Opposition Congress staged a walkout from the Gujarat Assembly on Thursday after a Private Member’s Bill, introduced by its MLA Naushad Solanki, was rejected by the majority.
Solanki had introduced the Bill The Gujarat Scheduled Caste Sub-Plan (SCSP) and Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) (Planning, Allocation and Utilization of Financial Resources) Bill, 2018 — seeking to put in place an institutional mechanism to ensure that the funds meant for Scheduled Castes (SC) and the Scheduled Tribes (ST) communities are exclusively used for their welfare.
While moving the Bill, Solanki said that despite a number of welfare schemes, the two communities have not developed as much as they should have. He said that it is because the funds meant for the two communities under SCSP and TSP are diverted to other projects of the state government. Giving examples, Solanki said that the funds from SCSP and TSP are being used for other projects such as a film on the Statue of Unity, ‘Garib Kalyan Mela’, buying wheat at minimum support price, World Environment Day celebration, Mega Job Fair, Gujarat Foundation Day celebration, construction of roads, etc.
Solanki added that there is no monitoring of where the funds from SCSP and TSP are being utilised. If the funds from SCSP and TSP are exclusively used for the welfare of SC and ST communities, the two will be developed in the next 10 years, he remarked.
Asking all members of the House to rise above party lines and support the Bill, Solanki also said that five states of India have already passed similar Bills in their respective states and Gujarat should follow them.
The Bill was supported by Congress MLA P D Vasava and independent MLA Jignesh Mevani. On the other hand, BJP MLAs Hitu Kanodiya, Naresh Patel and Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Ishvar Parmar opposed it.
Opposing the Bill, Kanodiya – an SC MLA – said that the SC and ST communities have prospered under the BJP government, adding that the literacy rate of Dalits in Gujarat has considerably increased. Naresh Patel also opposed the Bill and said that the BJP government was not wasting a single penny and has been providing facilities of health, education, roads, etc. apart from giving them respect. Vasava, a tribal MLA, said that the tribal community has not been getting the budget allocation in proportion to its population which is widening the gap of inequality.
Mevani strongly supported the Bill and had a brief heated argument with Kanodiya over the issue. He even dared Kanodiya to fight and win an election from a non-reserved seat to “realise the meaning of reservation and what it means to be a Dalit or tribal in this country”.
Parmar opposed the Bill and said that the BJP government has been providing enough funds for the welfare of the SC/ST communities and that there was no need for a separate law. He said that the state is designing area-based schemes and not caste-based schemes, and there is no reason why the two communities are deprived from the benefits of it.
He also said that the developmental expenditure of the Gujarat government for 2019-’20 is more than the population of the SC/ST communities. Parmar added that the literacy rate of the SC community is Gujarat is much higher than the national literacy rate of India.
After this discussion, Speaker Rajendra Trivedi put the Bill for voice vote after Solanki refused to withdraw the same and it was rejected by majority vote.
Dissatisfied with this, Naushad Solanki challenged the Speaker’s decision on voice vote and demanded the division of votes (formal voting) under the rules of the Gujarat Assembly. However, this demand was rejected by the Speaker.
Following this, several Congress MLAs and Jignesh Mevani protested and rushed to the Well of the House and raised slogans against the BJP government. Eventually, the Congress MLAs staged a walk out.
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