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Rajya Sabha passes reservation bill

Rajya Sabha passes the Bill to provide reservation to students from the OBCs, SCs and STs, reports Rahul Singh.

india Updated: Dec 18, 2006 21:21 IST

The Rajya Sabha on Monday passed the Bill to provide reservation to students from the other backward classes (OBCs), scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs) in centrally aided higher-education institutions.

The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Bill, 2006 provides for 27 per cent reservation for the OBCs, 15 per cent for SCs and 7.5 per cent for STs. Strident in their criticism of the Bill, the BJP, Shiv Sena and a few independent MPs launched an onslaught on the government over the reservations issue saying that it would create more divisions in society and the `creamy layer' of the OBCs stood to gain the most.

The Bill, passed by the Lok Sabha last week, has not excluded the `creamy layer' from among the beneficiaries, despite the recommendation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for HRD. The panel had suggested that 'creamy' students should be enrolled only if there were reserved seats left over after giving priority to the genuinely poor among the OBCs.

Supporters of the Bill sang paeans to HRD minister Arjun Singh but they had their own grouse. They expressed regret that the quota of 27 per cent was not commensurate with the growth in population, the reservation was to be implemented in a staggered manner and institutes of excellence had been kept out of the purview of the Bill.

The pro-reservationists urged the government to extend the provisions of the Bill to unaided private institutions as well. Arjun Singh said due to practical problems, the Bill's implementation would be staggered over three years. He announced that a new Bill was being drafted for quotas in private institutions and it would be introduced in the House after all formalities were completed. The minister said it was not possible to extend the provisions to minority educational institutions, as that would require a Constitutional amendment.

AIADMK's PG Narayanan called for providing 50 per cent reservation to OBCs even if it required a Constitutional amendment to render the Supreme Court's ceiling ineffective. RJD's Ram Deo Bhandari also emphasised that the quota needed to be raised beyond 27 per cent. The Bill was opposed tooth and nail by MPs like Rahul Bajaj and Chandra Mitra. Bajaj said, "In the globalised world today, there are no entitlements. Everything has to be earned. By having 50 per cent of our people who do not earn their place we may be creating a pool of people who do not need to compete hard."

Mitra said the Bill served to illustrate that the political class had failed to uplift the backward and it was not resorting to shortcuts. "Ambedkar described quotas as crutches. He was in favour of scrapping reservations after 10 years," Mitra said, urging the government to de-reserve categories after they had crossed the "line of deprivation."

The BJP pressed two amendments to the Bill to include minority educational institutions and define OBCs as "socially, educationally and economically backward classes" in place of merely "socially and economically backward." The amendments were rejected by a division vote, with 91 MPs opposing and 24 supporting the BJP.