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Cabinet approves 10 per cent quota for poor upper castes

Cabinet approves 10 per cent quota for poor upper castes
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New Delhi: In a significant move aimed at mollifying upper caste voters, the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to amend the Constitution to provide 10 per cent reservation for 'economically backward' upper castes, popularly known as sawarn community.

According to highly placed sources, the proposed quota would apply to different sections of the upper caste belonging to economically weaker sections (EWS) in government services and admission to higher educational institutions.

The government is likely to introduce the legislation on Tuesday - the last day of the current leg of the winter session of Parliament, sources have confirmed.

The ongoing winter session of the Rajya Sabha has been extended by a day till Wednesday as the Centre hopes to push through a Constitutional amendment bill that will introduce a 10 per cent quota for economically weaker sections under the general category.

According to sources, the decision in this regard was taken during the Cabinet meeting, wherein no agenda was circulated. "During the discussion, the plan was supported by putting into account the recommendations of the report of the Commission for Economically Backward Classes, which was headed by SR Sinho," the sources said, adding that the Sinho panel had submitted its report in 2010 to the then Social Justice Minister Mukul Wasnik.

The move would necessitate amending Article 16 of the Constitution to provide for reservation for economically weaker sections. Unlike the quota for SC/ST/OBCs, caste is not going to be an eligibility criterion for reservation under this new provision. "It will not affect the OBC quota as the government would create extra posts and seats in educational institutions to 'accommodate' EWS quota beneficiaries," the sources said.

Those having income below Rs 8 lakh per annum (agricultural income and profession), possessing agricultural land below five acre and residential house below 1,000 square feet in rural areas would be able to avail the quota benefits under the EWS category, the sources said, adding that people with residential plot below 100 yards in notified municipality or residential plot below 200 yards in the non-notified municipal area in urban areas would get the benefits.

Leaders like BSP supremo Mayawati and the Republican Party of India chief Ramdas Athawale had also given similar suggestions on the earlier occasion. Notably, the Narasimha Rao government's attempt to provide for 10 per cent reservation to economically backward among other sections was nullified by the Supreme Court in the early 90s.

While questioning the timing of the move, the Congress described the government's decision as an "election gimmick". See P5

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