cent reservation for OBCs. We only want 9 per cent reservation each for Denotified and Nomadic tribes, and EBCs within this quota. Through our agitation, we are going to demand that the reservation for the OBCs should be divided into three parts. The Denotified and Nomadic tribes haven’t been able to benefit from the reservation, and a handful of upper-class, forward castes have also been included in the central OBC list. Only they are enjoying the benefits of reservation. The really deprived sections get nothing.
Till some time back, you had been demanding that the Denotified and Nomadic tribes be included among the STs. Now, you seem to have changed your stance. Why?
Yes, that is true. We will continue to make a demand for that too. But at present, it seems impossible to get it fulfilled. There are 40 Tribal MPs in the Lok Sabha. They won’t allow this to happen. Earlier, Indira ji had brought Bills to this effect in 1967, 1972 and 1976. On each of the three occasions, all Tribal MPs had presented their resignations to Indira ji. This is history.
What is the situation in other states?
Some states have given such reservations. For instance, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh were the first to grant separate reservations to the Denotified and Nomadic tribes, paving the way for social justice for them. In some other states, similar measures are under consideration. These include Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Our demand is that the states that have still not divided the OBC quota use the Maharashtra (Vasantrao Naik) model. Apart from in Delhi, we will launch the movement in other states too.
Is your demand for the division of the 27 per cent quota legal?
Yes. The Supreme Court has made it clear in its judgment on the Indra Sawhney versus Union of India (1993) case while upholding reservations for OBCs.
True. But what you are demanding is a quota within a quota.
Yes. The central OBC list should be divided into three parts: a) Scheduled DNT (Denotified and Nomadic Tribes), b) Scheduled MBC (Most Backward Castes and Barabalutedar) and c) Scheduled BC (Backward Classes). Subsequently, the section (a) can be renamed ST (a).
In some states, some Denotified and Nomadic tribes are included among SCs and in some among STs. How would this problem be resolved?
The castes that are included among SCs and STs would continue getting reservations under those categories. Here, we are not talking about them. We are talking about dividing the central OBC list. That is our demand. The National OBC Commission had also proposed this.
What is the basis of your demand?
During the deliberations in the Mandal Commission, one of the members, L.R. Naik, had also opposed lumping together OBCs for the 27 per cent reservation and had proposed instead its division into two categories. But other members did not agree. Naik’s dissenting note forms part of the historic report of the Mandal Commission. If the government wants to provide justice to this deprived and oppressed section, it can bank on the dissenting note of Naik, the Supreme Court judgment in the Indra Sawhney case and recent recommendations of Justice V. Eswaraiah, the chairperson of the National Commission for Backward Classes. L.R. Naik had said that the forward castes among the OBCs would not allow the more backward castes to grow and progress. Therefore, he had argued, the EBCs would have to organize and build their own leadership. Otherwise, he had said, the EBCs wouldn’t be able to benefit from the reservations granted to OBCs in central government jobs and in central universities. Maharashtra divided the OBC quota in 1961 on the basis of the recommendations of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Planning Commission. The Denotified and Nomadic tribes in Maharashtra have benefited from this provision.
Can you recapitulate in brief the SC judgment in Indra Sawhney case?
Referring to the 27 per cent reservation for the OBCs, the Supreme Court, in its judgment in the Indra Sawhney versus Union of India case, said that there was no Constitutional bar to categorizing OBC into BCs and EBCs according to Article 16(4). The court ruled that this classification should be based on the degree of backwardness of the communities concerned. In case of such classification, the court observed that an equitable distribution among the various backward classes would be needed to avoid lumping so that one or two of such classes do not gobble up the entire quota, leaving the other backward classes high and dry. If goldsmiths and waddes (traditional stonecutters) were included in one category, the goldsmiths would take away all the reserved posts, leaving none for waddes. If possible, the state governments should sub-categorize the OBCs so that the MBCs among the OBCs get their due.
What has the National OBC Commission recommended recently?
It has recommended that the 27 per cent reservation for the OBCs be categorized as: 1) Denotified/Nomadic tribes, 2) Barabalutedar and EBCs, such as Teli, Mali, Koli and Gavari, 3) OBCs. This is what we have been demanding for the last 20 years.
Published in the March 2016 issue of the Forward Press magazine