Reservation for the ‘Poor Forward’

January 08, 2019
6 months

Why in news?

The Union Cabinet has cleared a Bill seeking to provide 10% reservation to the economically backward among the ‘general category’.

What does the Bill propose?

  • It seeks to provide 10% reservation in government higher education institutions and government jobs to the economically weaker sections among the upper castes.
  • This refers to non-Dalits, non-Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and non-tribals - essentially, the upper castes or so-called ‘forwards’.
  • It will apply for general category individuals -
  1. whose family together earn less than Rs.8 lakh per annum
  2. who have less than 5 acres of agricultural land
  • It also excludes those individuals whose families own or possess -
  1. a residential flat of area 1,000 sq ft or larger
  2. a residential plot of area 100 yards or more in notified municipalities
  3. a residential plot of area 200 yards or more in areas other than notified municipalities.
  • The proposals in the Bill, to become a reality, will need an amendment of -
  1. Articles 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) of the Constitution
  2. Article 16 (equality of opportunity in matters of public employment) of the Constitution
  • The amendment will have to be ratified in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, by at least two thirds of members present and voting.
  • It also has to be passed by the legislatures of not less than half the states.

How does the Bill stand in conflict with current provisions?

  • Purpose of reservation - Articles 330-342 under Part 16 of the Constitution outline special provisions for certain classes.
  • The Constitution identifies only four such classes - SCs, STs, Backward Classes and Anglo Indians.
  • The Constitutional promise is explicitly for 'social exclusion and discrimination'.
  • Notably, the “socially and educationally backward classes” was the target group in quotas for OBCs.
  • So the quota for the poor among the upper castes has been seen essentially as a poverty alleviation move dressed up as reservation.
  • Sacrifice of Merit - The SC has held that in general conditions the special provision should be less than 50% (M R Balaji And Others vs State Of Mysore (1962)).
  • It has reiterated this in its Mandal judgment (Indra Sawhney, Etc vs Union Of India And Others (1992)) and on several other occasions.
  • There is at present 49.5% quota - 15% for SCs, 7.5% for STs and 27% for 'Socially and Educationally Backward' Classes, including widows and orphans of any caste.
  • So the 10% quota above this would make it a total 59% (49%+10%) quota.
  • This would leave other candidates with just 41% government jobs or seats, amounting to “sacrifice of merit” and violation of Article 14.
  • Definition of backward class - A backward class cannot be determined only and exclusively with reference to economic criterion.
  • It may be a consideration or basis along with, and in addition to, social backwardness, but it can never be the sole criterion.
  • This was clearly stated by a nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the Indira Sawhney case of 1992.
  • Basic Structure - If the government proposes to bring a constitutional amendment to include the 10% quota, Kesavananda Bharati judgment may stand in the way, as it violates Article 14.
  • The judgment held that constitutional amendments which offended the basic structure of the Constitution would be ultra vires.
  • Precedence - This proposed Bill finds an echo in an ordinance promulgated in Gujarat in 2016, which provided 10% quota to upper castes there.
  • But the Gujarat High Court in the Dayaram Khemkaran Verma Vs State of Gujarat quashed the ordinance in August 2016.
  • Poverty Criteria ­- There have been disagreements as to the proportion of population living in poverty in the country.
  • The Arjun Sengupta Committee (April 2009) estimated that 77% of India’s population were surviving on less than Rs 20 per day.
  • In November 2009, Suresh Tendulkar Committee estimated India’s combined rural-urban poverty headcount ratio in 2004-05 at 37.2%
  • Given this, the Rs 8 lakh per annum limit in the Bill clashes with the poverty line concepts and seems arbitrarily set up to cover a wider proportion.

What were the earlier committee recommendations?

  • The first Backward Classes Commission was appointed under Article 340(1) in 1953 under the Chairmanship of Kaka Saheb Kalelkar.
  • It was to determine the criteria to identify people as socially and educationally Backward Classes.
  • It was also tasked to recommend steps to ameliorate their condition.
  • The Commission interpreted 'socially and educationally backward classes' as relating primarily to social hierarchy based on caste.
  • The second Backward Classes Commission was appointed in 1978 under B P Mandal to review the state of the Backward Classes.
  • It submitted its report in 1980, but no measure was taken on it until the V P Singh government in 1990.
  • It recommended 27.5% reservations in government jobs for OBCs.

What are the other state proposals?

  • In 2008, Kerala decided to make reservations for economically backward among the forwards.
  • It proposed to reserve 10% seats in graduation and PG courses in government colleges and 7.5% seats in universities.
  • An appeal is pending in the Supreme Court in this regard.
  • In 2011, UP CM wrote to the central government asking for reservation for upper-caste poor.
  • In 2008 and 2015, the Rajasthan Assembly passed Bills to provide a 14% quota to the economically backward classes (EBCs) among the forward castes.


Source: The Hindu, The Indian Express

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Gaurav kumar 6 months


IAS Parliament 6 months

We appreciate it. Keep following.

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