Gehlot govt throws the Gujjar quota ball into Centre’s court

The Gujjars have been fighting for quota since 2006 and in the past 13 years, they have been given reservation five times. On four occasions, the bills were introduced in the Vidhan Sabha

Gehlot govt throws the Gujjar quota ball into Centre’s court

Prakash Bhandari

In a situation where reservations for Gujjars has failed to pass judicial scrutiny in the past with the Rajasthan High Court, on three earlier occasions, quashing the quota given to Gujjars and four other communities, the Ashok Gehlot government has worked out a solution to pacify the agitating Gujjars by giving them five percent reservation and by simultaneously passing a pledge (Sankalp) in the Assembly asking the Centre to raise the total reservation percentage. This can be done only by convening a special session of Parliament and by passing a bill for higher quotas to the Gujjars in the line of the constitutional amendment creating a 10 per cent quota for economically weaker sections.

The central reservations now stand at 59 per cent and in some states, the quotas have crossed the 60 per cent mark. In Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, the quota is just a tad short of the 80 per cent mark. With each state having its own priority and amid the clamour for higher OBC quota, the Supreme Court-directed 50 per cent upper ceiling on quota has become a big hindrance in providing reservation to various backward communities who are demanding reservations in government jobs and in educational institutions.

The Ashok Gehlot government amended the Rajasthan Backward Classes Act (reservation of seats in an educational institution in the state and of appointments and posts in government services).

The Amendment of Section 3 of Rajasthan Act No 38 of 2017 was substituted by two new amendments relating to annual permitted strength for admission into such educational institutions and courses in the state.A new category of More Backward Classes has been introduced. For this new category, reservation in appointments and educational institutions will be five per cent.

Apart from the Gujjars, certain castes like the Banjaras (nomads), Baldiya, Labana, GadiyaLohar, Gadoliya, Raika, Rebari, Debasi, Gadariya, Gadri, Gayari, are now specially categorised as More Backward Classes.They were provided with just one per cent reservation from within the 50 per cent limit, but now after the amendment, they would be provided with a total of five per cent reservation.The total reservation of backward classes as a whole would become 26 per cent from 21 per cent

The existing 16 per cent for SCs and 12 per cent for the STs will remain unchanged.

Economically weaker sections (EWS) would get 10 per cent quota as approved by the Centre after the constitutional amendments. The Rajasthan VidhanSabha also passed this and it will be implemented immediately.

But, this will take total reservation upwards of 64 per cent which is far more than the constitutional provision.This requires the amendment of the Constitution to become effective. The Assembly passed a pledge resolution (Sankalp) urging the Union government to include this five per cent quota in the Ninth Schedule through a constitutional amendment.

The Gujjars have been fighting for quota since 2006 and in the past 13 years, they have been given reservation five times. On four occasions, the bills were introduced in the Vidhan Sabha.

In 2008, the Congress government headed by Ashok Gehlot gave five per cent reservation to the Gujjars and 14 per cent to the economically backward general category persons.This quota became effective in January 2009 but was stayed by the Rajasthan High Court within seven days.

Again in the year 2012, on the recommendation of the Other Backward Class Commission, the Ashok Gehlot government gave a reservation of one per cent to the More Backward Classes.

On the third occasion, in the year 2015, the BJP government passed a Bill where, apart from Gujjars, five other communities were given five per cent reservation. But in 2016, the High Court again quashed the quota.The then VasundharaRaje government went to the Supreme Court to challenge the order where the matter is still pending.

The erstwhile Raje government, in December, 2017, without waiting for the orders on the Special Leave Petition (SLP), brought a Bill and gave the Gujjars and other communities one per cent reservation as More Backward Classes which they are still getting.

The present Congress state government, under the Rajasthan Backward Classes (Reservation of seats in educational institutions in the state and of appointments and posts in services under the state ( Amendment) Bill,2019, which has now become an Act, has the power to prescribe percentage of reservation.

“Article 38 of the Constitution enjoins upon the State that it shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may, a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of national life. It further mandates that the State shall, in particular, strive to minimise inequalities in income and endeavour to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities, not only amongst individuals but also amongst groups of people residing in different areas or engaged in different vocations. Article 46 of the Constitution also mandates that the State shall promote, with special care, the educational and economic interest of the weaker sections of the society,” said Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Dhariwal.

Though the principle of proportionality is not applicable under Articles 330 and 332, however, the proportion of the backward classes to the total population of the State is a relevant factor while determining the extent of the reservation.

“When the Central government provided reservation to backward classes in the year 1993, the proportion of the population of backward classes at the national level was 52 per cent and the reservation provided was 27 per cent. Since the population of the backward classes in the state of Rajasthan is estimated by the State Backwards Classes Commission to be about 52 per cent, therefore looking to the volume of the population, the percentage of reservation for the backward classes need to be increased.

Since all the castes included in the list of backward classes are at different stages of social and educational development and therefore the objectives of directive principles of the State policy mandated in the Act cannot be fully achieved unless these classes are sub-divided in backward and More Backward Classes ( MBC) according to the level of their social and educational development . Thus the government proposed that instead of delegating power to the state government for prescribing percentage of reservation, the provision of the percentage of reservation for more backwards classes should be made by amending the Act’s section three and four. The Bill was introduced with this sole objective and passed” added Dhariwal.

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