The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) is making a fresh bid to get quotas in government jobs and institutions for Dalit Hindus who converted to Islam, Christianity or any other religion.
The commission has sent the fresh recommendation to the social justice and empowerment ministry led by Meira Kumar.
"We have sent our recommendation, and hope the government will act fast," Mahendra Boddha, a senior NCSC member, told IANS.
Maintaining the earlier stand that the current 15 per cent share of SCs in government jobs and institutions should not be disturbed, the commission has said: "The element of reservation for Dalit Muslims and Christians should be determined by the government keeping in view their population."
The issue of quota for Dalit Hindu converts was raked up when the Justice Rangnath Mishra-led National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (NCRLM) favoured the inclusion of Dalit converts into the SC fold, thereby giving them the benefits of quotas. The commission submitted its report in May 2007.
"SCs do not get socially, economically and educationally uplifted when they switch over to other faiths. There is no justification in denying quotas to them. Which is why we have re-recommended separate quotas for them as discussed and approved by the commission in the last meeting in December 2007," Boddha said.
The earlier commission headed by Suraj Bhan of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had rejected the idea, saying the constitution does not allow quotas along religious lines.
"The issue was never taken up for discussion during the previous government at the centre," a commission official, requesting anonymity, said.
What appears to have forced the SC panel to recommend quotas for Dalit converts is the existing provision of reservation for Scheduled Tribe (ST) converts.
"How come an ST convert remains entitled for quota, but not his SC counterpart? It is a serious dichotomy in our system," said Boddha.
A senior official in the social justice and empowerment ministry said the recommendation of NCSC has been forwarded to the Prime Minister's Office. "The ministry approves of the commission's view. The centre needs to amend the constitution and defreeze the Supreme Court ceiling to have only 50 percent quota," he said.
Justice Mishra in his report has recommended a sub-quota of 8.4 per cent for minorities within 27 per cent other backward caste quota, and reservation to Dalit minorities by including such converts under Scheduled Caste category within the 15 percent SC quota.
The commission has suggested an internal break-up of 8.4 per cent sub-quota with an internal break-up of six percent for Muslims and 2.4 per cent for other minorities.