Parliament passes bill to extend SC/ST reservation in legislatures

PTI

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad speaks in the Rajya Sabha during the Winter Session of Parliament in New Delhi, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019.

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad speaks in the Rajya Sabha during the Winter Session of Parliament in New Delhi, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019.

Rajya Sabha on Thursday passed a Constitution amendment bill to extend reservation to SCs and STs in Lok Sabha and state assemblies by another 10 years.

Lok Sabha had passed the bill on December 10.

Reservation for members of Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), given for the past 70 years in Lok Sabha and state assemblies, is due to end on January 25, 2020.

The bill, which saw heated exchange between the treasury and opposition benches, was approved unanimously in Rajya Sabha.

Cutting across party lines Rajya Sabha members unanimously supported a Constitution amendment bill to extend reservation to SCs and STs in Lok Sabha and state assemblies by another 10 years, with the opposition seeking to extend the benefit to the Anglo-Indian community.

Moving the bill in the Upper House for consideration and passage, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that “all those who don’t come from the SC/ST communities have also extended help for their welfare”. “We have a large number of SC/ST members,” he said.

On Tuesday, the Lok Sabha had unanimously passed the bill even though the opposition had slammed the government for not giving the benefit to the Anglo-Indian community.

Lauding the efforts made for the welfare of deprived classes, Prasad took the name of BSP chief Mayawati and said she is working towards the welfare of these communities in her own way. He also remembered tribal freedom fighter and folk hero Birsa Munda.

On the Anglo-Indian community issue, he told the House that there are 296 members of the community in India.

Prasad said as per the 2011 Census, the SC population was 20.13 crore and ST population 10.45 crore which was 5.13 crore and 1.91 crore at the time of India’s independence.

The minster urged the members to pass the bill unanimously.

TMC MP Derek O’Brien supported the bill but as a member of the Anglo-India community expressed dismay over its benefit not being extended to his community.

O’Brien asked the government how is it nominating an Anglo-Indian to Lok Sabha when there are only 296 members of the community in the country.

He told the House that he is the only elected member from the community and it happened as TMC chief Mamata Banerjee does not believe in vote bank politics.

The government is humiliating SCs and STs in West Bengal.The state assembly had passed a bill for setting up a commission for them, but it has been held back by the Centre, O’Brien alleged.

On the Anglo-Indian community’s population, D Kupendra Reddy (JD-S) said the number of their population cited by the government need to be rechecked as there are 2,000 to 3,000 of them in Bengaluru and Mangaluru alone.

Supporting the bill Congress member P L Punia said,”Not a single word was mentioned in the statement of object of the bill. This is strange. I think that they should reconsider this. The situation has not changed for Anglo-Indians as well.”

Punia highlighted incidents of atrocities against SCs and STs. He also raised issues related to these communities such as those pertaining to inter-caste marriages and their marriage and funeral processions not being allowed to pass through some areas.

The Samajwadi Party, BSP, Biju Janata Dal, Janata Dal(U), AIADMK, DMK, AAP, JD(S), YSRCP, RJD and Left parties demanded that the government consider extending reservation to Anglo-Indians under the bill.

The Constitution (126th Amendment) Bill, 2019 seeks to extend reservation in the Lok Sabha and assemblies to people belonging to the SCs and STs for another 10 years. The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

Participating in the debate, SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav said, “I support the bill but not the exclusion of Anglo-Indians. If 2-3 Anglo-Indians come to power how will it affect the government. Please have a large heart.”

Anglo-Indians have contributed for the development of the country, he said, adding it was not right to do away with reservation for this community.

Expressing concern that atrocities against SCs and STs still continue in parts of the country, Yadav said reservation for this community should remain till there is a change in the mindset of the people.

“If reservation is not extended, those affluent with money and muscle power will not allow this community to come in LS and assemblies,” he added.

Sanjay Singh (AAP) said Dalit MPs are not treated well and cited the incident of Dalit MP A Narayanan from the Chitradurga in Karnataka not being allowed to enter a village to inaugurate a scheme.

“Give reservation to this community but ensure there a system to change the mindset. Set up a committee to find out why the number of Anglo-Indians are declining in the country,” he added.

Sarojini Hembram (BJD) said, “Their number is miniscule and they should get better representation in the society.”

While requesting the government to consider extending reservation for Anglo-Indians, Ramchandra Prasad Singh (JD-U) demanded the government to provide reservation in higher judiciary and set up an all-India Judiciary Service to protect the interests of SCs and STs.

KK Ragesh (CPI-M) supported the bill and sought to know the logic for discontinuing reservation for Anglo-Indians. “Diversity is the soul of this country. You are dividing it on communal basis. Request the minister to reconsider the decision,” he said.

“Yesterday, you were against Muslims and today, you are against Anglo-Indians. You are trying to divide the country,” DMK’s P Wilson said,

Manoj Kumar Jha (RJD) supporting the bill said “You have brought medicine and poison. I take medicine, not poison. We are treating Anglo-Indians in disdain. I urged the government to revisit.”
Binoy Viswam (CPI) said, “Nobody can object to this bill but there is a ‘but’. The concerns of Anglo-Indians are totally forgotten.”

Veer Singh (BSP) and V Vijaysai Reddy (YSRCP) also raised concerned while supporting the bill. BJP member K L Meena also participated in the debate on the bill.

(PTI)