By Abdul Bari Masoud
Congress may now push for quota within quota for Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), and Other Backward Communities (OBC) in the proposed bill, making a U-turn on the contentious subject of women’s 33 percent reservation in parliament and legislatures. While minorities are noticeably absent from the proposal emerging from the Congress party’s Social Justice and Empowerment group here at the three-day Nav Sankalp Chintan Shivir being held from May 13 to 15.
However, the party is not hesitant in giving the minorities due representation in its organisational structure along with SC and ST and OBCs as it suggests to enhance these groups representation upto 50 percent on the party structure from local to national level.
The social justice committee, led by Salman Khurshid, made a major recommendation: there should be a debate within the party about backward community reservation in the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. Earlier party was opposed to any quota for OBCs and minorities in the women bill.
After additional study, the panel would recommend a 50% reservation for them in various organisational posts throughout the party at all levels.
The AICC constituted the social justice committee as one of six committees to make recommendations to the party during the Nav Sankalp Shivir, which was now taking place in the lake city of Udaipur.
The committee has also come to the conclusion that the party should go for a 33 percent reservation permitting “quota within quota” for women.
In 2010, the Rajya Sabha passed a Bill calling for 33 percent reservation for women, but it was defeated in the Lok Sabha due to opposition from the UPA government’s coalition partners.
Khurshid noted that as time passed and society changed, the committee considered adopting a “quota inside quota” in the party.
When this correspondent asked why the minorities left out in the women bill proposal , he said the panel will ponder on this as the deliberations are still going on.
The committee recommended a caste-based census of OBCs and the establishment of a social justice advisory council within the party to supervise issues affecting the underprivileged.
According to him, such a census will aid in the creation of a crucial database for the party.
K Raju, a member of the committee, stated that the development of a social justice advisory council would help the party deal with numerous issues affecting SCs, STs, OBCs, and minorities, as well as provide such communities a boost.
After much consideration, he added, the committee recommended organisational improvements to benefit the SC, ST, OBC, and minorities, including a recommendation to enhance their involvement from 20% to 50%.
This would give a fillip to those hailing from backward communities who would then be able to participate in the organisational affairs effectively.
These categories would so adequately reflect the party at the block, district, state, and national levels, and would aid in the strengthening of the party within the categories.
The committee recommends that the topic of giving reservation for SCs, STs, and OBCs in the private sector be raised. It appears that giving them reservations in government positions is insufficient.
As part of the social justice process, the committee also recommended that transgender and disabled people be represented.
According to Salman Khurshid, after much thinking, it was decided that the social justice and empowerment process should be strengthened in order to benefit society as a whole.
Raju said the panel has looked at three broad areas. First, what are the organizational reforms, party has to embark upon so as to assure the weaker sections that the party is committed to SC/ST/OBC/Minorities.
We have proposed a social justice advisory council to the Congress President which will closely examine what are all the social justice related issues, Party has to focus on. What kind of policies we need to take, what kind of decisions we need to take in order to win the confidence of SC/ST/OBC/Minorities.
Number two, the Congress constitution now provides for 20 per cent reservation for SC/ST/OBC/Minorities. The group has discussed and decided that in the short run, we must step up this to 50 per cent reservation in all the Congress Committees starting with booth committees, block committees, district committees, PCC and the CWC, representation for SC/ST/OBC/Minorities.
Thirdly, the group has identified that there are many sub castes within the Schedule Caste, many sub castes within the Schedule Tribes, and the party needs to focus on those sub castes which have not so far been represented in the organization or in the government and give justice to them.
The panel has deliberated at length on the issue relating to caste-based census of OBCs and all other communities. It strongly recommended that the party has to demand and express its commitment for the caste-based census, because in the year 2011 itself, the UPA government has taken up social economic caste census.
Attacking the Modi government for its anti- Dalit policies, Raju said the sub plan for SC and St has been scrapped by the government which was introduced by Indira Gandhi. The panel has recommended a central legislation on Schedule Caste sub plan and Tribal sub plan.
Finally, because public sector jobs are shrinking, one of the significant policies the committee has studied, analysed, and is in the process of advocating is reservations in the private sector for SC/ST/OBCs. Job opportunities in the public sector are being transformed to contract work. Government-owned businesses are being shuttered. As a result, job opportunities for SC/ST/OBCs in the government sector are diminishing. As a result, the Congress Party believes that now is the time to raise our voices and demand reservations for SC/ST/OBCs in the private sector, as well as a policy to provide for OBC reservations in the legislature and Parliament.