The National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities has recommended the extension of quota to all religious minorities while advocating an overhaul of the reservation policy to make income the lone criteria for affirmative action.
It has also recommended reservation of 15 per cent seats in Central and State government jobs, besides non-minority educational institutions for the minorities.
In its report tabled in Parliament on Friday, the Commission said the Scheduled Castes (SC) status should be delinked from religion to make the SC net fully religion-neutral like that of the Scheduled Tribes (STs). For this, Para 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 — which originally restricted the SC net to Hindus and later opened it to Sikhs and Buddhists — should be wholly deleted by appropriate action.
Though it was not scheduled to be tabled on Friday, the report of the Commission headed by former Chief Justice of India Ranganath Misra was hurriedly presented to the House by Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs Salman Khursheed after the decision to adjourn the Lok Sabha sine die was taken in the morning following the first adjournment.
Calling for an overhaul of the entire reservation policy, the Commission, which submitted its report to the government on May 10, 2007, stressed the need to limit the benefits of reservation to the socially and economically backward.
For this purpose, the Commission suggested that the Below Poverty Line (BPL) lists prepared on the basis of social/educational and economic criteria should be used, as they are scientifically prepared and revised periodically. “BPL lists should, therefore, be made eligible for grant of reservation without distinction on caste, class, group or religion basis.”
Working on the premise that socio-economic backwardness emanates from educational backwardness, the Commission recommended that at least 15 per cent of the seats in all non-minority educational institutions should be earmarked by law for minorities.
Of the 15 per cent, the largest chunk of 10 per cent should go to Muslims — commensurate with their 73 per cent share of the total minority population in the country — and the remaining five per cent to other minorities.
While making this recommendation, the Commission followed the judicial decisions mandating that only 50 per cent of the seats in a minority institution can be set aside for minorities in the interest of national integration. The 15 per cent reservation for minorities in non-minority institutions is justified by the Commission “by the same analogy and for the same purpose.”
To address under-representation of minorities — particularly Muslims — in government employment, the Commission has recommended that 15 per cent of posts in all cadres and grades under the Central and State governments should be earmarked for minorities.
Again, 10 per cent of this should go to Muslims and in case of non-availability of candidates from this community, the remaining vacancies may be given to other minority groups.
In defining religious minorities, the Commission went beyond the scope of the definition used by the National Commission for Minorities.
According to the report, it should include all religious minorities — large or small — including the Hindus in the Union Territory of Lakshadweep and the States of Jammu & Kashmir, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Punjab.
The government has been dragging its feet on tabling this report and did so under pressure from parties such as the Samajwadi Party.
Speaking to The Hindu earlier this year, Mr. Khursheed had said that the Congress differed with the Commission’s report.