With the chatter of a Cabinet reshuffle getting louder,Petroleum Minister S Jaipal Reddy on Friday tried to salvage his negative image by announcing reservation for other backward castes (OBCs) in petrol pump allocation,a move that was awaiting his nod for nearly six months.
It has now been decided to give 27 per cent reservation to OBC candidates in allotment of retail outlet dealership. Further,with a view to improve transparency and remove discretion in the selection process,allotment of RO dealership will henceforth be made by draw of lots, said the ministry in a single paragraph statement released late evening.
Flagged urgent by ministrys spokesperson,the statement said the move was in line with the reservation policy as per constitutional provisions.
These changes are expected to make the RO allotment in tune with our social objectives and higher standards of transparency, it said.
Reddy has come under a lot of flak for delaying approvals to crucial investment proposals and brooding over key government policies while keeping his officials on a tight leash.
The OBC reservation,decided by Reddys senior-most bureaucrat last January after three rounds of meetings with state-run oil marketing companies,is one such example of procrastination.
The other is Tenth Round of offer of blocks under New Exploration Licence Policy (NELP). Following its delay,the Prime Ministers Office (PMO) suggested last month a special purpose vehicle to fast-track clearances.
However Reddys ministry objected,prompting the PMO to announce on Thursday a Project Clearance Board under the Cabinet Secretary citing the example of NELP delay.
The statement did not give operational details about the OBC quota in allocation of petrol pumps but the guidelines approved last January proposed that the 27 per cent reservation for economically and socially disadvantaged OBCs would reduce the present share of 25 per cent for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to 22.5 per cent.
At present,only SC/STs get a quota of 25 per cent in such allotments,with another 25 per cent divided among defence personnel,paramilitary personnel,freedom fighters,physically disabled and sportspersons. Defence and paramilitary personnel etc would now be adjusted as sub-groups within the SC/ST,OBC and General categories.
The January proposal suggested dropping the existing 33 per cent reservation for women in each of the quotas in view of the complexity of implementing the same while giving petrol pump owners the option to include spouses as equal partners
The statement said interviews to select the best among the short-listed candidates would be be done away with and instead,the selection would be through draw of lots among the eligible candidates.