LS passes bill for 10% general category quota

The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed a Constitutional Amendment Bill to provide for 10% reservation in the government jobs and admission in higher educational institutions, both private and public-funded except minority institutions, to economically weaker sections (EWS) falling in the general category.

The Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill 2019 was passed by the Lower House with 316 members voting in favour of it and three opposing it after about 5-hour long debate.

While AIADMK member M Thambidurai staged a walkout in protest, saying quota for the EWS will “create confusion and corruption,” AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi slammed the NDA government over the bill which he called “a fraud on the Constitution.”

Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thawaarchand Gehlot, while moving the bill for its passage, urged the members to support it, calling the occasion as “auspicious and historic.”

Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present in the House, he did not speak.

The government brought the bill at a time it was facing anger from its core constituency of upper caste voters, which was one of the reasons for its defeat in three Hindi heartland states. Upper castes were restive over some recent moves of the Modi government like the Ordinance to set aside the Supreme Court order which had diluted the provisions of the SC/ST Act.

Those with annual family income below Rs 8 lakh or having agriculture land below five acres would be eligible for quota under the bill.

Most of the parties though supported the bill in the Lok Sabha, Opposition members expressed reservations over the manner it was brought for the consideration of the House, complaining that they were not given adequate time to examine the bill and suggest amendments.

They also dubbed the move as “a political gimmick” by the Modi government ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, which is barely a few months away.

Senior Congress leader K V Thomas, who initiated the debate, picked various lacunae in the bill and demanded sending it to the joint parliamentary committee for its scrutiny.

“I am not against the bill. But it should not become a tamasha (theatrics). You have brought the bill in a hurry looking at the political manifesto without doing proper homework.

“Many people who are affluent will become eligible for 10% quota with the government proposing to put annual income ceiling at Rs 8 lakh for the beneficiaries,” Thomas said.

Intervening in the debate, Jaitley hit back at the Opposition, saying most of the political parties including the Congress had always had “this jumla” of reservation for economically weaker sections in their poll manifesto.

He said attempts were made earlier too by governments at the Centre and states in this regard but failed because they were done either through common statutory provisions or notifications, Jaitley said, assuring that the present bill would stand the judicial scrutiny.

Jaitley said that all the efforts made in past, including one during Narshimha Rao government to provide reservation to economically weaker sections of the society, failed to pass the court's scrutiny as a proper legal framework was not put in place.

He asked the Opposition members to whole-heartedly support the bill, not “begrudging.”

Trinamool Congress member Sudip Bandyopadhyay supported the bill but wondered if it was an answer to the problem of massive unemployment among youth in the country.

“The bill is all about misleading youth with fake hope, promising a fake dream. We are extending our support with a hope that the government will address the issue of unemployment,” he said.

Gehlot said that members from all religious communities including Muslims and Christian will be eligible for 10% quota under the EWS category.

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LS passes bill for 10% general category quota

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