After five days of protests by Gujjars seeking reservation, the Rajasthan Assembly Wednesday unanimously passed a Bill extending five per cent reservation to five communities, including Gujjars in educational institutions and government jobs.
With this new Bill, to which Governor Kalyan Singh gave his assent, quota in Rajasthan will cross the 50 per cent cap on reservations set by the Supreme Court. The Congress government cited the Centre’s Constitutional amendment to exceed the quota ceiling to provide 10 per cent reservation to Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in the general category.
Later, the state Cabinet announced that it will make the required amendments to provide 10 per cent quota to EWS in the general category and that it would increase the creamy layer ceiling for OBC reservation to Rs 8 lakh from the existing Rs 2.5 lakh per annum.
The Assembly passed the Rajasthan Backward Classes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions in the State and of Appointments and Posts in Services under the State) (Amendment) Bill, 2019, on the last day of the first session of the Fifteen State Assembly.
However, Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsla, who has laid siege to railway tracks in Sawai Madhopur along with supporters, said that they will first study the Bill before calling off the agitation.
In the statement for Objects and Reasons, the government said that “Parliament has amended the Constitution to exceed the limit of 50 per cent laid down by the Indra Sawhney case having regard to the compelling circumstances in which Economically Weaker Sections of the society are languishing.”
It said that the “more backward classes” identified in the current Act “are extremely backward classes” and that the state government is satisfied that there exist more compelling circumstances which warrant urgent upliftment of these classes by providing 5 per cent reservation both in educational institutions and in appointment and post under the state.
Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, also a Gujjar, cited examples of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, where the 50 per cent reservation limit has been exceeded. “We would also request the Centre to include this Bill in the Ninth Schedule, just like it did with the EWS quota,” he said, praising Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and the government for showing restraint during the current agitation; he then contrasted it with BJP’s response, saying that “when the community had taken to the streets in your tenure, you had 72 among them killed.”
Pilot requested the protesting Gujjars to call off their protest. As Speaker C P Joshi adjourned the House sine die, he too requested the Gujjars to end their protest in light of the Bill.
The communities, namely Banjara/Baldiya/Labana, Gadiya Lohar/Gadoliya, Gujar/Gurjar, Raika/Rebari/Debasi, Gadariya/ Gadri/Gayari, are currently provided one per cent reservation under More Backward Classes (MBC). The Bill seeks to grant them an additional four per cent quota, taking the total reservation in the state to 54 per cent. With the Bill, the total Other Backward Classes (OBC) quota also rises to 26 per cent, after including the five per cent MBC quota.
The Bill comes in the backdrop of two unsuccessful and similar Bills passed by the previous Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government. The Raje government had passed a Bill in 2015 for Special Backward Classes (SBC), including Gujjars, which was stayed by the High Court. In October 2017, another Bill was “restrained” by the High Court, within days of its passage in state Assembly, since it had also exceeded the 50 per cent ceiling.
Already, the Samta Andolan Samiti, which has successfully challenged past Bills in the court for breach of 50 per cent limit, had said Tuesday that the apex court had directed the state government to maintain the status quo and “if you proceed with the Bill then we will have to file a contempt petition with the top court.”
During the debate on the Bill, Leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria said that “Beginning 2008, we started the process of extending five per cent reservation to these five castes, but it was always struck down by the courts…We did all the experiments we could. So when we know that we cannot exceed the 50 per cent ceiling, why are we again trying to mislead the public? Your Amendment Bill will offer no solution.” He said that the Bill is powerless until its inclusion in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.