The Parliament on January 9, 2019, approved the Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill or Quota Bill providing 10% reservation in education and jobs for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) of the General Category.
The Quota Bill was passed with a majority after a 10-hour long debate in the Lok Sabha. The Bill, which provides reservation to the poor, irrespective of caste and religion, will soon become law.
Key developments in the Quota Bill clearance
- The Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill was passed in the Upper House after 10 hours of debate a day. It was cleared amid intense, heated arguments by the Lok Sabha and had 165 ‘ayes’ and 7 ‘nos.’
- The House defeated the motion to send Reservation Bill with 18 votes in favour and 155 against to a Parliamentary Select Committee.
- Lauding the passing of the Bill as a victory of social justice, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Delighted the Rajya Sabha has passed The Constitution (One Hundred And Twenty-Fourth Amendment) Bill, 2019. Glad to see such widespread support for the Bill. The House also witnessed a vibrant debate, where several members expressed their insightful opinions.”
- The House had first rejected 5 amendments moved by the Opposition. It is only then that the Bill was approved.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi slammed the Opposition for calling the Bill an ‘election gimmick,’ while it was still held and discussed in the Rajya Sabha. He asked if there were ever a stretch of six months wherein the country was not going through elections.
- Opposition leaders, including those from the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and others raised their concerns about the bill being unconstitutional. They, however, failed to move it.
- The Congress, DMK, RJD and Aam Aadmi Party were in the well of the House. They continued to raise slogans against the government as the bill was introduced in the Upper House.
- 10% reservation to the poor in the General Category will be applicable to jobs in both central and state governments. “Sixes are hit in the slog overs” of a cricket match and “more sixes will come.” said Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
- The government further stated that the Quota Bill will not in any way affect the pre-existing reservations for the SC, ST and OBC. Therefore, the Opposition should have supported the legislation without any ifs and buts, it added.
- The Reservation Bill was passed with 323 ‘ayes’ and only 3 ‘noes’ in Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
- The Quota Bill, which is touted to be a game changer ahead of national elections was executed with utmost secrecy. As per sources, the cabinet proposal was added to the agenda at the eleventh hour to avoid leaks.
The Quota Bill Explained
- The Quota Bill seeks to provide 10% reservation in jobs and educational institutions to the economically weaker section of the General Category.
- Notably, those who earn less than Rs 8 lakh annually, have agricultural land of less than 5 acres or a residential house smaller than 1,000 square feet are eligible for reservation.
- The 124th Amendment Bill, 2019 was introduced by Union Minister of Social Justice & Empowerment Thaawarchand Gehlot. It was passed with 165 votes in favour while 7 voted against it.
- Moving the Quota Bill, Gehlot said that the Constitution does not allow reservation on an economic basis, due to which poor people in General Category miss out on opportunities. “There was a complaint by the poor of the general category that they could not avail of government benefits. The decision has been taken after much consideration. This bill will uplift the poor,” he said.
- It intends to cover all religious dominations like Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and Parsis. It will also include ‘intermediate’ castes like Jats, Marathas, Gujjars and ‘forward’ castes like Rajputs, Banias and Brahmins.
- The Quota Bill saw a rather smooth sailing. It was passed through Lok Sabha on January 8, 2019 and passed through the Rajya Sabha on January 9, 2019.
- The Quota Bill has effected a change in the Constitution nearly three decades since the Mandal Commission recommendations came into effect. (The Mandal Commission was established in January 1979 “identify the socially or educationally backward classes” of India).
The Need for the Quota Bill
- The Constitutional Amendment gives the government power to make provision for the “advancement of any economically weaker sections of citizens other than the classes mentioned.” The classes here refer to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes.
- This translates to any amendments and laws flowing from it to apply to what is known as the ‘General Category.’ The Mandal Commission, which once looked into the OBC reservation, calls these groups “socially and educationally advanced.” Yet, this will not be covering only the ‘upper castes’ or ‘forwards,’ but include those like Marathas, Kappus, Kammas, Bhumihar communities among others.
- In a nutshell, the 10% quota will encompass all those people who tick themselves under “General” or UR – namely the unreserved category. This category, however, marks 51.5% of the total Indian population. Notably, 49.5% quota is reserved for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes.
- As per sources, the modalities on the implementation of the quota are yet to be devised. Also, all educational institutions, whether government or private, but recognised by the University Grants Commission will need to implement the quota.
- While the initial estimates reflect that around 10 lakh seats will have to be added in institutions across the country, including central universities IITs and IIMs, among other prestigious higher educational institutions,” as per sources. As per the All-India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE), 2017-18, the country has a total of 903 universities, over 39,000 colleges and over 10,000 stand-alone institutions.
- The proposed reservation will be over and above the already existing 50% reservation enjoyed by the SC, SC and OBC. This, however, will take the reservation to 60%.