In an election season, are populist measures by government a surprise? They are not, but their brazenness certainly is.
Among a slew of decisions taken by the Union cabinet on Friday, the decision to raise the income ceiling of the creamy layer for other backward classes (OBCs) from Rs2.5 lakh per year to Rs4.5 lakh stands out.
What is its impact? It widens the net of OBCs who can avail benefits of reservation in Central educational institutions. But it does so in an iniquitous way. After this cabinet decision, chances are very high that richer and better-off OBCs will now capture the benefits meant for those who are poorly endowed. Clearly, social justice has little to do with this.
It is also subversive, in a subtle way, of various judicial decisions that limit the scope of reservations. The trick is not to increase the percentage of reservation, but to redefine the criteria of reservation. The electoral arithmetic is clear, but its welfare impact is not.