The government on Monday announced 10 per cent reservation in government jobs and higher education for economically weaker sections in the general category and said it would move a constitutional amendment bill to bring it into effect.
The mega move, just months before the national election, was approved in a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday. The constitutional amendment bill is likely to be moved today and the government has decided to extend the Rajya Sabha session by one day.
Sources said new clauses would be added to Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution which presently allow the State to make reservation for only Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and for socially or educationally backward classes (Other Backward Classes or OBCs).
On Monday, the Union Cabinet approved a proposal for introduction of The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty- Fourth Amendment) Bill extending the benefits of quota to “the economically weaker sections of the people who are not covered by any of the existing schemes of reservation”.
The 10 per cent reservation is believed to be in addition to the existing cap of 50 per cent reservation for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes, taking total reservation to 60 per cent.
Senior Congress leader Abishek Manu Sanghvi calls the 10 per cent reservation announcement a “poll gimmick” through Twitter. “#Forwardreservation a gimmick 2fool ppl-c last tweet. #Balaji 50% maxima continues 2b law. #TN exception an aberration—challenge pending in sc. #modi never did 4five years+hs no majority 4ctal am. Only misleading nation. AP &Raj exceeding 50% 4jats &Muslims also struck down.”
“Reservations are meant to correct historical injustice to Dalits. For poverty alleviation, one may run various schemes but reservations are meant for justice. Constitution doesn’t permit reservations on economic grounds,” says Asaduddin Owaisi.
In an internal explanatory note on the move, the government stated, “The economically weaker sections of the people who are not covered by any of the existing schemes of reservation constitute a considerable part of the Indian population. In view of the above, and in order to do justice to all weaker sections of people, it has become essential to appropriately amend the Constitution in order to enable the State to extend the various benefits… to the economically weaker sections of the people who are not covered by any of the existing schemes of reservation.”
“Any Constitutional amendment has to be in keeping with the basic structure of the Constitution. Individuals from SC, ST and OBC have been discriminated against, and systemically and collectively excluded from education, administration, modern areas of employment. There are poor among upper castes but poverty is not caused by social deprivation and, hence, it is not eligible for reservation under the Constitution,” P S Krishnan, former Secretary in the Government of India, said, adding that the appropriate remedy is to provide such children with scholarships, loans, access to skill training, and not reservation which is for those who have faced systemic blocks.