In a reversal of sorts, the Kerala government has set up a welfare commission that will only help people who belong to economically forward classes.
The setting up of the ‘forward class welfare commission’ has been approved by the state’s governor, and will shortly become law as it is published in the state gazette.
This is perhaps the first instance in India in which ‘belonging to an economically forward community’ has been stipulated as a necessary condition for getting benefit from a government scheme.
According to the terms of the commission, its duty is to come up with government schemes and policies for the benefit for socially and economically forward classes. People who don’t belong to such communities will not get scholarships or other benefits from the commission.
The setting up of the commission follows protests by economically stronger communities that they too needed a commission on the lines of other similar commissions. Currently, welfare commissions are set up only to benefit ‘socially and economically backward’ classes (OBCs) and ‘scheduled castes’ (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs).
These three communities (OBC, SC and ST) are seen as historically disadvantaged under India’s caste system, and they enjoy privileges like minimum reservation in educational institutions, pension forr widows, scholarships for students and so on.
Across India, the economically and socially powerful groups have been complaining that such welfare schemes and reservations do not offer any benefit to them. Similar protests have been witnessed in other places too, where ‘positive discrimination’ has been implemented.
Kerala government’s move to set up the ‘forward communities commission’ is an attempt to address the complaint.
Needy students and widows can apply for help from ‘Forward Commission’, but they will get help only if they can prove that they belong to economically and socially powerful or forward communities. Further details of the commission’s schemes will be published later.