10% quota for general category poor: Parliament passes bill, set to become law

10% quota for general category poor: Parliament passes bill, set to become law
While every major party voted in favour of reservation, several questioned its timing given that it was introduced months before the general elections

In a historic move, the Parliament on Wednesday approved an amendment to the Constitution to make economically-weaker sections of general category eligible for 10 percent reservation in education and government jobs.

The Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, 2019 bill was approved by the Rajya Sabha with 165 votes in favour and seven against after a day-long debate, a day after the Lok Sabha passed it with 323 votes against 3 votes.

The provision will become a law after President Ram Nath Kovind signs it.

The reservation is meant for individuals belonging to economically-weaker sections who have annual earnings below Rs. 8 lakh and possess less than 5 acres of agriculture land.

The amendment will take the total reservation to 60, surpassing the 50 percent ceiling prescribed by the Supreme Court.

Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot, who piloted the politically-significant bill just months ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, said the legislation is aimed at uplifting the poor people.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in his intervention during the debate, said the measure will be applicable to both central and state government jobs.

He said the states will have the powers to decide on the economic criteria for identifying the beneficiaries.

Congress leader Anand Sharma said he was not opposed to the legislation but questioned why it had been brought suddenly just before the elections. “This legislation has been brought by a government which is a departure lounge of an airport,” he said.

“You got a message, a small message in the Assembly elections in five states. Now you can expect a bigger message after a few months,” he said, addressing the ruling benches while apparently referring to the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav also said that he was not opposing the bill. He, however, said the government, through the legislation, was not intending to benefit the poor sections of the upper castes but its “target is 2019 (Lok Sabha polls).”

Congress leader Kapil Sibal also questioned why the bill had been brought so suddenly, without even referring it to a Select Committee of Parliament for proper scrutiny.

Dubbing the bill as “ek aur jumla (one more empty slogan)”, he asked the government whether it had any data regarding the prospective beneficiaries of the proposed law.

BJP’s ally Shiv Sena also questioned the decision, asking where the government will get the jobs from to give to the poor. It also warned that the move would prove costly if it was solely election-driven.

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