The Centre and states should both consider raising reservation in jobs and education for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) by 10 per cent to tackle the backlash from these groups to the new 10 per cent quota sanctioned for economically backward sections of the general category, Union Minister of State for Social Justice Ramdas Athawale has said.
Speaking to The Sunday Express, Athawale said, “The OBC reservation should be raised from 27 per cent to 37 per cent, both by the Centre and state governments. There should be a separate sub-category within the OBC to include all the communities that are reeling in extreme poverty and are educationally backward.”
“Overall reservation at the Centre, which is 60 per cent, will be raised to 70 per cent. I believe reservation up to 75 per cent is justified if it gives representation to larger sections of people,” he added.
Calling the constitutional amendment to extend reservations to economically weaker sections of castes in the general category as a “historic decision”, the president of the Republican Party of India (A) said the move was long pending.
He added that he himself had thrice proposed reservation based on economic backwardness for upper castes to the NDA. “It will mark a new beginning in social engineering of forward and backward castes. The anger against Dalits over quota among the upper castes will diffuse. It will help in greater social harmony,” Athawale said.
Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Athawale is preparing to tour Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh with this message of a new social engineering amongst the forward and backward classes.
Asked about the legal challenges in extending reservations further, he said Parliament is supreme. “Constitutional amendments cannot be subjected to legal challenge as it becomes an Act, which has been approved by the Parliament. As we have amended the Constitution, the ceiling of 50 per cent on quota becomes meaningless,” the minister said.
Athawale also contended that while the Constitution justifies reservation on criteria of social and educational backwardness, there is room for amendments. “The Constitution, written by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, has also made provisions for amendments. This was to ensure justice to people across caste and community based on circumstances. If we look at the life and work of Babasaheb Ambedkar, he was always striving to bring all castes and communities together. The objective of the quota is not to undermine or deprive the poor just because they belong to forward castes.”
He reiterated that there will be no change to the existing quota for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. “The 10 per cent quota to general category is given without altering the present quota of SC, ST and OBC.”
About continuing atrocities against Dalits, Athawale said that while untouchability is no longer practised, his ministry has received 46,000 to 47,000 cases under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. “Dalits are subjected to atrocities for wearing good clothes. Or things like why a Dalit groom should ride a horse at his wedding. The educated Dalits have become more aware and assertive,” he said.
On demands for a review of existing quotas for SCs and STs, he said caste prejudice would have to end first before such a measure is considered. “If you abolish caste, we will abolish reservation,” he added.
Athawale said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the first OBC Prime Minister, and has taken several key measures for the welfare of Dalits, including Mudra and Start-Up India as well as schemes for more entrepreneurship among Dalits. “Loans from Rs 50,000 to Rs 50 lakh are being given through various welfare schemes for upliftment of backward classes,” he said.
The minister added that the Maharashtra government has sanctioned the Indu Mills memorial to Dr B R Ambedkar and has moved to turn the London house where Ambedkar lived into an international research centre.