The National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes have supported Union Minister of State for Social Justice Ramdas Athawale’s statement on extending the quota in jobs and education to include the financially poor among forward castes.
NCBC members S K Kharventhan and A K Saini told The Sunday Express that providing an extra 25 per cent reservation to the poor among forward castes is welcome as long as the present 49.5 per cent quota for SC, ST and OBCs remains intact.
P L Punia, chairperson, National Commission for Scheduled Castes, too, said that he is open to the idea of extending the reservation. “Provided the reservation for SC and ST remains protected, there is no objection to any welfare measure the government wants to introduce for the entire society,” he said.
However, Punia said the current reservation is for socially and educationally backward, and for STs and SCs who were subject to the practice of untouchability.
“Economic consideration alone as a criterion for reservation is against the basic spirit of the Constitution and is not constitutionally valid,” he said.
Two months ago, NCBC chairperson Justice (retired) V Eswaraiah had suggested, at a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, that the government should consider giving the benefit of reservation to the “economically and occupationally backward”.
On Wednesday, in an interview to The Indian Express, Dalit leader Athawale had spoken in favour of reservation for forward castes based on the “creamy layer” criterion, as applicable to OBCs. Accordingly, all those with an annual family income of up to Rs 6 lakh should get the benefit of 25 per cent reservation, he had said.
“We welcome Athawale’s suggestion for including the economically weaker sections as long as it is not from the existing quota. Moreover, in keeping with the Supreme Court judgment in the Indira Sawhney case, the Constitution has to be amended for this purpose,” said Kharventhan.
NCBC member Saini said that historically, caste-based discrimination has been linked to occupations considered menial. “A combination of occupation and income criteria is required if reservation is to be extended to include those from general category. For instance, when it comes to agricultural labourers, income criteria would exclude farmers who are large landholders,” said Saini.