Amidst criticism from the Opposition that the BJP-led government’s legislative initiatives hurt minorities in the country, the Constitutional amendment Bill to extend the reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Lok Sabha for 10 years and to discontinue the provision for nominated seats for the Anglo-Indian community in legislative bodies was passed by Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
The reservation for SCs, STs and Anglo-Indians given for the past 70 years in Lok Sabha and state Assemblies was due to end on January 25, 2020.
The Bill was passed with 352 members voting in favour and none against it. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was absent from the House on Monday during the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, was present in the House during the voting on this Bill.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad slammed the Opposition for reducing the debate to Anglo-Indians and “ignoring the 20 crore SCs and STs”. “I am accused of misleading the House. How can you say that when the Census Registrar says that the number is 296?” he asked. However, the Opposition has given notice for a privilege motion against the Law Minister on the same.
With the opposition attacking the government for not consulting with the states before doing away with the Anglo-Indian nomination in the state Assemblies — 13 states have one nominated member each from the community in their assemblies — Prasad said the Bill being a Constitutional amendment, will naturally have to get passed by more than half of the total number of states.
Initiating the debate on the Bill, Congress’s Hibi Eden argued that the data quoted by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was wrong and there are 3,47,000 Anglo Indians in the country. Citing a report submitted by a fact-finding team, set up by the Central government which gave its report in 2013, Eden said Anglo-Indians, who he said have contributed to the country’s growth in different fields, is an ethnic community facing cultural erosion and education disability.
Making an emotional pitch for Dalit women and Anglo-Indians, DMK’s M Kanimozhi targeted the treasury benches for not consulting the states before removing the provision for the state Assemblies. Pointing out that 13 states have the provision and five of them are in the south, she said: “This government is again and again interfering in the states’ rights and it is taking away their rights in every single Bill.”
Criticising the government for its legislative initiatives that hurt the minorities, the DMK MP said: “Just because you have a majority does not mean that you have to hurt the minority. Yesterday, you brought a Bill which would hurt the Muslims. Today, you are bringing a Bill which is going to hurt the Christians. So, I think majority is not the only factor on which we should run this country.”
Pitching for Dalit women, Kanimozhi urged the members to see their status in the country. “You may see how many Dalit girls are insulted and raped. Do we raise our voices against these atrocities? Do we talk about that? Do we discuss that? In some ways, we come to accept it.” She also demanded that the government consider reservation for women “as they are also Dalits”.
Supriya Sule (NCP) demanded that the government support minorities within the country also by extending reservation for Anglo-Indian communities.
BSP’s Girish Chandra sought that the reservation for SC/ST should be extended to private sector while Nama Nageswar Rao (TRS) said the Central government should expeditiously clear the proposal of states to extend reservation for OBC and other communities. NDA ally Apna Dal member Anupriya Patel also sought continued representation of Anglo-Indian community in legislatures.
BJP’s Heena Gavit, who listed the initiatives by the Narendra Modi government for the weaker communities, urged the government to ensure that only genuine candidates belonging to SCs and STs get the privileges meant for the communities.