However, the bill which was passed by a special session of the assembly, came with the caveat that “the Act shall take effect after it is included in the ninth schedule of the Constitution of India”. While the new law was greeted by celebratory crowds, critics lashed out at it as a “political gimmick” by the beleaguered Hemant Soren government facing multiple charges and threats.
In the proposed reservation, local people belonging to the Scheduled Caste (SC) community will get a quota of 12 per cent, Scheduled Tribes 28 per cent, extremely backward classes (EBCs) 15 per cent, Other Backward Communities (OBCs) 12 per cent and EWS, barring those from the other reserved categories, 10 per cent.
At present the STs enjoy 26 per cent reservation in Jharkhand, while SCs have a 10 per cent quota and OBCs 14 per cent. The reservation for EWS by Jharkhand comes on the heels of a Supreme Court verdict given earlier this week upholding the validity of the reservation to the economically weaker sections (EWS).
Increasing reservation was an electoral promise of all mainstream parties in 2019, including the ruling UPA allies JMM, Congress and RJD.
The passage of the legislation was greeted with celebrations by people in the state capital Ranchi and in districts. They burst crackers, applied ‘ gulal’ (colours) on each other, distributed sweets and danced to the rhythm of ‘dhol’ and ‘nagara’ (different types of drums).
The bill was passed amid protests by BJP MLAs who demanded a debate on it and accused the JMM-led government of “unnecessary haste” in order to gain political mileage by raking up a sensitive issue.
Proposals for sending the bill for vetting to the Assembly select committee was rejected.
The legislation was passed in the midst of the prevailing political crisis in Jharkhand over Enforcement Directorate’s summons to Chief Minister Hemant Soren and uncertainty over his continuance as an MLA.
It is being viewed as a political fightback by Soren aimed at strengthening mass support in view of the coming Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.
Soren termed the legislation as a “suraksha kavach” (safety shield) for the state’s people who, he said, have “foiled the conspiracies of the opposition”.
The UPA government has restored the previous 27 per cent quota to OBCs that was slashed to 14 per cent by the previous BJP regime, he said.
“The reins of the state went to such people who abolished the 27 per cent reservation. They played with the fate of the local youth. During the last 20 years they have committed atrocities on local people. Now the peoples’ hopes have been rekindled and conspiracy by the opposition has been exposed,” the chief minister said.
Criticising the hasty passage of the bill, the saffron party said nothing concrete will happen till the Centre gives its assent on it.
It said that had the state government really wanted to do something it could have brought a circular to implement it and fill up lakhs of vacancies.
BJP legislator Bhanu Pratap Shahi accused the ruling JMM-led coalition of passing the bill in haste without following the norms.
He said that some states like Karnataka have enhanced reservation while following the Supreme Court guidelines that includes formation of a commission and caste-based survey.
Another BJP lawmaker, Ramchandra Chandravanshi termed the Bill a “political gimmick” saying it should have been implemented and then sent to the Centre for inclusion in the ninth schedule of Constituion.
AJSU Party’s Lamodar Mahto brought an amendment to increase the reservations to 90 per cent citing a recommendation by the Backward Commission and others which was rejected.
He said that instead of sending the legislation for incorporation in the ninth schedule, it should have been implemented which would have benefitted people as lakhs of vacancies are to be announced.
In 1992 in the Indra Sawhney versus Union of India case, the Supreme Court had ruled that reservation cannot exceed 50 per cent.
The next year the Tamil Nadu Assembly passed the Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and Appointments or Posts in the Services under the State) Act 1993, now known as the Tamil Nadu Act 1994 to keep its reservation limit intact at 69 per cent.
The then chief minister J Jayalalithaa had led a delegation to Delhi and demanded the central leadership clear the bill, which resulted in the then president Shankar Dayal Sharma giving his assent to the bill within a month. PTI SAN/NAM KK JRC JRC