Cabinet approves 10 per cent quota for poor upper castes

Cabinet approves 10 per cent quota for economically weaker sections in general category

New Delhi: The government on Monday extended the Rajya Sabha proceedings during the winter session of Parliament by a day till January 9 to enable the House to take up the proposed legislation to provide 10 per cent job and education quota for "economically weaker" sections, sources said.

Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu has agreed to the government's request and extended the proceedings by a day, the sources added.

The winter session of Parliament that started on December 11 was to end on Tuesday, January 8.

The decision came after the government approved a 10 per cent job and education quota for "economically weaker" sections, meeting a key demand of upper castes.

The government now seeks to bring a constitutional amendment bill in this regard in Lok Sabha on Tuesday and in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, for which the session has been extended, they said

With the Congress and some other parties already extending their support to a legislation to provide jobs for the economically weaker sections, the bill is likely to see through in the lower house and will be taken up the next day in Rajya Sabha.

In a major move ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the Union Cabinet on Monday cleared a 10 per cent job and education quota for "economically weaker" sections, meeting a key demand of upper castes, a staunch BJP support base which has shown signs of a drift from the party.

The proposed reservation will be over and above the existing 50 per cent reservation enjoyed by the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes, taking the total reservation to 60 per cent.

The constitutional amendment bill would be required as the constitution does not provide for reservation on the ground of economic conditions. It envisages amendment to Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution.

The BJP and its allies on Monday hailed the government's decision to give 10 per cent quota to "economically weaker" sections from the general category as a "historic" step and a "masterstroke", while the Congress termed it as a poll gimmick to fool people but said it will support the bill.

The Congress said that "without jobs", creation of reservation in employment may just prove to be "one more jumla" and that the decision was a proof of the BJP's "fear" of losing Lok Sabha polls.

Congress's chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the party has always backed every step for reservation and extended support to the economically poor sections of society irrespective of caste, community or creed.

"Without interfering with the constitutional mandate of reservation given to Dalits, adivasis and backward classes in any manner, we have always supported that those who are genuinely poor and who are not covered under these sections may also be given benefit of opportunities and reservation, both in education and employment," Surjewala said.

Asked whether the Congress will support a bill for the quota in Parliament, Surjewala said: "The son or daughter of a person who is economically poor should get their share in education and employment. We will support all steps for this."

He said the Congress will continue to support every step that provides opportunities as well as employment to the economically poor sections of society.

BJP general secretary Kailash Vijaywargiya said the decision has opened a new chapter in the history of social change.

BJP ally Lok Janshakti Party Monday hailed as "historic" the government's decision, saying the poor from all castes and religions deserves support.

However, opposition parties in Bihar dismissed it as an electoral stunt.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she would be happy if people from weaker sections get job but questioned the NDA dispensation on constitutionally and legality of the quota.

AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal said his party will support the NDA government on the constitutional amendment bill for giving 10 per cent quota to "economically weaker" sections but termed the move as merely an "election stunt".

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also welcomed the move.

"The decision is nothing but an election jumla. We doubt the government's seriousness in the entire move," said Sudhakar Reddy, CPI general secretary.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi accused the government of "posturing" and misleading the country as it did not have the requisite majority to get a constitutional amendment passed in Parliament.

"The forward reservation is a gimmick to fool people. They are only misleading the nation," he said.

"Modi and the BJP clearly think that Indian public eats grass. Crass politicisation. Proof positive of fear and certainty losing 2019," he said.

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