In a masterstroke before the upcoming polls, the Narendra Modi government announced a 10% reservation for the economically backward sections in the general category, a move that many are calling politically motivated.
The Union Cabinet on Monday approved the move to benefit members of the general category who are economically weak, by reserving 10% of government jobs and college seats for them. Such a quota goes over and above the existing 50% reservation that is usually reserved for economically and socially backward castes.
This is the rumoured criteria
The final and finer details of the new quota are yet to be officially announced but initial reports said that those earning below Rs 8 lakhs will be able to avail the benefits. Sources close to the development told Mint that “weaker section beneficiaries would include those earning less than ₹8 lakh annually, own less than 5 hectares of agricultural land, residential property of less than 1,000 sq. feet and residential plot that is less than 109 sq. yards in a notified municipality and 209 sq. yards in a non-notified municipality”.
The bill to amend Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution is likely to be tabled in the Parliament on Tuesday.
Response: for and against
Reacting to the development, Congress MP and National Spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi questioned the timing of the decision. Members of the opposition have claimed that the move was decided with an eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, to appease the upper castes who form the core voter base of the BJP party and have recently showed signs of drifting away from it.
“This is a morally flawed decision of the BJP government and it is aimed to create confusion within society,” writer Chandra Bhan Prasad told Mint, explaining, “Dalits and tribals were given reservation because they have faced social boycott. There is no such social boycott against upper caste people. They do not have to struggle to go to schools, colleges or to find jobs.”
Senior lawmakers including Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, however, claimed that the move is aimed at extending the tools of social justice to more people from different backgrounds and benefit them with greater access to government jobs and education.
I agree. The govt shud extend Parl session and bring constitutional amendment immediately. Else it is merely an election stunt. https://t.co/J5weTkG5cA— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) January 7, 2019
Unprecedented change in the reservation policy by PM @narendramodi. In a major boost to the poor, rising above divisive caste based politics, a 10% quota has been approved for the economically backward. Big win for the nation!! Sab ka saath, sab ka Vikas!!— Priti Gandhi (@MrsGandhi) January 7, 2019
My compliments to PM Sri @narendramodi and his Cabinet for giving approval to 10% reservation in jobs & higher education to economically backward persons in the general category.
This shall provide much-needed to push to the aspirations of this class of people.— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) January 7, 2019
Why it matters
The upper caste reservation comes right after BJP lost three key states in the Assembly polls last year and amidst several ongoing agitations for quota led by Jats in Haryana, Patels in Gujarat, and Marathas in Maharashtra. Much of BJP’s performance in the elections is believed to owe itself to upper caste backlash.
The new quota also arrives in the wake of growing agitation among the upper castes after the Supreme Court restored the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act without diluting the protection it offers to minorities. Northern states had rankled with violent protests over this decision.
BJP’s move to consolidate upper caste votes four years and eight months into their run at the centre is, thus, being hailed as an election gimmick by some. It may even help swing a key vote bank in their favour. But for most, it is a question of when, if at all, their jobs would arrive.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.