Ahead of the 2019 General election and after getting a reality check in the polls from Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the Modi Government has cleared 10 percent quota in government jobs and education for the ‘economically weaker’ sections in general category. The proposed reservation is above the existing 50 percent reservation quota for the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs). The proposed reservation if passed will take the total reservation to 60 percent.
Eligibility for the quota
Any person who belongs to the upper caste including Brahmins, Rajputs, Marathas, Jats, with an annual income below Rs 8 lakh and does not own agricultural land more than five acres are eligible to get the benefits of the quota. The other criteria are that the person should not own a flat of 1,000 sq ft.
So far, in India, the reservation is only given to the citizen on the basis of social and educational backwardness. But it is not the first time when a reservation based on the economic criteria is proposed by the government. The first proposal came in 1991 by the PV Narasimha Rao government to give a 10 percent reservation but it was rejected by the apex court. Coming back to 2019, regardless of whether the bill Supreme Court passes or strikes down the decision, here’s a look at the times when the government attempted to introduce reservation for the economically backward but failed.
Narasimha Rao led Congress Government, 1991
In 1991, the Congress government headed by the Narasimha Rao was the first time ever a government came with the idea to grant reservation to those belonging to upper caste but are economically weaker. However, in 1992, the Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney case struck down the proposal stating separate reservation for economically weaker among forward castes is invalid.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee led BJP Government, 2003
In 2003, a year before the General Elections, the BJP Government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee appointed a Group of Ministers (GoM) to come up with ideas that can be implemented for the poor among the upper castes. The GoM included prominent leaders including the then Deputy PM LK Advani, Law Minister Arun Jaitley, Finance Minister Jaswant Singh, and Railway Minister Nitish Kumar. In January 2004, a task force was set up to work on the criteria for the reservation for the economically backward section. But nothing came up and there are no records on submission of any reports submitted by the task force. End result? The Congress-led UPA-I took over the BJP government in the 2004 general election.
Manmohan Singh led Congress Government (2006 – 2013)
In 2006, the Congress-led UPA 1 government-appointed commission to study separate reservation for economically backward people from the upper castes. The government led by Manmohan Singh set up a commission to suggest criteria for economically backward classes and come up with welfare measures. The commission submitted the report in 2010, when the UPA – II was in power,s suggesting to carve out a category that would provide the economically backward classes the same benefits of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs). However, the proposal was discussed in 2013, a year before the 2014 General Elections but was put on hold as it would need a constitutional amendment to get around the apex court’s 50 percent cap for quotas.