“Let’s examine the proposal. 49% already reserved on caste lines. If you do not touch 49%, this 10% quota will come out of remaining 51%. In effect open competition will be restricted to 41%. You can amend constitution but not mathematics.”
— SANJAY HEGDE
Amid criticism by the opposition claiming the move as a pre-election gimmick, the ‘10% reservation’ bill fought all odds in both the houses of the Parliament and attained President Kovind’s nod to attain the status of a LAW. The 124th amendment in the constitution was achieved by 165:7 odds in the Upper house and 323:3, in the Lower house.
UNDERSTANDING THE BILL
What is this 10% Bill?
Commonly known as the 10% General Quota Bill, this scheme is a provision over and above the existing 49% quota for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and OBCs. It is considered to be a non-caste and non-religion, based reservation which is expected to benefit the poorer sections of the upper caste Hindus and other religions, who at present are not beneficiaries of any quota.
Who are the beneficiaries?
The bill is applicable to all those who fall in the economically backward classes of Hindus, Muslims, and Christians.
Major Hindu castes which will benefit from this bill include Brahmins, Gujjars, Rajputs, Jats, Marathas, Bhumihars, Vaishyas, Patidars, Kappus and Kammas (Depending upon which caste groups have been listed under which category)
What is the eligibility criteria?
- People earning below 8,00,000 per annum
- Possessing agricultural land below Five acres
- Residential houses below 1000 square feet
Who all are not eligible?
- Those who own a flat of 1000 sq. feet or more
- Land of 100 sq. yards or more in a notified municipality
- Land of 200 sq. yards or more in a non-notified area
THE POLITICAL UPROAR
Several opposition leaders belonging to Samajwadi Party and even Bahujan Samaj Party allegedly raised their concerns over the legality of this bill. Their arguments stem from the very known Indra Swahney case where the apex court had passed judgment and had put a cap of fifty percent on quotas.
*Indra Swahney became a household name in 1992, when she challenged the Forward Quota move of Narsimha Rao and led the SC to impose a cap 50% on the total amount of caste-based quotas.
The entire political uproar arose due to the dilemma faced by the opposition. Had the bill been opposed, these political parties would be perceived as anti-majority. Thus, most in the opposition cried hoarse against the bill but the fear of losing their vote share ensured a clear majority.
Too Little for too many:
This new 10% reservation which is based on economic criteria would be available to more than 85% citizens who were not covered under any reservations till now.
- The agitations in Gujarat, Maharashtra and other cities might lose some steam as this bill does address their needs to some extent.
- Secondly, the bill if successful in its implementation may force a review of earlier reservation bills that are not based on economic criteria.
Sooner or later, there will be demands to enhance this quota and that will caste a lot of problems as existing 50% quota holders too will join in to demand more reservations for themselves. The passage of this bill might see regional parties raise the ante on reservation demands as they seek to consolidate their own vote banks. Some of the reactions, as can be seen by the leaders of the various political parties reflects how resources and opportunities are being misused in our nation.
- LJPs Ram Vilas Paswan: demanded 60% quota in private sector
- AIDMDK’s M Thambi Durai: demanded quota to be raised to 70%
- TRS: demanded 12% quota for Muslims and 10% for STs
- BSP’s Mayawati: demanded a review of quotas for SCs and STs
- SP’s Ram Gopal Yadav: demanded OBC reservation be increased to 54%
With the passing of this bill, the government now has the opportunity to create and provide jobs to nearly Three Lakh general category individuals under the new quota.
However, the challenge awaits- The most difficult job for the Government would be to fill the existing vacancies (More than 29 lakh posts are lying vacant for many years now), considering the move is likely to be a burden on the nation’s fiscal baggage.
The entire episode brings forth the fact that mediocrity has been dealt another blow to promote mediocracy. Time alone will tell if this bill will turn out be a master-stroke for the NDA Government and can it turn out to be a game changer for BJP’s fortune as the next elections are just a few months away. However, the implementation of the bill will have to take into account, the dynamic economic conditions of people. Thus, measures will have to be in place to cater for this in and out movement from within this new quota. Unfortunately, the past quotas based on social criteria have miserably failed in this respect thus allowing a few to usurp most of the benefits. The real test of this bill will be if it can force the reservation criteria to move away from social to economic considerations in the years to come. If this happens, then reduction of reservations may become intrinsic to our democratic setup as economic conditions tend to improve with time.
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