PMO spanner in move to raise Schedule Caste quota

May 27th, 2008 - 2:00 pm ICT by admin  

By Rajeev Ranjan Roy
New Delhi, May 27 (IANS) The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has questioned the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment’s proposal to increase quotas for the Scheduled Castes (SC) in jobs and academic institutions in proportion to their population. According to well-placed government sources, the ministry headed by Meira Kumar had sent a plan to the PMO to revise quotas for SCs to 16.2 percent against the 15 percent currently fixed for them.

At present, there is a 15 percent quota in government jobs and academic institutions for SCs, 7.5 percent for Scheduled Tribes (ST) and 27 percent for other backward classes (OBC), totalling 49.5 percent against the 50 percent ceiling set by the apex court while clearing job reservation for OBC in 1993.

“The SC population as per Census 2001 stands at 16.2 percent, so the ministry had sent a proposal to the PMO to look into and place it before the cabinet for discussion and approval. It is back with us. The PMO has sent certain queries,” a senior official in the ministry, requesting anonymity, told IANS.

He said the PMO has sought clarification on how the proposal could be implemented in view of the Supreme Court ruling that the quota should not cross the 50 percent ceiling, and similar demands could be raised by the ST and OBC as well.

“As advised by the PMO, the ministry will now send a fresh note to the cabinet secretariat. There is a suggestion from the PMO to set up a committee of secretaries to look into different matters related to the issue. It will now take some time before the move bears any fruits,” said the official.

The official refused to specify when the PMO sent back the ministry’s proposal, saying: “Not long back.”

Ministry officials feel the only way to get quota for SC in proportion to their population is through a constitutional amendment.

“Thereafter the government will have to seek the vacation of the apex court ceiling of 50 percent. It is indeed a difficult proposition but is very much within the government’s purview. Such a decision will require tremendous political will,” they admitted.

They also said that quota could not only be increased for SC, and a similar demand would pour in for ST and OBC. As per Census 2001, ST account for 8.2 percent of the country’s total population, while there is no official figure about OBC population.

The commission headed by B.P. Mandal had estimated OBC population at around 52 percent, while the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) put their population at around 42 percent.

The proponents of the move in the ministry, however, have a different logic. They say that there is already a quota as high as 67 percent in Tamil Nadu, and there can be enhanced quota in central government services.

“The government needs to increase quota by just two and a half percent to accommodate both SC and ST, taking overall quota figure to 52 percent,” an official said.

Notwithstanding the quota, the share of SC, ST and OBC in central government services is not in proportion to the percentage of reservation allocated to them.

OBC account for only 4.53 percent of central government services against 17.05 percent of SC, and 6.54 percent of ST as on Jan 1, 2004, says the latest figures available with the government’s Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).

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