10 pc quota for economically weaker sections in general category approved

New Delhi: In a major move ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the Union Cabinet on Monday cleared a 10 per cent job and education quota for “economically weaker” sections, meeting a key demand of upper castes, a staunch BJP support base which showed signs of a drift from the party.

A top government functionary said a constitutional amendment Bill will be tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, the last day of the Winter Session. The proposed reservation will be over and above the existing 50 per cent reservation enjoyed by the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes, taking the total reservation to 60 per cent.

The constitutional amendment Bill would be required as the constitution does not provide for reservation on the ground of economic conditions. It envisages amendment to Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution.

A Union Minister said the Bill once passed will amend the Constitution accordingly to give reservation to the poor among the general castes and classes. “The Bill will provide a shelter for upper castes under the rubric of fundamental rights. The court’s rule of the maximum 50 per cent quota cannot fetter Parliament’s right to amend the Constitution,” he said.

In its famous Indra Sawhney judgement, the Supreme Court set a cap of 50 per cent on quotas. Government sources said the proposed constitutional amendment will pave the way for the additional quota. “The reservation will be given to those economically weaker people who presently do not avail any benefits of reservation,” a source said.

Among the major castes to benefit from the proposed law are Brahmins, Rajputs (Thakurs), everal trading castes, Kapus and Kammas among other Upper Castes. The poor among the other religions will also benefit from it, sources added.

Congress described the government’s decision as an “election gimmick” to fool the people and a proof of BJP’s “fear” of losing Lok Sabha polls. Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi accused the government of “posturing” and misleading the country as it did not have the requisite majority to get a Constitutional amendment passed in Parliament.

BJP hailed the move with several leaders describing it as historic and exercise in sync with government’s motto of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ (with all, development for all). BJP ally and Dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan also termed the decision by the government as “historic”.

The constitutional amendment Bill seeks to insert a clause in Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution, introducing reservation for economically weaker sections in educational institutions and government jobs. So far, the Constitution envisages quota for socially and educationally backward classes besides Scheduled Castes and Tribes, and has no mention of economically weaker people. At least two-thirds of the members in both the Houses need to support the Bill for its passage.

BJP believes that if opposition parties, whose support is a must for its passage in Rajya Sabha where the government lacks numbers, vote against it, they will risk losing support of an influential section of society.

Influential castes such as Marathas, Kapus and Jats hit the streets in the last few years, seeking reservation benefits. Their protests at times turned violent. Though governments in States like Haryana, Rajasthan and Maharashtra made laws, they are often struck down by the court on the ground of a Supreme Court judgement in the Indra Sawhney case, which fixed a ceiling of 50 per cent on reservation.

The apex court also asserted that the Constitution makes no case for quota on economic ground and only talks of educational and social backwardness besides those for the SCs and STs. He added that the demand for providing quota to the poor from the general castes was made in the constituent Assembly too.

“For the first time, we (govt) are now going to give constitutional recognition to the poor from the upper castes,” he said. The Bill is likely to introduce criteria like an annual income below Rs 8 lakh and not owning more than five acres of agricultural land for those seeking quota benefits. They should also not own a flat of 1,000 sq ft or more, land of 100 yards in notified municipality area and 200 yards in non-notified area, sources said.

The ruling BJP hopes that the Bill will help consolidate the general castes in its support as it begins campaign for the Lok Sabha elections scheduled in April-May. Political watchers believe that sections of upper castes drifted from the party of late following its aggressive push to win over backward classes and Dalits.

The Modi government’s decision to bring a law to nullify a Supreme Court order, which critics said diluted provisions in a law on atrocities against Dalits and tribes, was also used by some upper castes groups to campaign against BJP in the recent State polls. BJP had lost to Congress in three States, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, where it was in power.

Asad questions move

Asaduddin Owaisi, Lok Sabha member from Hyderabad, on Monday questioned the Central government’s decision to provide 10 per cent reservations to the economically backward among upper castes. Taking to Twitter, he said: “Reservations are meant to correct historical injustice to Dalits. For poverty alleviation, one may run various schemes, but reservations are meant for justice. Constitution does not permit reservations on economic grounds”

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Posted by on Jan 9 2019. Filed under India, Latest News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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