Bhupesh Baghel's Congress government in Chhattisgarh is set to, in another 10 days, bring in a law to restore reservation for tribal communities to 32 per cent, and is likely to then take a step further -- giving quota as per population ratio -- that could set off a new political debate in the country.
Tribal quota declined to 20 per cent after a High Court decision recently struck down a 2012 government order of the then BJP government, ruling that total reservation beyond 50 per cent is unconstitutional. For now, admissions and jobs are held up as there is no quota since the September 19 judgment, revealed a Right to Information query, while the government puts a new plan in place.
Elections are just about a year away, and tribals protested across the state last week, so the government has gone to the Supreme Court and also called an assembly session for December 1 and 2. "On the second day of the special session, a resolution on the issue of reservation will be tabled," said Mohammed Akbar, Cabinet Minister and a spokesperson for the state government.
Besides introducing a new Bill for reservation, the state government is likely to urge the BJP government at the Centre to enlist this reservation in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution, which contains laws that cannot be challenged in court, sources have told NDTV. This could be a key socio-political move by the Congress, which currently has chief ministers only in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.
The ultimate plan is proportional quota that could take reservation in Chhattisgarh to 82 per cent, possibly the highest in the country, sources have said. The breakup would be: 32 per cent for Scheduled Tribes, 13 per cent for Scheduled Castes, and 27 per cent for Other Backward Classes (OBCs), besides the 10 per cent for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in which communities already getting quota can't be considered.
This would be much beyond what the BJP government's 2012 order had given: 32 per cent to STs, 12 per cent to SCs, and 14 per cent for OBCs. That order was challenged by some educational institutions and others, and the court struck it down this September 19. For now, the quotas would stand reverted to the pre-2012 rules: 20 per cent for tribals, 16 per cent for SCs, and 14 per cent for OBCs.
This mathematical back-and-forth means admissions and government jobs are on hold since the court verdict. These include 23,000 seats in engineering colleges, polytechnics and masters in computers, and 14,000 seats in B.Ed. colleges alone. Notification of new posts, including 12,000 teachers, is also held up as the state plans its next move.
Tribal organisations as well as the state's Opposition, mainly the BJP, are pressuring the government to act fast, even blaming it for the court verdict.
BS Rawte, a leader of the Sarva Adivasi Samaj, said, "The Congress government was not able to argue the case properly. We will protest at the assembly if a decision is not taken in our favour."
BJP MLA and former minister Kedar Kashyap said, "This is a failure of the government, which has played games with OBCs and STs."
Students like Rishabh Mandlekar, who happens to be physically challenged, are worried. He has cleared the engineering entrance but is waiting to be given a seat in a college. "The admission counselling is done but I have yet to get a college."
The counselling in-charge at a polytechnic told NDTV that further action has been stopped on the instructions of the government.
Minister Mohammed Akbar explained, "The Chief Minister stands for reservation as per population. The court said some documents in support of reservation were not provided as evidence. Now, the intention of the government is to let the situation become clearer before moving further."