Opposition parties in Rajya Sabha supported the Constitutional amendment Bill to provide 10 per cent reservation in jobs and educational institutions to economically weaker sections in the general category, but not before targeting the BJP-led government, accusing it of bringing the Bill “in a haste” with the Lok Sabha elections in mind.
Cutting across party lines, Opposition leaders asked whether the Bill would stand judicial scrutiny as the Supreme Court had struck down P V Narasimha Rao’s forward quota move in 1992. They also demanded the data based on which the 10 per cent figure has been arrived at and how the government proposes to go about implementation as income, unlike caste, is variable and the income tax base in the country is very small.
Congress’s deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma said the Bill has been brought by a government which is in the “departure lounge”. He said the government thought about providing reservation for economically weaker sections in the general category only after the 5-0 drubbing it suffered in the recent round of Assembly elections. “You got the message that you are not on the right path. It was a small message. Wait for the bigger message. This (Bill) has been brought by a government which is already on the departure lounge,” he said.
He said the criteria set by the government — that those who do not have land more than 5 acres, do not own residential plot more than 1,000 square feet and earn less than Rs 8 lakh per annum would be eligible for the reservation — would make 98 per cent of people in the general category eligible. “You brought the Bill in haste because you had to do it before the Model Code of Conduct comes into force, thinking … lets dangle a carrot in front of the public, show them another dream that Modiji has made arrangements for their children’s employment.”
He said the BJP which came to power after promising to create two crore jobs every year has destroyed jobs because of its policies. Questioning the government’s reluctance to refer the Bill to the Select Committee, Sharma said, “The tendency of this government not to respect Parliament and bypass legislative scrutiny while making laws or Constitutional amendment is deplorable.”
Congress leader Kapil Sibal pointed out that despite knowing why there was a haste in passing the Bill, all parties in the Upper House are supporting it. “That is not what the framers of the Constitution wanted us to do. They wanted us to use our judgement…”
Trinamool’s Derek O Brien said the move is an “acknowledgment of guilt” by the government because it could not create jobs. Listing out government schemes like Skill India and Make in India, he said the latest move is yet another “Cheat India” initiative.
He also targeted the government for refusing to refer the Bill to a Select Committee and accused it of disrespecting Parliament. “What are you doing to the institutions. You are disrespecting. You are spitting on it.”
Taking a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said, “We are all missing one person”.
Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav asked the government to raise the existing reservation cap for SC, OBC and minorities in line with their proportion in the population now that it has decided to break the 50 per cent ceiling set by the Supreme Court. He and JD(U)’s Ram Chandra Prasad Singh asked the government to extend reservation to the private sector.
DMK’s Kanimozhi asked the government why it did not show the same haste for Women’s Reservation Bill.
The AIADMK opposed the Bill, calling it an infringement on fundamental rights of the people of Tamil Nadu, and staged a walkout. AIADMK’s Navaneethakrishnan said the SC has ruled that backwardness cannot be determined only with reference to economic criterion. “So as per the law declared under Article 141 of the Constitution, this… is unconstitutional,” he said.
Arguing that Tamil Nadu already has 69 per cent reservation, he asked the government to keep the state out of the ambit of the 10 per cent reservation. “Tamil Nadu will be hit and it will be the worst affected… the competition of all the communities for 31 per cent, they would lose it definitely,” he said.
Targeting the government, RJD’s Manoj Jha said, “Mandal came with voluminous documents. Where is the data for this? …You are basically testing the waters and this will pave the way for the removal of caste-based reservations. If you are so committed why are you scared to touch the private sector? Why are you silent on Dalits and Muslims?”