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TOI EDIT-Quota Rush Reservation for poor upper castes is likely to end up as a pre-poll jumla

January 08, 2019 06:40 AM


Quota Rush
Reservation for poor upper castes is likely to end up as a pre-poll jumla
In a big move before the 2019 general election, the Narendra Modi government has approved 10% reservation for the economically backward in government jobs and education aimed at upper castes. Government now plans to move a Constitution amendment bill in Parliament to actualise the new quota which is being packaged as a pro-poor initiative. However, according to early reports people with an annual income of Rs 8 lakh, agriculture land below five acres, possessing a residential home below 1,000 sq ft and other similar criteria will all qualify for the new quota.

While the attempt to make economic backwardness the primary criteria for reservations is a worthy project, the haste behind the move is questionable. That government is planning to introduce the Constitution amendment bill today, the last day of the winter session of Parliament, reeks of political desperation. With only the budget session of Parliament left, and given that a Constitution amendment bill requires two-thirds support of both Houses of Parliament and ratification by 50% of the states, the Modi government literally has no time to actualise its quota promise. If it were really serious, it should have initiated the move much earlier in its tenure.

Second is the matter of the Constitution amendment itself, which is necessitated by the fact that the new quota will breach the 50% limit set by the Supreme Court. It will also be recalled that the erstwhile PV Narasimha Rao government had tried giving reservation based on economic criteria in 1991. But it was set aside by the apex court. In fact, even newer reservation demands including those from the Marathas in Maharashtra and Patidars in Gujarat have run into the 50% wall. Thus, there’s no guarantee that government’s latest quota move will pass judicial scrutiny.

Taken together, it appears that BJP is desperate to make up after losing three big assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Promising quota benefits for economically backward upper castes sends a political signal to this constituency. But it also betrays the fact that the Modi government has failed on the jobs front. With the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy calculating 11 million job losses last year, the economic situation remains dire. And given the limited number of government jobs, quotas are like balloons – they are bound to pop another place if squeezed too hard in one place. Better ideas are awaited

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