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SC panel rejects quota exemption Bill, govt red-faced

The National Commission for Scheduled Castes has taken objection to a Bill, recently passed in Rajya Sabha, that exempts 47 top educational institutions from SC/ST faculty quotas above the level of assistant professors. Vikas Pathak reports.

india Updated: Feb 14, 2009 01:15 IST
Vikas Pathak
Vikas Pathak
Hindustan Times

In a major embarrassment to the government, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes has taken objection to a Bill, recently passed in Rajya Sabha, that exempts 47 top educational institutions from SC/ST faculty quotas above the level of assistant professors. Furthermore, the SC MPs Forum headed by Congress MP Radhakant Nayak has decided to demand amendments to the Bill.

“The forum is taking up the matter with the government. We will meet the UPA chairperson and Prime Minster,” Nayak said. About 100 SC MPs met here on Friday to discuss the matter.

Ironically, Nayak is a member of the Rajya Sabha that passed the Bill. He said he wasn’t aware of some of the objectionable clauses when it was passed. The SC/ST (Reservation in Posts and Services) Bill, 2008 was tabled in December by the DoPT.

Friday also saw SC commission chairman Buta Singh meet President Pratibha Patil and Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee to express displeasure over the Bill.

The Bill has become a major embarrassment for the government ahead of Lok Sabha polls. Many Dalit organizations have criticised SC/ST MPs for letting it pass. Insiders, however, claim the Bill took even these MPs by surprise. The Bill was allegedly rushed through Cabinet and Rajya Sabha under pressure from top institutions like the IITs — who protested against “merit-dilution” — without consulting the SC commission.

With elections approaching — and Dalits being one of the prime vote bases for the Congress — the going has got tough. Dalit MPs, particularly, are scared of facing the wrath of their constituency.

Buta Singh has raised objections to the Bill. The first: non-consultation of the commission is a direct violation of Article 338(9), which mandates the Centre to consult the panel before taking any policy decision impacting SCs.

He demanded removal of clause 4 pertaining to exemption from reservations. Furthermore, he wants violation of reservation provisions to be made punishable by imprisonment of six months to a year, or a fine of Rs 25,000, or both. The existent Bill just calls for disciplinary action without being specific. Singh has also pointed out that the Bill does not specify the percentage of SC/ST quotas to be provided under clause 3, and insisted it should specify 15 per cent SC and 7.5 per cent ST reservation.

First Published: Feb 14, 2009 01:13 IST