The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Andhra set for quibble on quotas
- Govt to issue ordinance to clarify target group

New Delhi, July 26: The Andhra Pradesh government is set to correct the perception created by its policy decision to give 5 per cent reservation to Muslims in educational institutions and government jobs through an ordinance this week, highly-placed sources in the Congress said.

Andhra Pradesh High Court has stayed the decision on the ground that the Constitution does not permit religious quotas. The ordinance, the sources said, would be reworded to state that reservation is being extended to the socially and educationally backward castes among Muslims. This, they said, was in keeping with the Constitution and the Congress manifesto.

The document, in its section on minorities, states: “The Congress also pledges to extend reservations for the economically deprived persons belonging to communities that are at present not entitled to such reservations.”

The sources said it is being ascertained if the 5 per cent quota earmarked by the Andhra government exceeded the 50 per cent ceiling on reservations imposed by the Supreme Court after the Mandal Commission recommendations for Other Backward Classes were adopted by the government.

A section in the Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy administration feels the Andhra government could go ahead as reservations in Tamil Nadu had touched 70 per cent and in Karnataka 69 per cent. However, the dominant view is that the government should adhere to the limits set by the apex court and not risk a confrontation. The government’s next step would be to set up a commission, on the patterns of Karnataka, to identify new castes among Muslims to be included in the ambit of reservations.

In 1994, when the Veerappa Moily government decided to give 4 per cent reservation to socially and educationally backward castes among the minorities, a commission was set up under K. Rahman Khan, the then chairperson of the legislative council. Khan, now the Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson, had recommended that all Muslims would fall in that category.

There is a debate within the Congress on what criteria should be followed while giving reservations, on whether the right should be extended to second-generation beneficiaries, on whether castes that formed the creamy layer of the backward and scheduled castes should avail of it interminably and on how to restructure the policy to encompass social groupings that are unaware of such reservations.

The sources said a comprehensive social-justice model would help extend reservations to the private sector. They said leaders will start a dialogue with the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, but are more likely to use the socially acceptable phrase “affirmative action” instead of the word “reservations”.

The corporate sector will be told that “affirmative action” will be voluntary, it can take any shape and that it would be incentive-driven.

“If a company has a 100 per cent women workforce, it deserves a fiscal advantage,” said a source.

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