The Rajya Sabha passed the 127th Constitutional Amendment Bill that allows States to prepare their own list of Other Backward Classes (OBC). All 187 members of the Upper House, who were present during the debate on the Bill, voted in favour on Wednesday. The Lok Sabha had passed the Bill earlier this week.
Though the Opposition had moved the amendments, including a proposal to increase the quota limit from the present limit of 50 per cent, it was defeated in voice vote. The Rajya Sabha, which has been witnessing disruptions by the Opposition on the Pegasus spyware issue, debated the Bill without any disturbance as the Opposition had said that it will allow the passage of the Bill, important for backward classes.
Piloting the Bill, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Virendra Kumar said the Bill is aimed at restoring the powers of States to have their own lists of OBCs which was negated by the Supreme Court.
“I want to thank the parties and members of the House for building a consensus to discuss the Bill that is in the interest and welfare of OBCs. With this consensus approach, we are moving towards creation of history,” Kumar said.
He added that if the OBC lists of States were removed, nearly 671 communities which were included in their lists would not get the benefit of reservation in educational institutions and appointment of jobs. “It would have affected one-fifth of the OBC communities,” Kumar said.
During the debate, Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi demanded a caste-based census and said such an exercise is needed because the quota for backward classes has exceeded the determined limits in many States.
“In 30 States and Union Territories, it is more than 50 per cent. Similarly, while there is a 17 per cent quota for the backward classes in jobs, in reality, their percentage is higher,” the Congress MP said.
“This brings us to an important issue – a caste census. Why are you running away from a caste census? Your Chief Minister in Bihar, another Chief Minister in Odisha and your woman MP said you are going to do this. Why is the government keeping quiet today?” he asked and added that the reason why the government is quiet is that the reservation might increase from 22 per cent to 35 per cent.
DMK leader Tiruchi Siva said the Centre has brought this amendment only out of compulsion.
“In all these years of this government rule, this is the first ever time they have mentioned with a view to maintain the federal structure of this country. You do everything out of compulsion, not with an intention of upholding the rights of the States or Union Territories because federalism is not a suitable word to you. You always concentrate on one language, one nation, one religion, everything one, one, one…” he said.