After President’s assent, reservation for upper caste poor will become a reality.
New Delhi: Parliament on Wednesday passed the Constitutional (124 Amendment) Bill, which seeks to provide 10 per cent reservation in education institutions and government jobs to weaker sections in the general category. The Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, got cleared in the Rajya Sabha with 165 MPs voting in favour and seven against it. The Bill will now go to the President for approval. Once that is done, it will become the law.
The government termed the legislation “historic” and compared its timing towards the fag-end of its tenure as “slog over sixes”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the passage of the Bill, calling it a victory for social justice. “It ensures a wider canvas for our Yuva Shakti to showcase their prowess and contribute towards India’s transformation,” Mr Modi tweeted.
In Rajya Sabha, BJP MPs asserted that the Bill was prepared with “achche aur sacche mann aur acchi niti aur iradae (good and right intentions)” for the people by the Narendra Modi-led government after Opposition parties questioned the timing of the Bill and its constitutional validity.
To counter the Oppositions’ criticism of the ruling BJP’s intentions over the Bill, social welfare minister Thawar Chand Gehlot, who replied to the more than eight-hour-long debate in Rajya Sabha, reminded them, especially the Congress, that they too had, in their election manifestos, promised reservation for the economically weaker sections in the general category.
Mr Gehlot said reservation for SC, ST and OBCs will not be touched by the amendment and that Opposition parties should have supported the legislation without any “ifs and buts”. The demand of DMK’s Kanimozhi, to send the Bill to a select committee, was also rejected as most members voted against it.
As Opposition parties questioned the motive behind bringing the legislation just four months before general elections, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad used cricketing analogy to justify the move. “Sixes are hit only in the slog overs,” and added that many more such “sixers” are in the pipeline.
Earlier, while participating in the debate, Opposition parties, including the Congress, SP, BSP and the Left, slammed the BJP saying the government was playing “election politics” and showing disrespect to Indian democracy’s highest institution.
The Congress’ Anand Sharma said that the government had brought the Bill in haste, “after 5-0 drubbing in recent state elections”, because “you had to before the Model Code of Conduct comes into force, thinking... Let’s dangle a carrot in front of the public, show them another dream that Modiji made arrangements for their children’s employment.” He said it was beyond comprehension that a government that was “in departure lounge” was bringing the Bill on the eve of general elections.
On job promises, Mr Sharma said, “The government promised to give two crore jobs every year in 2014. Forget about generating jobs, 11 million people lost their jobs in the year 2018 itself”.
The Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav, while supporting the Bill, demanded that reservation for OBCs be enhanced to 54 per cent keeping in mind the increase in their population.
Terming it as unconstitutional and unsustainable, AIADMK’s A. Navaneethakrishnan opposed the Bill. He said that the Tamil Nadu government already provides reservation of 69 per cent to backward classes and the Bill would impact the 31 per cent people who fall in “open quota” in the state.
The Trinamul Congress’ Derek O’ Brien said his party is “disgusted and angry” by the way the government has been “insulting” the Parliament. He said that the Bill is nothing but the government’s acknowledgment of guilt over non-creation of jobs in the country over the last four-and-a-half years.
The BJP’s Prabhat Jha said that with this Bill, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not only fulfilling the party’s promise to people but also the promise made in every party’s manifesto.
Intervening in the debate, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Bill has fixed an annual income of less than Rs 8 lakh and not owning more than five acres of agricultural land as criteria for defining economically weaker section in the general category for availing reservation in educational institutions as well as government jobs.
The Bill does not provide for quota for those owning a flat of 1,000 square feet or more, land of 100 sq yards in notified municipality area or 200 yards in non-notified area.
Mr Prasad, however, said states will be free to fix criteria for defining economically weaker sections in the general category who can avail of reservation.