August 22, 2021


CPI(M) Parliamentary Office

THE Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha were adjourned sine die on August 11. During the entire Monsoon Session, a united opposition protested over the Pegasus snooping, farm laws, fuel price hike and other issues. But following an understanding between the opposition and the government, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha passed the Constitution (127th Amendment) Bill, 2021, or the OBC Bill, to allow states and union territories to prepare their own list of Other Backward Classes.

Speaking on the Bill in the Lok Sabha, CPI(M) MP A M Ariff supported the proposed legislation for the purpose it serves. He said that while the government claims that the Bill has been introduced with a view to maintain the federal structure of this country, he is forced to expose the fallacy of the government’s rhetoric on federalism.

Ariff said that everyone now clearly understands that the government is pretending to be committed to federalism but in reality, it is only attempting to put dust in the eyes of the public. He said that since the BJP-led government came to power in 2014, it has not spared even a single opportunity to destroy the principle of cooperative federalism. “Why has this government forgotten the same principle of federalism when enacting the farm laws? Did you consult with any of the state governments in India before enacting them? Why did you forget federalism while formulating the National Education Policy? Are these not the subjects included in the Concurrent List (issues to be considered by both the union and state government) ? Then, while providing compensation for the states under the GST regime, the states need to remind this government that ours is a federal country and that they are not at the mercy of the ruling party to get their legitimate dues,” he questioned the government.

Ariff said that it was only last month we saw this government’s rhetoric on federalism getting exposed in the Supreme Court. He asked if it was not a shame for this country when the Supreme Court reminded this government that our country is a Union of states and that the Union Government is mandated to procure and distribute Covid vaccines to all the states. He added that until the Supreme Court’s intervention, the government had only thought of leaving the states at the mercy of the vaccine manufacturers which were allowed to loot them by applying differential prices for the vaccines across the country.

“If the Supreme Court had not reminded the government about federalism, would millions of people in this country get vaccines free? Surely, no, sir, we would not have got them. I think the government should thank the Supreme Court for reminding them of their mandate so that now it can boast of free vaccine supply to all, as if the vaccine is being given free of cost for the first time in the country. Otherwise, you cannot take the credit for the free vaccine and you can never issue a certificate with the photograph of Prime Minister Modi,” he said.

Raising the issue of Pegasus snooping, he asked the government whether tapping of phones of political opponents, media persons and eminent personalities in the states during elections is also a part of its federal principles. “Is the government concerned about it now? Why is it not allowing a discussion in the House? I would like to know which political treaty of federalism gives this government the mandate to sabotage elected governments in the states by hook or by crook”, he asked and demanded an apology from the government on the parliament floor for the countless number of actions which have only helped destroy the federal structure of this country.

He said that the OBC Bill would not have been introduced now, had this government shown due diligence while enacting the 102nd Constitution Amendment in 2018. “Was this government not aware that the states were having their own list of OBCs even before the centre started preparing the list of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBCs) in 1993? This government is doing the penance for giving room to the judiciary to deny the legitimate rights of the states in deciding the eligible communities for OBC reservation,” he added.

He remarked that if Uttar Pradesh was not going for elections next year, the concern for OBCs would not have come up now. “This government sat on the proposal of giving 27 per cent reservation for admission of OBC students in medical courses in the 15 per cent seats surrendered by the states to all India quota for years and years. Now, since UP elections are around the corner, it realised that it spoiled the hopes of more than 11,000 OBC students on a yearly basis. Even now, had the Madras High Court not been involved in the case, I am sure, this government would have continued its anti-reservation stand denying what is due for the eligible OBC students,” he added.

He said that the government has self-exposed its anti reservation stand on several occasions, directly and indirectly, and now pretends as if it were the defenders of OBC rights only to get votes in the upcoming UP elections. “Whatever may be the real intent of this government, we are only bothered about the legitimate rights of the OBC community and also the states in deciding their status,” he said and extended his full support to the Constitution Amendment Bill in the best interests of the common people of this country.

Supporting the OBC Bill in Rajya Sabha, CPI(M) MP Elamaram Kareem said that the government has come up with this Amendment out of a compulsion and to rectify its mistake. He added that using the Bill to glorify the government's attitude towards backward classes is actually mocking those sections which got hurt by the supporters of this government. He added that the government in fact was forced to act as the apex court intervened. “It is also clear that the attitude of the BJP and its allies towards the weaker and marginalised sections of the society will never change,” he said.

Kareem said that the religious minorities, dalits and OBCs in the country know very well and have learnt the hard way from their past experiences that this government is against them, and they actually fear to live in this regime. “The partisan attitude of the central government on the issues of the OBC reservation became clear when it got an amendment passed in parliament in 2018, to provide the constitutional status for the National Backward Commission. It introduced a clause by which the power to notify a ‘Socially and Educationally Backward Class’ was vested with the president, that is, the union government,” he reminded. He added that the opposition members have pointed out that this may adversely affect the right of the states to identify OBCs. But, the government brushed aside these objections.

“Until then, the central government through the National Backward Classes Commission was identifying OBCs for the central list while the state governments through the State Backward Classes Commissions were undertaking that job for the state list. The Supreme Court hearing a case regarding this amendment, in May this year, has interpreted the 102nd amendment as vesting sole powers with the president, i.e., the union government, to notify who the OBCs are. The Supreme Court verdict decrees that the states, by this amendment, have been deprived of this power. They can only give suggestions to the president or to the National Backward Classes Commission. This constituted a serious attack on the right of states to determine who OBCs are within their states,’ he noted.

Kareem said that though the union government has maintained that the constitution amendment was not meant to deprive the states of their rights, it did not take any steps to undo the damage till the recent days. “This required amending the constitution to rectify the earlier mis-step. Instead of doing so, the union government went for a review petition to the Supreme Court which was rejected,” he said. He added that the union government should have straightaway brought a constitution amendment to restore the rights of the states on identifying OBCs in the beginning of this monsoon session.

“Anyway, after wasting time, the government has now decided to introduce a constitution amendment. There are other issues also. The reservation available to economically weaker sections is not applicable to the state of Kerala because the criteria fixed is not suited to the state. Most of the deserving, eligible families in Kerala are not getting the reservation meant for economically weaker sections because of the socio-economic conditions of the particular state,” he said and urged the minister to review the norms for getting reservation under the economically weaker sections of the society.

Kareem drew attention to the issue of reservation to Dalit Christians in Kerala. He said that the Nadar Christian community has been provided the reservation but the High Court has struck it off as it did not meet the 50 per cent norm. He stressed that the Dalit Christians are also entitled to reservation. He said that the federal system of the country should be well protected and that it is the state's obligation to undertake the emancipation of deprived sections of the community and eradicate inequalities.

“When reservations create inequalities within the reserved caste itself, it requires to be taken care of by the state, making sub-classification and adopting a distributive justice method. He said that it requires redistribution and reallocation of resources and provision of opportunities and equitable access to all public and social goods to fulfil the very purpose of the constitutional mandate of reservations. “We should have discussed the constitution amendment in the very beginning of the session. The valuable 20 days have been lost only because of the government,” he remarked.

He also criticised the government for not allowing a discussion of Pegasus snooping and its attack on the personal rights of the citizens of this country. “It is this unconstitutional attitude (of the government) that created all the problems in the House. It should not be repeated,” he said.