Rajya Sabha debates Constitution amendment bill on restoring states power on OBC list

 The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday took up a Constitution amendment bill to restore the powers of states to have their own lists of OBCs for reservation in jobs and educational institutions, ending a three-week deadlock between the government and the opposition in the House over various issues.

Opposition parties disrupted proceedings in the Upper House of Parliament to press their demand for a discussion on the Pegasus snooping controversy and the farmers'' agitation ever since the Monsoon session started on July 19.

Moving the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2021, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Virendra Kumar said the bill will help restore the powers of states to have their own lists of OBCs which was negated by the Supreme Court.

He thanked the prime minister and various parties and their members for evolving a consensus to take up the important bill that seeks to create history by providing reservation to other backward classes in the country.

The minister said this will help 671 communities, almost one-fifth of the total OBCs in the country, get reservation in jobs and educational institutions, he said.

"I want to thank the parties and members of the House for building a consensus to discuss the bill that is in the interest and welfare of OBCs. With this consensus approach, we are moving towards creation of history in the future," Kumar said.

He also thanked the prime minister for taking a number of measures for the welfare of other backward classes (OBCs) and for giving constitutional status to the central list of OBCs.

The minister said the Constitution amendment bill is among the series of steps taken for the welfare of OBCs and for providing them reservation.

"This amendment is necessary to restore the powers of states to have their own lists of OBCs for providing reservation. This reservation was removed by the Supreme Court while ascertaining the reservation criteria and for clarifying it, this Constitution amendment bill has been brought now," he said.

"If the OBC lists of states were removed, nearly 671 communities which were included in the state lists would not get the benefit of reservation in educational institutions and appointment of jobs. It would have affected one-fifth of the OBC communities," Kumar said.

This will help restore the federal structure to help towards the welfare of other backward classes, he said, claiming that the government had earlier made it clear during the earlier Constitution amendment that it will not affect the reservation for OBCs in states.

He said the earlier Constitution amendment bill accorded constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) and gave it powers to look into complaints against OBCs.

The reservation of 20 per cent to OBCs in medial and dental colleges will help provide almost 4,000 additional seats in medial and dental colleges, the minister said. This has helped instill confidence in OBC students, he said.

Earlier, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge urged deputy chairman Harivansh to increase the time for the debate on the bill from the prescribed three hours to more and leader of the House Piyush Goyal agreed to have the discussion for four hours.

However, Goyal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi urged the opposition members to allow the House to function beyond 6 PM for taking up all the agenda items listed for the day.

The legislative business of the House includes a few more bills that have already been passed by the Lok Sabha.

RJD's Manoj Jha and SAD member Naresh Gujral said members of smaller parties should get more time to speak on this all-important bill and urged the chair to consider giving them more time.

The Lok Sabha had on Tuesday passed the bill ending the logjam by Opposition parties, who backed the legislation but demanded the removal of the 50 per cent cap on reservation and many of them also called for a caste-based census.

The Supreme Court had dismissed the Centre's plea seeking a review of its May 5 majority verdict that held that the 102nd Constitution amendment took away the states powers to notify socially and economically backward classes (SEBCs) for the grant of quota in jobs and admissions.

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