Opposition in a quandary over quota
By Our Staff Correspondent
PATNA, MAY 31. The Opposition finds itself in the soup not knowing how to react, having been cornered by the ruling RJD-led combine over the new restructured reservation regime enforced in the State.
The RJD supremo, Mr. Laloo Prasad Yadav, has so engineered his reservation framework that the Opposition leaders are at a loss in formulating a strategy to attack him without causing harm to themselves. The Telecommunications Minister, Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan, is the latest to join the Opposition bandwagon in a desperate bid to make their own presence felt.
The Railway Minister and senior Samata Party leader, Mr. Nitish Kumar, declined to fan the controversy on the ground that it would only benefit Mr. Yadav, while the State unit of the CPI described the exercise as ``unbalanced''. Mr. Paswan rephrased it to accuse Mr. Yadav of being anti-Dalit.
Though he advocated that the Scheduled Castes should be given reservation proportionate to their population, Mr. Paswan did not consider as unjustified the increase in the quotas of the intermediary backward castes, the extremely backward castes and women belonging to the backward castes.
Mr. Paswan was of the opinion that the Supreme Court's ceiling on 50 per cent reservation was not binding and wanted the State Government to draft a fresh law and provide 69 per cent reservation as in Tamil Nadu and refer it to Parliament for inclusion in schedule nine of the Constitution.
He demanded that the State Government revise the reservation in jobs on the basis of the report of the recent census and not on the basis of the report of 1991. He alleged that even the present reallocation of 15 per cent did not match the population of the SC which comprise 15.47 per cent of the population of the State according to the 1991 census.
Mr. Paswan's arguments run basically on the same lines as that of the RJD Minister, Mr. Rammai Ram, who, however, was pacified by the RJD Chief that he would consider the demand for proportionate reservation on the basis of the 2001 census report in about a couple of months.
But the fact remains that the report pertaining to enumeration of the population of the SC is likely to take some more months for publication, going by the past experience. Hence the present structure is likely to be in existence for some time. Mr. Paswan, however, has not ruled out the possibility of the Lok Janshakti Party taking the matter to the court for striking down the State Government's order if the assurance given to Mr. Ram was breached.
After slashing down the reservation quota for the adivasis from 10 per cent to 1 per cent in the wake of the bifurcation of the State, the State Government redistributed the residual 9 per cent allocating 1 per cent to SC, 3 per cent to the intermediary backward castes, 4 per cent to the extremely backward castes and 1 per cent to women belonging to the backward castes. Following the reapportionment, the extremely backward castes enjoy the largest share with 18 per cent reservation, followed by the SC with 15, the intermediary backward castes 14, women belonging to the backward castes three and ST one.
One ostensible reason for Mr. Kumar staying away from the controversy is that the restructuring suits him well. For one the intermediary backward castes have benefited and, for another the extremely backwards too have gained substantially. Mr. Kumar, like Mr. Yadav, belongs to the intermediary backward caste.