The Modi government's reservation bill to grant 10 per cent quota in government jobs and education for economically weaker sections irrespective of religion and caste was passed by the Rajya Sabha yesterday. It is now just one legislative step away from becoming a law. This quota is over and above the existing 50 per cent quota for the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), taking the total reservation to 60 per cent. Here's all you need to know about this development.
1. The Constitutional (124th amendment) Bill number was passed in the Upper House with 165 members voting in favours and only seven against it after a 10-hour debate. On Tuesday, the Lok Sabha had cleared the bill with 323 'ayes' and three members voting against it.
2. The Bill was approved after the House rejected five amendments moved by Opposition members, India Today reported. The Rajya Sabha also turned down a motion moved by DMK MP Kanimozhi to refer it to a select committee for further scrutiny by voice vote. The motion was backed by the Left parties, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and a few others, but 154 MPs voted against the motion while only 18 voted in favour.
3. Two AAP MPs, Sanjay Singh and Sushil Gupta, reportedly walked out before voting. AIADMK was also not present for the voting, having walked out in the morning.
4. Several Opposition leaders, including those from the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, reportedly voiced concerns about the legality of the bill but failed to move against it. The arguments against the bill's constitutional validity stems from the famous Indra Sawhney case, where the Supreme Court had set a cap of 50 per cent on quotas.
5. While the bill was still being discussed in the Upper House, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had slammed the Opposition for calling it an election gimmick and questioned whether there ever has been a span of six months without the country going through an election. Meanwhile, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad reportedly justified the timing of the move using a cricket analogy, saying "sixes are hit only in the slog overs". He added that there are more 'sixers' in the pipeline.
6. Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot assured the Rajya Sabha during the debate that the reservation to SC, ST and OBCs will not be touched by the amendment.
7. The bill will now go to the President for his approval, after which it will become a law.
8. The Prime Minister hailed the passage of the bill as "a victory for social justice" on social media yesterday. "By passing The Constitution (One Hundred And Twenty-Fourth Amendment) Bill, 2019, we pay tributes to the makers of our Constitution and the great freedom fighters, who envisioned an India that is strong and inclusive," Modi tweeted. "It ensures a wider canvas for our Yuva Shakti to showcase their prowess and contribute towards India's transformation," read another post.
9. The passage of this bill could see regional parties raise the ante on reservation demands as they seek to consolidate their existing vote banks. During both the debates in Parliament, almost every Opposition, OBC or SC leader, while supporting the legislation, had voiced one common demand - to raise the existing quota for OBC and SC in sync with their population.
10. With the passing of the bill, the government now has an opportunity to provide jobs to 3 lakh general category individuals immediately under the new quota. But the main challenge lies in filling the existing vacancies since the exercise is likely add to government expenditure. More than 29 lakh posts are lying vacant with the central and state governments, many for several years.
Edited by Sushmita Choudhury Agarwal