The Constitutional amendment bill creating 10 per cent quota for economically backward sections in the general category is only for the “privileged class” and violates the basic tenet of reservations, activists and academics say.
“This reservation is not for the poorest of the poor communities. This is for the privileged class,” Ashok Bharti, Chairman, National Confederation of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR), India, told IANS.
He said the government cannot divide the society in the name of income and caste.
“Those who are earning around Rs 1 lakh or a little above cannot compete with those who are earning around Rs 7 lakh yearly.
“Government officials in their initial days of service earn less than Rs 8 lakh per annum but their children will be drawing the benefits in the education and job sector,” he said.
Parliament on Wednesday passed the 124th Constitutional Amendment Bill, with the Rajya Sabha approving the measure a day after the Lok Sabha did so.
The cabinet had on Monday approved the Bill, providing 10 per cent reservation in jobs and educational institutions for people belonging to “unreserved categories”, including Christians and Muslims, with an annual income limit of Rs 8 lakh and land holding ceiling of about five acres.
Apoorvanand, a Professor in Delhi University’s Hindi Department, said the bill violates the “basic feeling (tenet) of reservation” which is usually considered as compensation for the social boycott faced by the marginalized communities.
“People belonging to upper caste have no history of social boycott even if they were economically weak. It has always been the marginalized communities and women who have faced discrimination,” Apoorvanand told IANS.
Currently, in central-government funded higher education institutions, 22.5 per cent of available seats are reserved for Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) students (7.5 per for SCs, 15 per cent for STs) and 27 per cent for OBCs.
Apoorvanand said the latest measure was aimed at winning upper caste vote in the Lok Sabha elections.
“The reservation came after the loss (of BJP) in the recent (Assembly) elections and the feeling that the party lost them as people of a particular group were not happy with them. It is clear that the move is to appeal to that group.”
Badri Narayan, a Professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), described the new reservation as a “strategic move of the BJP”.
“This is not a new demand. People have been demanding reservation (for upper castes) from very long. Parties too have spoken about it in their manifestos. The government may say that the timing was correct, but questions will be raised on the intention of the government over why this is done just before the elections,” Narayan told IANS.
Echoing this, Bharti said the measure had been pushed through in haste without any discussions with the stakeholders.
“How will the bill benefit the economically backward masses and not only a certain class? Does this mean only the poor from the upper caste or the poor of all communities? Does the government know how many will get the benefit? There are too many questions which the government should answer and set out a clearer picture before implementing (the measure).”
Bharati, however, saw a silver lining in the measure.
“This quota will also have a positive impact. It will remove the stigma from Dalits. Now even the Brahmins, Thakurs and Baniyas will have a quota,” he said.
Apoorvanand contended that the reservation was granted to hide the government’s failure in generating sufficient employment opportunities for the youth.
“This government has failed in terms of employment generation. What is the purpose of promising a reservation if the Centre cannot create job opportunities?
“If you are not generating employment and promising me reservation, where will you give the reservation? The 10 per cent of zero is zero,” he said.
Harjeet Kaur Bhatia, Head and Professor, Department of Educational Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia, had an entirely different take on the issue.
“Reservation as such needs to be abolished. We cannot have a reservation for every class eliminating the merit. We should have reservation for education but when it comes to jobs, everybody should be included,” Bhatia said.