New Delhi: In a move that may further fuel the quota controversy, the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry is ``favourably'' considering raising reservations for Scheduled Castes from the existing 15 per cent to 16.23 per cent following the increase in their population.

Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Meira Kumar said her Ministry also wanted the children of Dalit women who married out of their caste to get reservation benefits to ensure gender equality.

``We should increase the quantum of reservation for the SC in the wake of the increase in their population. I am favourably considering it,'' she said in an interview to PTI here.

Kumar said this was necessary as the 2001 Census had put the Dalit share of population at 16.23 per cent, as against 15 per cent in the 1961 Census.

Besides the increase in population, Kumar said as many as 68 more castes and one religion - Buddhism- have been included in the SC category, resulting in an increase in numbers. ``Therefore, it is justifiable to increase the quantum of reservation for the SC.'' she said.

Sources said the ministry was working in this regard. A draft proposal for this points out that the quota, pegged at 12.5 per cent in 1953, was raised to 15 per cent in 1970 in light of the 1961 Census.

The existing quota stands close to the limit at 49.5 per cent - 15 per cent for SC, 7.5 per cent Scheduled Tribes and 27 percent for Other Backward Classes, and the ceiling of 50 per cent set by the Supreme Court would be breached if the proposal was accepted.