A DAY after the government unveiled its plans to bring in 10 per cent reservation for the economically weaker among upper castes, demands poured in from across parties, including at least one ally, to expand the quota umbrella or bring more under it. Apprehensions had been 54% for OBCs to 90% in all: New demands expressed that the government’s move would open a Pandora’s box of such demands.
Minister of State for Social Justice Ramdas Athawale said that the 27 per cent reservation for OBCs should be increased in proportion to their population, starting by giving them at least another 10 per cent. The Republican Party of India (A) leader said a beginning could be made by making public the yet-unreleased data from the Socio-Economic Caste Census, 2011, to get an estimate of the exact OBC population.
The Mandal Commission report of 1980 had estimated the OBC population at 52 per cent based on the 1931 Census, which was the last Census to include an OBC count. Athawale pointed out that it was owing to the Supreme Court-enforced 50 per cent cap on total reservation that the OBC quota was restricted to 27 per cent, given the existing 22.5 per cent reservation for SCs/STs. “Now when the 50 per cent limit isn’t applicable any more, OBC reservation too should increase… to bring it to 37 per cent. The Cabinet’s decision is for the poor among savarnas (upper castes). For OBCs, there is a need to increase their quota separately through another amendment,” he said.
Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav made the same point, adding that while they backed the Centre’s move to give quota to the upper caste poor, if the cap was being raised, OBCs should get 54 per cent reservation. Speaking to mediapersons, Yadav said, “22.5 per cent reservation for SC/STs is in proportion to their population… Now when the government is crossing the Laxman Rekha, we demand that there should be 54 per cent quota for OBCs in proportion to their population.”
BSP chief Mayawati, who also welcomed the Centre’s constitutional amendment Bill on 10 per cent quota, said the existing reservation for all, OBCs as well as SC/STs, was obsolete. “The population of these sections has increased with the rise in the population of the country. Now there is a need to review the limit of 50 per cent, and a new constitutional provision should be made to provide them more reservation in proportion to their increased population,” she said in a statement.
Mayawati also pointed out that the BSP has been demanding reservation on economic grounds for the financially weak among Muslims and other religious minorities along with weaker sections of upper castes. “But it is sad that the BJP government, showing a communal and narrow-minded attitude, has agreed to make constitutional amendments (for) only one section of society,” adding that the government’s move was an “election stunt”.
Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) president Upendra Kushwaha, an OBC leader who quit the NDA to join Opposition’s grand alliance in Bihar recently, said he had been demanding for long that the quota for OBCs be increased as per their population, but was told this was not possible. “Today when the Central government has agreed to raise the (50 per cent) cap, the report of the Socio-Economic Caste Census should be published and OBCs, ST and STs given reservation in proportion to their population.”
Kushwaha also raised questions over the timing of the decision, saying, “I had been part of the Narendra Modi Cabinet till recently. I do not recall a single meeting or even conversation on need to give reservation to the poor among upper castes. We do support it but know it comes from the government’s apprehension of losing hold over upper caste voters.”
RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav seconded him, adding that the Centre must make public report of the SECC census. “We believe the number of social groups would be more than what we quote. Let reservation be proportionate to the population of a social group. If there is 10 per cent quota for 15 per cent population (upper castes), there should be 90 per cent reservation for 85 per cent population.”
Former Bihar CM Jitan Ram Manjhi, who is now with the Opposition Grand Alliance, said that while he too supported the 10 per cent quota, the reservation for SCs should be hiked from 16 to 25 per cent.
The Telangana Rashtra Samithi, which recently stormed back to power in Telangana, renewed its demand that the increase in quota announced by it for Muslims and STs in education and jobs be cleared. On April 20, 2017, its government had introduced a Bill proposing to increase quota for economically and socially backward class Muslims from 4 per cent to 12 per cent, and for STs from 6 per cent to 10 per cent. The Bill was passed and sent for President’s assent with a request to include it in the 9th Schedule of the Constitution, to keep it outside judicial review. However, the Centre has kept it in abeyance till now.
official said, “Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has instructed TRS MPs to request for amendments in the Bill for providing 10 per cent reservations to EBCs introduced by the Union Government so that Telangana’s proposed quota increase for backward Muslims and STs can be given legal validity.”