The BJP-led NDA government on Monday had decided to amend the Constitution to provide a 10% quota for economically weaker general category, a move that will see more than 190 million people across the country reap benefits. The Union Cabinet had approved a proposal for introduction of The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty- Fourth Amendment) Bill extending the benefits of quota to “the economically weaker sections of the people who are not covered by any of the existing schemes of reservation”.
Addressing the demands of the economically weaker sections of people falling under the general category, the Lok Sabha with overwhelming majority passed a constitutional amendment bill to provide 10% reservation for the general category EWS in direct recruitment for government jobs and admission to higher educational institutions. The bill tabled in the upper house was met with huge consensus across all party lines with 323 members of the Lok Sabha voting in favour of the bill as opposed to a meagre 3 who voted against it.
Ensuring this proposal by the government, the bill was moved to the Lok Sabha where after a four and a half hour debate, the bill was passed on the concluding day of the winter session of the house. Despite initially slamming the move of the government, calling it a sop to entice the public ahead of the Lok Sabha elections to be held later this year, the opposition gave its nod to the bill with the support garnered in support of the bill put across party lines given the political significance, the latest legislative amendment is said to bear.
“I thank MPs from all the parties who supported The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Fourth Amendment) Bill, 2019 in the Lok Sabha.
I also appreciate those MP colleagues who enriched today’s debate with their views,” tweeted PM Narendra Modi.
A person whose family has a gross annual income below Rs 8 lakh will be identified as EWS for the benefit of reservation. The family includes “the person who seeks the benefit of reservation, his/ her parents and siblings below the age of 18 years as also his/ her spouse and children below the age of 18 years”. Also, income will cover all sources such as salary, agriculture, business, profession etc.
Families owning agricultural land above five-acre, a house above 1000 square feet, or 100-yard plot or above in a notified municipal area or a plot of 200 yards or above in a non-notified municipal area cannot avail the benefits of the 10% quota for economically weaker general category.
Any constitutional amendment requires a special majority of two-thirds of members present for voting in each House, and not less than half the strength in both. The next hurdle for the government is ensuring the charts through the rough waters of the Raja Sabha which has been extended by a day to ensure the bill is passed before the winter session concludes.
While it is expected that the bill will sail through smoothly in the lower house as well, there are many hurdles still standing in the way of the government to see the bill being implemented without any hassles. Further ahead lays the challenge for it to be ratified by at least half of the state legislatures following which the government may also have to prepare for any legal challenges to the validity of the Constitutional amendment.
New clauses 15(a) and 16(b) are expected to be added to Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution which presently allow the State to make a reservation for only Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and for socially or educationally backward classes (Other Backward Classes or OBCs). To enable the extension of reservation to the poor among upper castes, the government has also proposed the removal of the clause that allows the State to make a reservation only for those it thinks are ‘not adequately represented’.
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