The Parliament on Wednesday approved an amendment to the Constitution to make economically-weaker sections of general category eligible for 10 per cent reservation in education and government jobs.
The Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, 2019 bill was approved by the Rajya Sabha with 165 votes in favour and seven against after a day-long debate, a day after the Lok Sabha passed it with 323 votes against 3 votes.
The reservation is meant for individuals belonging to economically-weaker sections whose annual earning is below Rs. 8 lakh and who possess less than 5 acres of agriculture land.
With this, the total percentage of reservation will go up to 60, surpassing the 50 per cent ceiling prescribed by the Supreme Court.
Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot, who piloted the politically-significant bill just months ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, said the legislation is aimed at uplifting the poor people.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in his intervention during the debate, said the measure will be applicable to both central and state government jobs.
He said the states will have the powers to decide on the economic criteria for identifying the beneficiaries.
Congress leader Anand Sharma said he was not opposed to the legislation but questioned why it had been brought suddenly just before the elections. "This legislation has been brought by a government which is a departure lounge of an airport," he said.
"You got a message, a small message in the Assembly elections in five states. Now you can expect a bigger message after a few months," he said, addressing the ruling benches while apparently referring to the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav also said that he was not opposing the bill. He, however, said the government, through the legislation, was not intending to benefit the poor sections of the upper castes but its "target is 2019 (Lok Sabha polls)."
Dubbing the bill as "ek aur jumla (one more empty slogan)", he asked the government whether it had any data regarding the prospective beneficiaries of the proposed law.
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