The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed a Bill allowing 10% quota in employment and education for the general category candidates who belong to the economically weaker sections. The Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, 2019, introduced by Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot, was cleared by majority of the members (319) voting for it, and four against. The Rajya Sabha will take it up on Wednesday. However, the Opposition questioned the timing and haste with which the government introduced the Bill, on the last day of the winter session.
Speaking in the Lok Sabha, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said: “I request all to support the motion. The quota Bill is aimed at equality for all.” He said the manifestos of most parties promised quotas for the economically weaker sections, and “their commitment to their promise is put to test today.” “The Congress, in its 2014 Lok Sabha election manifesto, had promised reservation for the economically weaker sections,” he said.
Congress member K.V. Thomas said the Centre was hasty in introducing the Bill and accused it of bringing it in with an eye on the general election. Accusing the Centre of “butchering democracy” and saying that there was no time to even read the bill fully.He said the Congress was not opposed to the Bill, but wanted the measure sent to a Joint Parliamentary Committee.
The 10% reservation will be over and above the 50% stipulated by the Supreme Court and is expected to benefit a huge section of upper castes, including Brahmins, Rajputs (Thakurs), Jats, Marathas and Bhumihars and trading castes like Kapus and Kammas. The economically deprived among the poor in the other religions will also benefit.
Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ramvilas Paswan said: “The country is more important than caste” and demanded that reservation be extended to the private sector and juridical service. “People who were opposing reservation are now part of this 10% reservation,” he said. “So now they will not oppose reservation.” He said people who were rich during British colonial rule were possibly poor now.
Sudip Bandyopadhyay of the Trinamool Congress asked why the government did not take up the women reservation Bill with the same priority. This Bill was not only about jobs but also about misleading the youth with false hopes and fake dreams, he said. “There are over 85,000 vacancies in the railways and 25 million people have applied for them,” he noted.
Shiv Sena member Anandrao Adsul said his party backed the Bill, though the Centre’s decision to introduce it at the fag end of its term raised doubts. “This Bill proves that caste-based and economic exploitations are different and not linked,” Telangana Rashtra Samithi member Jithender Reddy said. However, he said the Centre was opposed to the Telangana government’s move to give reservation for the economically backward Muslims.