What are the grounds for this?
The nine-day-long renewed agitation of Gujjars in Rajasthan earlier this month, seeking 5% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions, has again shifted focus on the community’s demand which has generated considerable political heat and disrupted public life several times since 2007. As many as 72 Gujjars have so far died in police firing during the quota agitation. Gujjars, who had initially demanded the Scheduled Tribe status in Rajasthan, point out that their main occupation is agriculture and animal husbandry and they have been left behind in educational and economic progress because they did not have the clout enjoyed by other influential communities. The caste structure among Hindus excluded them from the fruits of development, as they lived mostly in the remote areas of eastern Rajasthan districts. Though they were included in the Other Backward Class (OBC) list in 1994, the dominant Jat community has taken away the lion’s share of the quota.
What is the status of quotas?
At present, Rajasthan gives 21% reservation to OBCs, which covers 90 castes of both Hindu and Muslim communities. The Scheduled Castes get 16% reservation and the Scheduled Tribes 12%. This brings the total reservation to 49%, which is 1% less than the 50% ceiling mandated by the Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney judgment. Gujjars, along with nomadic communities Banjara, Gadia-Lohar, Raika and Gadariya, were given 1% quota in the “most-backward” category, in addition to the OBC benefit, in 2010. The State government has tried thrice in the past to give 5% reservation to Gujjars as a ‘Special Backward Class,’ but the legislation was struck down every time by the Rajasthan High Court, which ruled that the quota had not only exceeded the 50% limit, but was also not supported by quantifiable data.
What is the govt. stand?
The newly elected Congress government passed a Bill in the Assembly during the Budget session on February 13, giving 5% reservation to Gujjars and four other nomadic communities as an ‘Extremely Backward Class’ and made a “recommendation” to the Centre that the legislation be included in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution to protect it from being challenged in courts. This has resulted in the quota exceeding the 50% limit. The Bill, which amended an Act of 2017, made a mention of the Constitution Amendment Bill passed by the Union government to extend quota to the poor, which breached the 50% ceiling. The 10% reservation for the poor in the general category introduced by the Centre has also been implemented in Rajasthan, taking the total quota to 64%.
Are Gujjars satisfied now?
Gujjar Aarakshan Sangharh Samiti convener Kirori Singh Bainsla, who along with his supporters occupied the Delhi-Mumbai rail tracks in Sawai Madhopur district for nine days, lifted the blockade after the government gave a written assurance of legal steps to safeguard the quota. Col. Bainsla (retired) says Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has promised the Gujjars that he will intervene if an issue arises later.
What is in store?
Though Gujjars have been granted the Extremely Backward Class status for the time being, the community expects the State government to effectively implement the special Deonarain scheme for their welfare, fill backlog of vacancies and consider withdrawal of criminal cases registered during the earlier agitations. The fate of reservation will depend on the courts taking a view on the new statute in the light of interpretation of the ceiling under exceptional circumstances.