There is no proposal currently to increase the percentage of reservation, Union Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot said on Thursday. Though there was a demand for increasing the percentage of quota, the Supreme Court has ordered that it cannot be raised beyond 50 per cent, Gehlot said in the Lok Sabha while replying to a debate on the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2017.
He also asserted that the “BJP is supportive of the reservation and it will always be in future.”
“Everybody feels that there should be an increase in the (quota) percentage … but there is no possibility. Some say that Parliament can increase it, but in the current scenario, the ministry does not have any such proposal,” he said. The prevailing reservation limit is 49.5 per cent.
Later, the House passed the bill that seeks inclusion of Sualgiri and Swalgiri castes in the Scheduled Castes list of Odisha. These communities were found synonymous with Sabakhia caste, which is already included in the list of Scheduled Castes of Odisha.
Gehlot said the government was taking all steps to promote social, economical and political status of dalit communities and in the last three years, it has increased the allocations.
To prevent atrocities against them, the government has strengthened the laws and was also trying to provide good education to these communities. “We are providing all benefits to them…We have taken steps for their all round development,” he added.
The Minister claimed that the previous governments “used to make provisions only on paper” but this government has spent more than what it has allocated.
Participating in the debate on the bill, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge expressed dismay that there has been no marked improvement in the social status of dalits.
He also asked the government not to yield to political pressure while including or excluding any caste from list of scheduled castes and tribes.
“The government should take utmost care while including or excluding any caste from the list…It should take decision based on merit rather than political consideration,” he said.
The government of the day “should not buckle under pressure of ruling party or opposition” for inclusion or exclusion of caste from the list of SC/ST or Other Backward Caste, he said.
Kharge said the list of scheduled castes and tribes should be “non-partisan” and prepared after careful assessment so that the interests of the have-nots are safeguarded.
Observing that there were parameters like economic, social and educational status, he said there were groups with land, money and politically powerful which could also make such demands, but the government should take a decision in the interest of the society.
Irrespective of party in power, the Congress leader said there were instances when a particular group has been included or excluded because of political considerations.
He highlighted the need to find solution collectively to real problem of social inequality.
“Economic inequality is across the world and it cannot be removed all together but at least the government should make an earnest effort to bring social equality,” he said.
If there is social inequilty, it is not healthy for democracy and may lead to social unrest, he said, adding that therefore reservation is required to bring social equity.
He also rued the fact there is not a single secretary in the central government who belongs to Scheduled Caste. It shows that the reservation policy is still relevant, he said.
Pratima Mondal (TMC) said STs, SCs and OBCs have benefited in a very limited way. “We should attempt to make weak become strong by making policies in that direction,” he said.
Ravindra Babu Pandula (TDP) pitched for increasing the reservation percentage. Others who participated in the debate included Vinayak Raut (Shiv Sena) and Vinod Kumar Sonkar (BJP).