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Polls in the air, UPA brings Muslim quotas on the table

Polls in the air, UPA brings Muslim quotas on the table

Author: D K Singh & Jayanth Jacob
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: September 4, 2007
URL: http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=254666

Sensing the inevitability of mid-term elections sooner rather than later, the UPA government is believed to be working out reservation benefits for Muslims and Christians. The plan is to bring a "sub-quota" for Muslims within the existing 27 per cent OBC quota and to include Christian and Muslim Dalits in the Scheduled Castes List.

This comes along with fast-tracking a slew of measures: implementation of the Justice Rajinder Sachar committee's recommendations on minority welfare, legislation for unorganized sector workers and a more humane relief and rehabilitation policy.

Highly placed sources in the Congress have told The Indian Express that the government plans to issue an "executive order" to provide for a sub-quota for Muslims. Although a section of backward Muslims do get this benefit in the OBC category, their share in the reservation pie is minuscule. The Muslims, it is being argued, will stand to gain "substantially" in terms of their share if a sub-quota were to be created within the existing quota. And as they will be eligible for this benefit on the basis of social and educational backwardness, it will also circumvent existing court rulings against reservation on religious grounds.

Sources said the sub-categorisation of communities under OBC quota on the basis of relative backwardness had been recommended by the National Commission for Backward Classes over a decade ago but successive governments have been sitting on it.

Sources said the government is also working out ways to include Muslim and Christian Dalits in the SC List - a matter which is at present in the Supreme Court. The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 originally restricted the SC list to Hindus but was later opened to Sikhs and Buddhists; it still excludes Muslims and Christians from its purview.

Tahir Mahmoud, member of the National Commission on Religious and Linguistic Minorities headed by Justice Ranganath Mishra, told The Indian Express that this could not be done via an executive order.

"The First List (Constitution Order 1950) was made in the name of the President of India on behalf of the government of India. But it is provided in the Constitution that any amendment to this 1950 Order could be done by Parliament only," he said.

This comes shortly after the UPA announced a string of measures for minority welfare in Parliament last week in the wake of the Justice Rajendra Sachar committee's recommendations.

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