The Bengal cabinet on Tuesday approved 10% reservation for economically weaker sections in the general category in state government jobs and educational institutions.
The state government now has 48% reservation: 22% for Scheduled Castes, 6% for Scheduled Tribes, 17% for Other Backward Classes and 3% for persons with disabilities; this is within the limit of the 1992 Supreme Court order capping reservations at 50%. The Mamata Banerjee government’s decision of adding a 10% quota for economically weaker sections now takes this beyond the SC cap.
State government officials said after the cabinet announcement that the new quota would block 10% of the 52% unreserved posts (or seats in educational institutions) for economically weaker sections, implying that the new reservation would amount to 5.2% of the total. So the total proposed reserved berths would go up to 53.2% (48% plus 5.2%), they explained.
This would make Bengal the fourth state after Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Telangana to cross the 50% reservation cap. A section of legal experts cited a Supreme Court order of July 2010 to suggest that states could exceed the 50% limit provided they had solid scientific data to justify the increase.
The Bengal government’s decision comes six months after PM Narendra Modi announced a similar 10% quota for the economically backward this January. Modi said his government would go in for a constitutional amendment to implement the decision, prompting the Trinamool Congress to question its constitutional and legal validity.
State parliamentary affairs minister Partha Chatterjee, while announcing Tuesday’s decision, said Bengal’s decision was different from the Modi government’s. “The 10% reservation for economically weaker sections will not apply to those coming within the reserved categories,” Chatterjee said.
CM Banerjee had earlier provided for OBC reservation in educational institutions without disturbing the other reserved categories’ quota. “So, if there were 30 seats in a Physics department in a college, the government increased the seats to 38 and then introduced the reservation for OBCs. So the new reservation did not affect those applying under the general category,” a senior Bengal government official explained. The state government also has the power to revise the percentages of reservation in a manner that ensures the overall reservation percentage does not exceed 50%.
The Congress and the Left have welcomed the state cabinet decision. “We have been demanding this for some time. It is better late than never,” assembly opposition leader Abdul Mannan said. Left Front leader Sujan Chakrabarty hailed the decision: “The government should effect the gazette notification as soon as possible so that poor students under the general category can avail of this it during admissions.”
Source: Times of India