The Gujarat government on Friday put out a list of 69 castes and sub-groups, across Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jains, Parsis and Jews, who would now be defined as “unreserved classes”. The move is seen as a counter to the revival by Hardik Patel of his demand for reservation to Patidars under the OBC quota, following the recent decision by Maharashtra to grant 16 per cent reservation to Marathas under the socially and educationally backward category.
The stated purpose of this list is to hand out certificates to unreserved caste candidates so that they can get benefits under the Gujarat Unreserved Educational and Economical Development Corporation scheme, launched in 2017 in reaction to the Patidar quota agitation. Under the scheme, the government extends monetary benefits to youths of unreserved castes for education, foreign education, food bills, tuition, coaching, training for certain competitive exams, as well as other help to graduates, doctors, lawyers.
Warding off Hardik
Unlike the 10% quota for poor among upper castes announced by Gujarat in 2016 (now in court), this list came quietly. In view of farm distress and the Patidars reorganising, government might wish to get the benefits rolling quickly.
In February, the government had increased budgetary provision of this corporation to Rs 506 crore. However, sources said, the scheme has not really taken off yet, with the number of candidates seeking such benefits marginal. With the new list and issue of certificates, the government believes the numbers will increase.
The Chairman of Gujarat Unreserved Educational and Economical Development Corporation, Hansraj Gajera, told The Sunday Express, “So far whoever was not in the reserved category list was considered ‘unreserved’, but this added a lot of confusion with the government announcing benefits for unreserved categories. For instance, among Patels there are sub-groups, there are people with Patel surnames among Kanbhis and Muslims as well. Now this list will serve as a ready reckoner for the administration to issue certificates to the unreserved (savarnas) so that they can avail benefits.”
The list of 69 castes prepared by the Gujarat Social Justice and Empowerment Department has 42 Hindu sub-groups, 24 Muslim sub-groups besides all Christians who have not converted from Scheduled Tribes, all Parsis and all Jews. The Hindu list also includes ‘Maratha Rajputs’ settled in Gujarat, 12 sub-castes of Brahmins, Kadva and Leuva Patels, and four Jain sub-groups.
The resolution dated December 6, 2018, which was uploaded on the government website, says any sub-caste or caste could be added or removed in the future depending on revision in the lists of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Socially and Educationally Backward Communities and Other Backward Classes. Currently Gujarat has 36 groups in the SC list and 32 in the ST list.
“The purpose of preparing this list is to give a right to the competent authority to issue certificates of castes to these category candidates for claiming benefits. As of now, we don’t have this kind of system for issue of certificates. We hope that it will make the process easier,” said a senior officer of the department.
About migrants from other states, the government has said only those will be eligible for the benefits who have been living in the state permanently for 15 years, apart from those born and educated in the state and considered “original Gujaratis”.
Asked about the list, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Ishwarbhai Parmar said, “I will have to check. I am on leave till December 23.”