InUth Decodes: The 10 Per Cent 'Forward Quota' Bill

All you need to know about the new law that'll provide reservation on the basis of 'economic backwardness'

Do you belong to the ‘General’ category?

Is your family’s annual income below Rs 8 lakh?

Is your house less than 1,000 square feet?

If so, then you might be eligible for Economically Weaker Sections quota

With the 2019 Lok Sabha elections around the corner, the Narendra Modi government proposed a move to provide reservation for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) of the society. The Union Cabinet recently introduced a bill to provide 10 percent reservation in higher education and jobs to the Economically Weaker Sections from the ‘General’ category.

What is the bill about?

It is a Constitution Amendment Bill that will provide reservation to the ‘unreserved category’. It basically means those who are from the ‘General’ category which also includes the upper castes. Not just Hindus, the bill will also cover those from the Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist and other minority communities. The idea is to introduce “economic backwardness” as a criteria for granting reservation.

Who will be eligible for reservation?

Only families with an annual income below Rs 8 lakh and those with farm land below 5 acre, house less than 1,000 square feet, or less than 100 yard plot in notified municipal area, plot below 200 yard in non-notified municipal area will qualify as ‘Economically Weaker Sections’ and thus will be eligible for reservation.

But will this affect the existing reservation for the lower castes?

No, it won’t. At present, there is an existing cap of 50 percent reservation for the Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBC). The proposed bill will provide an additional 10 percent quota to the existing 50 percent cap.

But there’s a catch. As of now, the total reservation is for 49.5 percent. If an additional 10 percent quota is included, then the total would go up to 59.5%. which will violate the 1992 Supreme Court judgement.

Interestingly, in 1991, PV Narasimha Rao govt had introduced a similar move. It was however struck down by the Supreme Court which said that ‘mere poverty’ cannot be the test of backwardness.

Does it mean that General category is now eligible for reservation?

Yes. The Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019 was passed by the Parliament after discussions and voting in both Houses. It was then sent to President Ram Nath Kovind for final approval after which it became a law.

A day after it became a law, Gujarat became the first state in India to implement it. Union Human Resource Development ministry also announced that the upper caste quota law will be applicable to all higher education institutions — private and government — from the upcoming academic session.

However, the law still faces legal scrutiny as it can be challenged in the court.

Why was there a need for such a Bill?

The demand for reservation for the poor from the ‘upper castes’ has been a long-standing one. Some have dubbed it a masterstroke by the government while others say it’s nothing more than a jumla (poll gmmick)

Of late, BJP has been concerned about voicing the cause of Dalits since it has always been accused of being an upper caste party. It appointed a Dalit President, supported reservation for Dalits in job promotions and is also planning a Bill to overturn the Supreme Court’s order on The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

The proposal to introduce reservation for general category is aimed to please BJP government’s upper caste voter base, keeping in mind the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

But where are the jobs?

In 2014, BJP, in its poll manifesto promised 25 crore jobs for the next ten years before being sworn to power. However, one of the biggest criticisms against the government has been its failure to keep up to its promises. That’s the reason why the proposed Bill fails to impress many as it doesn’t talk anything about employment. As per reports, overall employment rate in the country is on a decline. There are fewer vacancies in government jobs.
From leaders from the Opposition parties to the general public, everyone is asking the same question – But where are the jobs?