West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has responded with kid gloves to the Centre's decision on 10 per cent reservation for economically weaker upper caste youth. "I will be very happy if the weaker sections get jobs. But my question is, in the name of so-called election, can a government cheat the people or cheat the unemployed youth," the chief minister said this evening.
"First they have to clarify whether it will be implemented or not, whether it is constitutionally valid or not, whether legally it is valid or not and whether it is feasible or not," she added.
The government today announced 10 per cent reservation in government jobs and higher education for economically weaker sections in the general category and said it would move a constitutional amendment bill to bring it into effect. The mega move was approved in a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The constitutional amendment bill is likely to be moved tomorrow.
Several political parties have dismissed the government's decision to move a constitutional amendment to push through the reservation as a "gimmick". But Mamata Banerjee stopped short of joining that camp, though she did warn against "cheating" the youth.
Referring to notes on her mobile phone, Ms Banerjee said, "I am just quoting one thing: What is the 50 per cent rule. There is a court case - Indira Swamy versus Union of India 1992. There the court has already said very clearly that no provision of reservation can be vigorously pursued as it destroys the concept of equality."
"...The court has consistently held that reservation under article 15 clause 4 and 16 clause 4 should not exceed 50 per cent. And the states and the union have by and large accepted this as correct," she added.
Ms Banerjee went on to say, "Any reservation beyond 50 per cent will be liable to be struck down. This is the Supreme Court verdict. Now you tell me ...will this be implemented. I want proper implementation. We want positive steps for the employment of poor people. Poor people are very important. We should not cheat them because of political purpose or election."
"The unemployment problem in India has gone sky high. We want unemployed youth to get jobs. But this is a very dangerous thing if you cheat them. Farmers are being cheated, youth are being cheated. First they have to see the law, settle the law. Constitutionally, there is a verdict of SC that you cannot cross 50 per cent. But they are saying it will not cross 50 per cent. Whatever I have seen in cabinet papers, they want to increase the quota from 50 to 60 per cent," she said.