Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the Constitution (127th Amendment) Bill 2021 after a thaw in the logjam as Opposition parties backed the legislation but demanded the removal of the 50 per cent cap on reservation and many of them also called for a caste-based census.
The Bill aims to restore the power that allowed the states and Union Territories (UTs) to make their own Other Backward Class (OBC) list. It was demanded by a number of regional parties and even the ruling party's own OBC leaders.
This is the only Bill that has been passed by the Lower House during the ongoing Monsoon Session after a proper discussion.
Replying to the debate, Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, Virendra Kumar, thanked all the members who participated in the debate.
He also said that it is good to know that the majority of the members are in favour of the Bill.
Noting that the Maratha reservation is a state subject, Kumar said, "With this Bill, we have empowered the Maharashtra government to implement the quota."
He said that the government is also of the view that a 50 per cent ceiling should be discussed, but one should also look at the judicial scrutiny, as he requested all the members to pass the Bill.
Earlier on Tuesday, when the House resumed at 12 noon after the first adjournment, the Speaker asked Kumar to table the Bill and initiated the debate.
Listing out the steps taken by the government for the welfare of OBCs, the minister said that this amendment will restore the power of the state governments with respect to the state list of OBCs and explained the benefits which will be given to these communities.
"In medical colleges, about 4,000 more seats would be available now for OBC students," he said.
Noting that this Bill was brought to correct the earlier wrongdoings of the government, Congress floor leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that his party is supporting also because any constitutional amendment bill needs the support of the three-fourth members.
"The government repeatedly blames us for stalling the Parliament, but this is not correct. We only wanted to discuss the Pegasus snooping case and that is why we are demonstrating," he said.
Chowdhury further said that in 2018, the rights of the states were taken away by the Centre through a constitutional amendment. He also said that many states want to increase the ceiling of reservation.
He cited the example of Tamil Nadu where it is 69 per cent despite the 50 per cent ceiling.
Raising the issue of Maratha reservation, he requested the Union government to consider Maharashtra's demands.
"You realised that your actions were incorrect. Now, in the light of polls in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, you have decided to do all this... Still, we support the amendment," he said, adding that the 50 per cent ceiling should also be removed.
Speaking on the Bill, BJP lawmaker Sanghamitra Maurya charged the Congress for bringing NEET in a bid to cancel the reservation.
"The NEET is based on NCERT syllabus and the poor do not read this syllabus," she alleged.
DMK MP T.R. Baalu, while supporting the Bill, also raised the issue of removing the ceiling and recalled the contribution of Tamil Nadu leaders Natasen, Pitti Thyagarajan, Periyar, Anna and others.
He also recalled the towering contribution of late M. Karunanidhi, who spearheaded cooperative federalism.
Supporting the Bill, Trinamool Congress lawmaker Sudip Bandhopadhyay said that if the government had agreed to debate the alleged snooping incidents, the Parliament would have functioned smoothly like now.
Shiv Sena MP Vinayak Raut said that the Marathas and Gurjars deserve reservation.
Meanwhile, Union minister Bhupendra Yadav reminded that the Congress was not able to implement the Kaka Kalelkar Commission's reccomendations.
"The Congress didn't bring reservation for the OBCs. It was the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government which increased the creamy layer limit," he said.
Yadav also said that the 102nd Amendment was brought in 2018, and the government's intent was that OBC lists are maintained both at the Central and state level.
The Central government did not want to take away the state government's power to maintain its own list of OBCs.
Janata Dal MP Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh also supported the Bill and said that the 102nd Constitution Amendment Act gave constitutional status to the National Commission of Backward Classes.
Lok Jan Shakti Party lawmaker Prince Raj recalled the contributions of the late Ram Vilas Paswan in implementing the Mandal Commission. He hoped that the reservation issues in Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat will end with this Bill.
Nationalist Congress Party MP Supriya Sule requested the government to consider removing the ceiling of quota.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) member Ritesh Pandey, while supporting the Bill, accused the government of double standards.
"Most jobs are contractual or private, where will you implement this reservation," he asked.
He also said that this Bill was brought to win the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh scheduled next year.
Other members like Akhilesh Yadav from Samajwadi Party, DMK's Dayanidhi Maran, Minister of State Anupiya Patel from Apna Dal, Harsimrat Kaur Badal from Akali Dal, Asaduddin Owaisi from AIMIM and others participated in the debate.
(With Inputs from IANS)