Friday, December 11, 2009

[ZESTCaste] Misra panel wants quotas for minorities

Posted: Fri, Dec 11 2009. 12:56 AM IST

Misra panel wants quotas for minorities

The National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities,
formed in March 2005, has proposed that 15% of posts in "all cadres
and grades under the Central and state governments" be earmarked for

Santosh K. Joy

New Delhi: A panel headed by former chief justice Ranganath Misra has
recommended wide-ranging affirmative action, including quotas for
Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities in educational
institutions, government jobs and employment programmes, and suggested
that the scheduled caste (SC) net be made "fully religion-neutral".

Also See Quota Conundrum (Graphics)

The National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities,
formed in March 2005, has proposed that 15% of posts in "all cadres
and grades under the Central and state governments" be earmarked for
such minorities in a report that one social scientist said could
trigger a backlash.

Within the 15%, the commission suggested that 10% be set aside for
Muslims, in line with their 73% share in the total minority
population. If there aren't enough Muslims to fill the 10%, the
vacancies can be filled by members of other minorities, but in no case
by the majority community, it said.

"Yet, should there be some insurmountable difficulty in implementing
this recommendation", the commission suggested carving out an 8.4%
sub-quota for such religious minorities within the 27% reservation for
other backward classes (OBCs). The 8.4% is in line with an estimate of
religious minorities as a proportion of the OBC population. Within the
sub-quota, 6% should be earmarked for Muslims and the remainder for
other religious minorities, it said.

Mint reviewed a copy of the commission's recommendations, which have
not yet been made public by the government. Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh said on Wednesday that the report would be presented in
Parliament during the current session, PTI reported. Newspaper Mail
Today ran a story about the recommendations on Thursday.

The five-member commission was appointed in March 2005 during the
first term of the Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance
government. The report was submitted on 22 May 2007.

"Since the minorities—especially the Muslims—are very much
under-represented, and sometimes wholly unrepresented, in government
employment , we recommend that they should be regarded as backward in
this respect...," the commission said.

The panel recommended that at least 15% of seats in all non-minority
educational institutions be earmarked by law for the minorities, with
10% going to the Muslims. Minority candidates who can compete with
others and secure admission on their own merit shall not be included
in the 15%.

It proposed that a 15% share be set apart for the minorities—with 10%
going to the Muslims—in government schemes such as the Rural
Employment Generation Programme, Prime Minister's Rozgar Yojna and
Grameen Rozgar Yojna, among others.

In addition, the panel recommended amending the Constitution (Schedule
Castes) Order, 1950, which originally restricted the SC net to Hindus
and later was opened to include Sikhs and Buddhists, but still
excludes Muslims, Christians, Jains and Parsis, among others.

The commission recommended that the order be "wholly deleted by
appropriate action so as to completely de-link the scheduled caste
status from religion and make the scheduled castes net fully
religion-neutral like that of the scheduled tribes."

This recommendation of the commission is, however, not unanimous. Asha
Das, member-secretary of the commission, gave a note of dissent. The
Constitution Order was religion-based and, "therefore, the condition
of religion" should not be deleted, Das said in her note.

The Misra panel consisted of Tahir Mahmood, former chairman of the
National Commission for Minorities; Anil Wilson, former principal of
St Stephen's College, Delhi; and Punjabi scholar Mohinder Singh, apart
from Das and Misra.

"We have found no indication whatsoever in the Constitution...of an
intention that scheduled castes must remain confined to any particular
religion or religions," Mahmood said in a rejoinder endorsed by Misra,
Wilson and Mohinder Singh.

The recommendations of the commission, likely to tabled in Parliament
together with an action taken report by the government, are set to be
strongly opposed by the main Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

"It is not only unconstitutional, but it would also encourage
conversions. We would oppose any move towards reservations for Dalit
Christians and Muslims," said BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar.

Some social scientists also disagree with the recommendations.

"Reservation is not a poverty alleviation programme. There could be
many other ways to enhance the condition of a deprived community,"
said Vivek Kumar, associate professor at the Centre for the Study of
Social Systems at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University. "The
reservations for Dalits are in place by virtue of their qualitative
and structural position in the Hindu class system for ages and is best
not to be diluted by moves like this."

Kumar also warned that the implementation of the suggested quotas
could trigger a backlash and "may prove counterproductive for the
greater aim of maintaining amity among different strata in the
society, which is a must for any social progress".

Minority communities have for long sought such affirmative action.

"The plight of a Dalit is due to the larger social status and is
irrespective of the religious considerations. We strongly feel that
justice to minority Dalits and backwards are close at hand and cannot
be denied for long," said Babu Joseph, a spokesperson for the Catholic
Bishops Conference of India.

Graphics by Sandeep Bhatnagar / Mint


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