NEW DELHI: Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday told the Rajya Sabha that 10 per cent reservation to poor in the general category will be applicable to jobs in both central and state governments.
Justifying the timing of the amendment bill to the Constitution, Prasad indicated that the government will take more welfare steps for the people before elections.
Intervening in the debate on The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Fourth Amendment) Bill, he said the legislation gives powers to the states to decide on the economic criteria for defining the beneficaries.
The Bill has fixed an annual income of less than Rs 8 lakh and not owning more than five acres of agricultural land as criteria for defining economically weaker section in the general category for availing of the reservation in educational institutions as well as government jobs.
The 10 per cent reservation will be over and above the reservation for SC/STs and OBCs.
It does not provide for quota for those owning a flat of 1000 square feet or more, land of 100 sq yards in notified municipality area and 200 yards in non-notified area.
Prasad, however, said the states will be free to fix criteria for defining the economically weaker sections in the general category who can avail of reservation.
A state, for instance, can fix annual income of Rs 5 lakh as the criteria for availing of the reservation in jobs and educational institutions.
The Constitution will give the states powers to fix that, he said.
Prasad, however, asserted that the existing reservation for SC and ST categories will continue.
On the timing of the bill, the Minister said, "We have come late. Better late than never. Parliament is scripting history. If you are supporting, support wholeheartedly. Why ifs and buts."
He also attacked the Congress party for failing to implement the Major General S R Sinho Committee's report that suggested reservation for economically weaker section (EWS).
"The report of Sinho Committee was submitted on July 22, 2010. Who had stopped you from implementing at that time? ... you did not bring it (bill) at that time.. We bought it late. We showed courage for the development of the country," he said.
The Minister also said that it is a reality that there are poor in the forward caste and some are even working as rickshaw pullers.
Taking an analogy of cricket, Prasad said, "In cricket, slog overs have sixers. This is the first sixer. There will be more sixers. Who will lose (general election), the public will decide. We will have huge majority under the leadership of Modi."
Participating in the debate, Congress leader and noted lawyer Kapil Sibal supported the bill but expressed concern over the way the bill is being passed in a haste in a day.
He, however, warned that the bill will have to face three-four major hurdles before implementation.
Sibal sought to know if the government has collected any demographic data on EWS and what would happen in states where dalits and OBCs are in majority.
He also sought to know if this bill would stand scrutiny of the nine-member bench of Supreme Court that stuck down 10 per cent reservation to EWS while delivering the Mandal judgement.
"How many people have 5 acres of land, 100 yard plot, 1,000 sq ft house. Have you collected any data? It took 10 years to implement the Mandal Commission report (on reservation to SC/ST). Now you want to pass the bill in a day without any data," he said.
"This is like demonetisation. This another jumla. Kamal ka amla, ek aur jumla," he said.
He claimed that the central government has managed to create only 45,000 jobs annually in the last five years. "If you give 10 per cent reservation, you will give 4,500 jobs. You brought this bill to benefit 4,500 people?"
Sibal further said that breaching the 50 per cent reservation cap is a "violation" at a time when similar cases are pending in the court.
He also demanded the government disclose the legal expert who has given the opinion to the bill.
"They did not apply their mind and without refering to a select committee, they are bringing the bill," he said.
Sibal hit out at the ruling NDA for sending Gujarat leader Hardik Patel to jail for demanding reservation for EWS of pattedars.
While supporting the bill, C M Ramesh (TDP) said the legistation has been brought in the last days of the government and several ministers too did not know it was coming.
Naresh Gujral of NDA constitutent SAD suggested the government needed to take more pragmatic steps to boost job opportunities.
In his intervention, Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan expressed hope the law for reservation above 50 per cent will stand legal scrutiny.
NCP member Praful Patel said the government should have gone in greater detail beforing bringing the quota bill.
He said if the concerns and issued raised here are not addressed, providing quota to upper caste poor will remain a "still born baby" and "non starter".