The government today tabled in the Lok Sabha the crucial OBC bill, proposing to negate the amendments proposed by the Rajya Sabha in the last session, with the ruling BJP asserting that it underscored the government's commitment to empower backward classes.
The bill, which proposes constitutional status for the OBC commission, carries most of the provisions it had in its original version passed by the Lok Sabha before the opposition got amendments passed in the Upper House in the last session.
However, the discussion on the Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill 2017 had an abrupt end due to heated exchanges between union minister Giriraj Singh and TMC member Kalyan Banerjee, which led Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to adjourn the House till tomorrow.
Singh objected to Banerjee's accusation that the BJP of not taking the views of other parties on the matter and suggested that the OBCs had opposed it in the Gujarat polls.
A BJP member accused Banerjee of giving wrong information while Singh alleged that the TMC member had called him names.
Rejecting the charge, Banerjee said the opposition was being threatened, following which a din erupted in the House leading to its adjournment.
Earlier, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot tabled the bill which, he said, seeks to reject the amendments inserted in the original bill by the Rajya Sabha.
The bill also says that the proposed National Commission for Backward Classes will give its report concerning a state to the state government and not to the Governor as said in the original bill passed by the Lok Sabha in the Monsoon Session.
Gehlot said opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha had demanded that the Act should make provisions for a woman and a member from minority communities in the commission.
He said he had agreed to make provision for including a woman in the commission in the rules, which will guide its functioning, but there was no need for a quota for minority communities as a Minority Commission already exists.
The opposition then moved an amendment to delete the Clause 3, which dealt with its composition, and it was carried by the Rajya Sabha, he said, proposing to restore the clause.
Rajiv Satav (Congress) said there should be a separate ministry to deal with issues involving OBCs, which make up for over 52 per cent of population, and demanded that there should be more than five members in the commission to make it more representative.
The government should adopt good suggestions given by the opposition parties, he said.
Ganesh Singh (BJP) said the government has proved that it was for empowering the OBCs and the bill underscored this commitment. He asked Gehlot to make the census data public so that population of different OBC communities could be known.
He claimed that despite a quota for OBCs, many government institutions were not executing it and gave the example of AIIMS in Patna. In many places, OBC candidates who qualify on the basis of their merit are put in the reserved category.
Singh also sought removal of creamy layer, which bars those members of backward classes whose family income is above a stipulated limit, in reservation. Instead, if somebody has benefitted from reservation once, should not get its benefit again, he said.
Banerjee hit out at the BJP, saying it should not claim that it was the party which gave all benefits to OBCs and accused its members of making election speeches.
He, however, welcomed the new provision that requires the commission to give its report to the state government concerned and not to the Governor, saying "good sense" has prevailed.
The discussion on the legislation remained inconclusive as the House was adjourned for the day.