WITH an eye on the 2014 polls, the Centre is set to classify all households whose annual incomes do not exceed Rs 2 lakh — those exempted from paying income tax — as Economically Backward Classes (EBCs), entitled to various beneficiary schemes.
Moving a cabinet note in this regard, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has urged all ministries to include EBCs in existing schemes as well as frame new schemes for them. The ministry’s own schemes for Other Backward Classes (OBCs), like scholarships, coaching and hostel facilities, will cover EBCs too.
“All our existing schemes for OBCs will be extended to EBCs. In the backdrop of the new economic realities, EBCs should be given benefits along with BPL (Below Poverty Line) families,” said Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Kumari Selji, adding that the individual ministries would decide what schemes would be extended to EBCs.
The ministry, however, has decided to postpone a decision on the demand for quota for EBCs in jobs and admissions. “That is something that needs wider consultations with chief ministers and other political parties,” said an official.
Ministry sources said there is a feeling that the BPL category should make way for EBCs. However, the note does not spell this out. Under the existing rules, households whose annual incomes do not exceed Rs 24,200 are categorised as BPL.
In 2004, a commission was set up to frame recommendations for improving the condition of economically backward people not covered in the existing reservation policy for SCs, STs and OBCs. The ministry, in its definition of EBCs, has followed the committee’s recommendation that “all BPL families among general category as notified from time to time, and all those families among general category whose annual family income from all sources is below the taxable limit should be identified as EBCs.”
While income will remain the sole criteria for identification of EBCs, subject to revision as and when income tax exemption limits are revised, for now, other parameters could be included at a later stage based on trends emerging out of the socio-economic caste census.
The ministry also proposes to set up a