Wednesday, May 28, 2003
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By Our Special Correspondent
Mr. Gehlot, whose Cabinet started it all after a decision at its meeting on May 21, announcing 14 per cent reservation for the poor among the forward castes, urged Mr. Vajpayee in a letter that there was a growing sense of frustration among sections being denied reservation.
``A large percentage of them are equally backward in terms of education and economic levels. The shrinking of job opportunities, growing unemployment and marginalisation of the meritorious have thrown out of gear the normal pace of life,'' he said in his letter sent two days back and released to the media today.
``In every village of the State, and I would believe in the country, intensive debates are going on about this matter and the demand is being raised for extending such a benefit of reservation in Government services and posts to other castes such as Brahmins, Rajputs, Vaishyas, etc., so that they can improve their condition,'' Mr. Gehlot observed.
``This step is necessary for the nation as a whole on the principle of equity and equality. I am confident that the initiative taken by the State Government will have a salutary effect on social fraternity in all sections of society,'' the letter said.
``Much of the heart-burn is being caused to the youth of those sections of society that could not qualify for various levels of competition. This growing discontent does not augur well for society,'' Mr. Gehlot said making a strong plea for early reservations.
On the question of granting reservation on the basis of economic criteria, he said the intention of the Government of India had already been made clear in the office memorandum of September 25, 1991. This memo, while providing for 27 per cent reservation to backwards, had also made a provision for 10 per cent reservation for economically backward sections not covered by any of the existing schemes of reservation, he said.
The Supreme Court, in the Indra Sahney case, had struck down this provision on the grounds that Article 16(I) and 16(4) of the Constitution do not provide for such reservation. Additional reservation, given on economic grounds would cross the limit of 50 per cent, imposed by the apex court in a number of cases but the court in the Indra Sahney case itself had recognised that the limit of reservation may be exceeded under extraordinary circumstances, Mr. Gehlot pointed out.
The Chief Minister argued that there was already economic criterion applied in the case of poverty alleviation programmes targeted at small and marginal farmers and agricultural labour. The families living below the poverty line (BPL) have become the focal point for much of the country's rural and urban development programmes. ``In a sense we have already accepted the need for targeting the economically deprived so that they can strive to attain higher levels of development,'' he said.
Mr. Gehlot drew the attention of Mr. Vajpayee that the Supreme Court ruling in the same Indra Sahney case had noted that backwardness could be identified on the occupation-cum-income basis, which was basically economic criteria without reference to caste.
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