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Union Cabinet approves 10% quota for ‘economically weaker’ upper castes

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Narendra Modi (file photo)

NEW DELHI, JANUARY 7: Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Narendra Modi Government Monday decided to amend the Constitution to provide for 10% reservation for ‘economically backward’ upper castes in direct recruitment in Government services and admission to higher educational institutions, highly placed sources confirmed. In fact, the Government is aiming to introduce the legislation Tuesday on the last day of the current leg of the winter session of Parliament.
Though similar suggestions have been made by political leaders like Mayawati and Ramdas Athavale in the past, this is the first substantial move to take legislative route to provide for this change. An attempt to provide for 10% reservation to poor or economically backward among other sections during the Narasimha Rao Government’s tenure to offset political backlash against the implementation of Mandal Commission recommendations was nullified by the Supreme Court in the early ’90s.
“Narasimha Rao Government’s attempt was thrown out as it violated the basic structure of 50% ceiling,” confided a highly placed source revealing that “this time this basic structure is changed to provide for reservation up to 60%”.
“Additionally, a new criterion of economically weaker section as eligible for reservation will be provided for through the Constitution Amendment,” confided the source to stress how the Government move is conscious of keeping its legislative move immune from legal challenges. The move will require amending Article 16 of the Constitution to provide for reservation for economically weaker sections.
Unlike the reservation for SC/ST/OBCs, caste is not going to be a criterion for eligibility to the reservation under this new provision. In fact, sources revealed that the Government’s move plan to delineate the economically weaker section (EWS) for avoiding confusion.
Sources, in this backdrop, revealed that the EWS category will be defined as families with income (includes agricultural income as well as from profession) below Rs 8 lakh per annum, possessing agricultural land below 5 acre and residential house below 1,000 square feet. As for urban areas, those with residential plot below 100 yards in notified municipality or residential plot below 200 yards in the non-notified municipal area.
The move comes in the backdrop of upper caste backlash against Modi Government’s move against the Supreme Court’s attempt at ring-fencing apprehensions of misuse of SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. The Supreme Court move had sparked nation-wide protests from Dalit groups across the country after which Modi Government brought legislation and nullified the SC measure through Parliament in the last monsoon session.
The upper caste communities, in turn, voiced their protest over Government’s alacrity in addressing the concerns of Dalit communities of the issue. Senior BJP leaders, in this context, expressed that the BJP faced hostile Upper Castes in the recently concluded Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
The move by the Centre appears as an attempt by the BJP-led Government to address grievances among the upper castes ahead of the crucial 2019 Lok Sabha elections.(Courtesy: IE)