Lok Sabha today passed ‘The Constitution (127th Amendment) Bill, 2021′ that seeks to restore the power of states to make their own OBC lists after over six hour long marathon debate.
In his reply to the debate, Social Welfare Minister Dr. Veerendra Kumar thanked the members for supporting the Bill and said the legislation is a reflection of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment for the welfare of the backward communities. He said, today is a very historic day as we are giving power to the states to prepare their own lists of OBCs. Kumar said, the bill will strengthen the country’s federal structure and empower the states. He also referred to several initiatives taken by the Modi government for the welfare of the backward communities that include constitutional status to the backward castes commission and OBC reservation in medical education.
The House witnessed a thaw in the logjam over the Pegasus snooping controversy as members cutting across party lines voiced support for a constitutional amendment bill to restore the states’ power to make their own OBC lists.
During the debate on ‘The Constitution (127th Amendment) Bill, 2021’, several Opposition parties, including the Congress, demanded removal of the 50 per cent cap on reservations, while the government underlined its commitment to social justice.
For the first time since the Monsoon session of Parliament began on July 19, Lok Sabha witnessed a debate in an orderly manner as the Opposition put their protests demanding a discussion on the Pegasus snooping allegations on hold for the bill.
During the debate, several leaders such as Lalan Singh of JD(U), Akhilesh Yadav of Samajwadi Party, Ritesh Pandey of BSP and T R Baalu of DMK demanded a caste census be conducted throughout the country.
Moving the bill for consideration and passage, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Virendra Kumar described ‘The Constitution (127th Amendment) Bill, 2021′ as a historic legislation as 671 castes in the country would benefit from it. He said the bill will restore the states’ rights to prepare their own lists of OBCs so that various communities can be given social and economic justice. He said, the bill should be considered as the 105th Constitution Amendment bill after being renumbered.
The 102nd Constitution Amendment Act of 2018 inserted articles 338B, which deals with the structure, duties and powers of the National Commission for Backward Classes, and 342A that deals with the powers of the president to notify a particular caste as an SEBC and the power of Parliament to change the list.
The Supreme Court has 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’ power to notify SEBCs for the grant of quota in jobs and admissions.
Initiating the debate, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of Congress extended his party’s wholehearted support to the bill but criticised the government for the 2018 amendment, saying had the government inserted the suggestion proposed by the Opposition, today’s situation would not have arisen. He slammed the government for allegedly running away from debate on the issue of snooping through the Pegasus spyware.
T.R. Balu of DMK and Akhilesh Yadav of Samajwadi Party also demanded the removal of 50 per cent ceiling in reservation.
Intervening in the debate, Labour and Employment Minister Bhupender Yadav asserted that maximum measures to have been taken at a fast pace to ensure justice for Dalits, OBCs and the poor by the Modi government. Hitting out at the Congress, the Minister said, the Constitution makers had made a provision for reservation for backward classes, but when Congress which ruled for 40 years did not give justice to them. Hitting out at the UPA, Mr. Yadav said that it was in power from 2004 but did not give constitutional status to the commission for backward classes. He said, Parliament’s intention was that the central and state OBC lists would remain separate.
N K Premchandra of Revolutionary Socialist Party said, the Opposition had repeatedly warned the government that its legislation would be interpreted by the court in the manner it was done, but the Centre did not listen and that is why the new bill was needed.
Mr. Bhupendra Yadav said, it is our job to develop the legislative process and asserted that the government is fully committed to ensure justice for the poor, Dalits and backwards.
Participating in the discussion, Supriya Sure of NCP said the credit for this amendment bill should be given to the Maharashtra government which requested the Centre to address the issue of OBC reservation. She said, another important issue along with this legislation is to address the 50 per cent ceiling on reservation without which the amendment will not fully resolve the issue. Members from YSR Congress Party and Shiv Sena also supported the bill.
The Constitutional amendment Bill requires that there should be a majority of the total membership of the House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting.
Some Opposition MPs raised the Pegasus snooping issue in the Lok Sabha during the debate on a Constitution amendment bill
Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of Congress raised the Pegasus issue. Speaker Om Birla repeatedly told him to speak on the bill.
Sudip Bandyopadhyay of Trinamool Congress also raised the issue and suggested that the House hold a discussion on it on Wednesday. The onus of ensuring transaction in Parliament is on the government.
Pitching for a discussion on the Pegasus issue, opposition parties have repeatedly disrupted the proceedings in Parliament leading to frequent adjournments in both houses since the Monsoon Session began on July 19.