Rajasthan Assembly passes Gurjar quota Bill

Jaipur, February 13: Rajasthan Assembly cleared a Bill that gives 5 per cent quota for five communities— Gurjar, Raika, Gadariya, Rebari, and Banjara—in government jobs and educational institutions after a debate that lasted roughly 1.5 hours.

The Bill, titled The Rajasthan Backward Classes (seats in state’s educational institutes, jobs and posts reservation) (Amendment) Bill, 2019, amends the Other Backward Classes category to accommodate the five castes and six sub-castes and was spurred by renewed Gurjar protests that even turned violent.

The law raises OBC reservation from 21 per cent quota to 26 per cent by amending the Section 3 and 4 of the existing Bill, Rajasthan Energy and Public Works Minister BD Kalla, who was entrusted with the Bill, said as he tabled it in the assembly.

The Gurjar Aarakashan Sangarsh Samiti (GASS), which is spearheading Gurjar protests that have now entered its sixth day, however remained unimpressed. GASS leader KS Bainsla said the protests would continue.

The statement of the objective and reasons for the Bill says the five castes were the most backward and required separate reservation in government jobs and educational institutes. “The House has urged the central government to make a constitutional amendment for the reservation,” Speaker CP Joshi said as the House passed the Bill.

Parliament recently approved 10 per cent reservation for what it calls Economically Weaker Sections of society. The ruling Congress also asked opposition Bharatiya Janata Party to support the Bill to ensure it doesn’t face legal challenges.

The House also passed a resolution to raise existing creamy layer income of OBC beneficiaries from Rs. 2.5 lakh to Rs. 8 lakh in compliance with the central government’s EWS Bill. The amendment Bill comes at a time when the Gurjars renewed their protest for reservation. The protests affected railway traffic and brought road transport to a standstill in several parts of the state.

Successive state governments have tried to introduce 5 per cent reservations for Gurjars, but these have failed to stand up to judicial scrutiny.

Buckling under pressure, the state government under former chief minister Vasundhara Raje tried to introduce 5 per cent reservation for the community under the new SBC category in 2006. However, Rajasthan High Court declared it unconstitutional because it crossed the Supreme Court’s 50 per cent ceiling for caste-based reservations.

Vasundhara Raje’s BJP government tried to reintroduce the reservation in 2008 with same result. Raje’s government tried to table another reservation Bill in 2015, but the court struck it down in December 2016.

Undeterred, Raje’s government introduced a Bill to raise the OBC quota from 21 per cent to 26 per cent, granting Gurjars an additional 5 per cent, but this was also struck down by the high court. Currently, the five communities are covered under 1 per cent reservation for MBCs.

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