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Lok Sabha passes Bill providing reservation to forward castes

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 08, 2019

Home Minister Rajnath Singh in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday   -  PTI

No chance given for proper debate or scrutiny, say MPs

The ruling BJP pushed the Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, 2019, in the Lok Sabha to provide 10 per cent reservation for economically weaker sections among forward castes, amid taunts of it being another “election stunt” on the last day of the Winter Session of Parliament. The Rajya Sabha session has been extended for one more day to facilitate the passage of the Bill.

While the historic legislation alters the concept of affirmative action by inserting economic backwardness along with the social and educational backwardness as criteria for reservation, many MPs lamented the near absence of a proper debate or scrutiny of the Bill. A number of parties, including the Congress and the CPI(M), demanded that the Bill be sent to a Joint Select Committee of Parliament for proper scrutiny.

Through the latest amendment, the Government’s aim is to insert one clause each in Article 15 and Article 16, providing for reservation in public and private educational institutions and government jobs for economically weaker sections among the forward castes. This is over and above the quota already provided for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in educational institutions and government jobs and raises the cap of total quantum of reservation from 50 to 60 per cent.

The Congress, along with the TMC, the TDP, the TRS and other parties, supported the Bill, albeit with constant reminders from its speakers KV Thomas and Deepender Hooda that it was a move to cynically blunt the concerns about unemployment and yet another “chunavi jumla (election stunt)”, similar to the promise of bringing back black money and providing two crore jobs annually. Even NDA ally Shiv Sena did not miss the chance to remind the BJP that bringing such a Bill so late in the Government’s tenure is sure to invite criticism. “We cannot escape taunts of it being just another jumla,” said Sena MP Anand Rao Adsul.

Congress manifesto

The ruling party fielded Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to remind the Congress of its 2014 election manifesto, in which the principal opposition party made a similar promise to provide for reservation for the economically weaker sections among castes other than SC/STs and OBCs. “If you are supporting the Bill, don’t be grudging about it… I could read out from the Congress manifesto of 2014 where it committed to finding a way to do precisely this. Your walk must match your talk,” said Jaitley.

The Finance Minister rejected suggestions that the measure may fall foul of a Supreme Court judgment putting a cap of 50 per cent on the total quota. The bar, he added, is for caste-based reservations, while the Bill seeks quota for the economically weaker sections in the general category.

Deputy Speaker and AIADMK MP M Thambidurai reminded the Government that caste has always been the basic criteria for determination of class and social status in India. “I am a Shudra. I will remain a Shudra. That is the social hierarchy that prevails in our country. In Tamil Nadu, where the Dravidian movement was successful in taking reservation up to 69 per cent, a semblance of social justice has been ensured. Instead of bringing this Bill, the Government should first ensure that the limit of reservation for SC/STs and OBCs is taken up to 69 per cent by amending the Constitution,” said Thambidurai.

Published on January 08, 2019

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