The Central Government of India classifies some of its citizens based on their social and economic condition as Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST), and Other Backward Class (OBC). The OBC list presented by the National Commission for Backward Classes is dynamic (castes and communities can be added or removed) and is subject to change from time to time depending on social, educational and economic factors. For example, the OBCs are entitled to 27 % reservations in public sector employment and higher education. In the Constitution, OBCs are described as ‘socially and educationally backward classes’, and the government is enjoined to ensure their social and educational development. The population of OBCs below poverty line was 22.6% in rural area and 15.4% in urban area whereas the population of SCs was 31.5% and 21.7% in rural and urban area respectively and the population of ST was 45.3% in rural area and 24.1% in urban area as per the poverty estimate released by the Planning Commission on the basis of Household Consumer Expenditure Survey undertaken by NSSO, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation during 2011-12.
The Backward Classes Division in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment looks after the policy, planning and implementation of programmes related to social and economic empowerment of OBCs. It also looks after matters relating to two institutions set up for the welfare of OBCs: National Backward Classes Finance and Development Corporation (NBCFDC) and the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC).
Under the Backward Classes Bureau, the Ministry is mandated to look after the welfare of Backward Classes, by implementing the schemes for Backward Classes. The Ministry also deals with the National Backward Classes Commission (NCBC) which was set up in 1993. The Commission tenders advice to the Ministry in respect of castes, sub-castes, synonyms and communities for inclusion in/from the central list of Other Backward Classes.
Backward Classes means such backward classes of citizens other than the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as may be specified by the Central Government in the lists prepared by the Government of India from time to time for purposes of making provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of backward classes of citizens which, in the opinion of that Government, are not adequately represented in the services under the Government of India and any local or other authority within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India.
The affairs of Backward Classes were looked after by the Backward Classes Cell (BCC) in the Ministry of Home Affairs prior to 1985. With the creation of a separate Ministry of Welfare in 1985 (renamed as Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on 25.5.1998), the matters relating to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Minorities were transferred to the new Ministry. Consequent upon the creation of two separate ministries for Scheduled Tribes and Minorities, the subject matter pertaining to these two categories were transferred to the respective Ministries. The Backward Classes Division in the Ministry looks after the policy, planning and implementation of programmes relating to social and economic empowerment of OBCs. It also looks after matters relating to two institutions set up for the welfare of OBCs namely,