A crucial bill to provide constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes was passed unanimously by the Lok Sabha today with over two-third majority.
The Lok Sabha passed the Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill 2017, superseding the amendments by the Rajya Sabha, with all 406 present voting in favour after an almost five-hour debate in which more than 30 members participated.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was present during the voting, congratulated Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot for successfully piloting the bill.
During the debate on the Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill 2017, several members demanded a census to ascertain the population of other backward classes (OBCs) while some others pressed for making public the socio-economic survey of 2014.
Over two-thirds majority voted in favour of the bill, which is a necessity for amending the Constitution. The amendments moved by BJD’s Bhratruhari Mahtab were however rejected by 302 voting against it and 84 in favour.
Replying to the debate, Gehlot said the government was committed to the upliftment of the downtrodden and backward classes of the society.
He said the Union Cabinet had yesterday decided to amend the SC/ST Act to further strengthen the law to protect their rights.
Citing various other measures taken by the government in this regard, he said a committee under Justice G Rohini has been set up to examine sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes.
After the Lok Sabha had on April 10 last year passed the legislation, it was then sent to the Rajya Sabha. On July 31 last year, the Upper House passed the bill after incorporating certain amendments moved by the Opposition and returned it to the Lok Sabha for ratification of the amendments.
The bill provides for grant of constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) on par with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes.
It states that the President may specify the socially and educationally backward classes in the various states and union territories. He may do this in consultation with the Governor of the concerned state.
The duties of the NCBC include investigating and monitoring how safeguards provided to the backward classes under the Constitution and other laws are being implemented and probe specific complaints regarding violation of rights.
Under this measure, the NCBC will have the powers of a civil court while probing any complaint.
Participating in the debate, Kalyan Banerjee (TMC) supported the measure and said the Chairman and the Vice Chairman of the National Commission for Backward Classes should be apppoinred from OBC category.
“The Commission should function in true spirit for betterment of OBCs who deserve help and assistance,” he said, adding that the number of scholarships given to OBC students had gone down in the recent times and should be increased.
Bhartruhari Mahtab (BJD) said initially when the Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha, the government with its “brute majority” trampled all the amendments moved by the opposition.
But in the Rajya Sabha, the government had to accept the amendments and hence the Bill has come up for discussion again in the Lok Sabha.
He said the government has accepted two of the amendments moved by him, including appointing one woman member in the NCBC and giving power to state governments to frame policies
for betterment of the OBCs.
Arvind Sawant (Shiv Sena) asked the Centre to intervene in the Maratha quota stir in Maharashtra, saying the state government, even after giving assurance, had not acted on its promise.
Ram Mohan Naidu Kinjarapu (TDP) said even after 70 years of independence, “we still don’t have idea of how much is OBC population in the country.” He also demanded that caste based census should be done right now.
“Unless you can fill 27 per cent posts of OBCs in jobs, creamy layer among the OBCs should not be excluded from taking benefit of reservation,” the TDP MP said while asking the government to establish a separate ministry for OBC welfare.
Nityanand Rai (BJP) lamented that while 27 per cent seats in government jobs was reserved for OBCs, “we are still not able to fill more than 11 per cent posts reserved for OBCs.” K Geeta (YSR Congress) said those belonging to creamy layers in OBC community were a hurdle to their own community.
Prahlad Singh Patel (BJP) wondered when we are not able to fill 27 per cent post reserved for OBCs, “why are we talking about creamy layer.”
Dharmendra Yadav (Samajwadi Party) questioned the number of people from the OBC communities appointed as chief ministers and governors by the BJP. He also raised questions about the low number of bureaucrats from SC/ST communities in higher ranks of bureucracy.
Madhukar Kukde (NCP) demanded that the creamy layer cap for OBC reservation should be done away with. He said the Patidars in Gujarat, Marathas in Maharashtra and Jats in north India should be given reservation without hurting the existing system.
Jay Prakash Narayan Yadav (RJD) also said that no one should be added to the existing list of 27 per cent OBC quota, while Prem Singh Chandumajra (Shiromani Akali Dal) termed the legislation as historic.
Anupriya Patel (Apna Dal), Minister for State in the Health and Famil Welfare Ministry, slammed the opposition for stalling the bill in the Rajya Sabha, while Dushyant Chautala (INLD) welcomed the legislation, but added that the government has no data on castes.