Bill tabled to hike reservation for SCs and STs in Karnataka

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai participating in the winter session of the legislative Assembly at Suvarna Vidhana Soudha in Belagavi on December 20, 2022.

The Karnataka Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and of Appointments or Posts in the Services under the State) Bill, 2022, for increasing reservation for Scheduled Castes from 15% to 17% and for Scheduled Tribes from 3% to 7%, was tabled in the State legislative Assembly on December 20.

The Bill aims to increase the reservation following ‘the extraordinary’ increase in the population of both SCs and STs.

At present, the reservation for SCs is 15%, STs is 3% and Backward Class is 32%, which adds up to 50%, an upper limit fixed by the Supreme Court.

The Bill envisages hiking the combined reservation for SCs and STs from 18% to 24%, and it replaces an ordinance.

The government had set up a commission headed by High Court retired judge H.N. Nagamohandas in 2019 citing social and economic backwardness of many castes and communities under SCs and STs.

Quoting the commission’s report, the Bill states: “The landholdings of SCs and STs is disproportionate, and starkly less compared to their population, and that reinforces the social and educational backwardness”.

“When compared with their population, there is evidence of inadequate representation in educational institutions, employment in the government, for the SCs and STs, which renders their attempt to come out of the backwardness extremely difficult,” the government has stated in the Bill while quoting the report.

The Bill cites a study by National Law School of India University, Bengaluru, which states that ‘74% of STs have remained invisible and their literacy rate is lower than 3%’.

Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah demanded a separate discussion on the government’s decision to increase quota citing several issues, including provisions in the Constitution.

While Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister J.C. Madhuswamy said the House could discuss the issue under the Bill, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai asked Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri to take a decision on the matter.

With Assembly elections scheduled in April-May 2023, both the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress and JD(S) are keen on securing the support of SCs and STs. Hence, the House is expected to see heated arguments between the opposition and ruling BJP members during the debate.

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