Telangana hikes Muslim quota to 12 percent

 The Telangana legislature on Sunday unanimously passed a bill to hike the reservation quota for backward Muslims and the Scheduled Tribes to 12 and 10 per cent respectively.

Barring the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which vehemently opposed the bill both inside and outside the legislature, the entire Opposition supported the Backward Class, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Reservation Bill, 2017.

After the assembly, the legislative council debated and passed the bill unanimously on Sunday evening.

The bill increased from the existing four per cent to 12 per cent the quota for the socially and economically backward among the Muslims under the Backward Classes (E) category, while the reservations for the Scheduled Tribes in educational institutions and government jobs go up from 6 per cent to 10 per cent.

The legislation will be sent for the President's assent with a request to include it in the Constitution's 9th Schedule as was done in the case of Tamil Nadu.

While all five members of BJP were suspended from the assembly, its lone member in council staged a walk-out.

However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's statement at BJP meet in Bhubaneswar in support of backwards among Muslims came handy for Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao to put the party in a fix.

Speaking in the council, he welcomed the PM's statement and hoped that this will pave the way for implementation of hiked quota for backward among Muslims.

Replying to the debate, Chandrasekhar Rao said if the Centre refuses to accept Telengana's request to include the legislation in the 9th Schedule, the state would approach the Supreme Court.

"Tamil Nadu is implementing 69 per cent reservations for over two decades. Five to six states are providing more than 50 per cent reservation. How can you deny this to Telangana?" he asked.

The Supreme Court has put a cap of 50 per cent on all reservations both at the Centre and in the states.

The Chief Minister clarified that the reservations were being provided purely on the basis of socio-economic backwardness and not on the basis of religion or caste as some parties were projecting.

Terming it as a historic day, Rao said the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), had during the election campaign, promised that quota for the Backward Classes (E) and the Scheduled Tribes will be increased in proportion to their population in the state.

He assured the Backward Classes that there will be no injustice to them and quotas for them too will be increased. The state government has directed the Backward Classes Commission to submit a report within six months.

Rao also said that the reservation for SCs, who constitute 16.3 per cent of the state's population, will be increased by one per cent and the government would soon set up an SC Commission.

The SCs currently enjoy 15 per cent reservations while the BCs have a total quota of 25 per cent and the new legislation will increase the total reservations in the state to 62 per cent.

The Chief Minister argued that there is no constitutional bar on providing more than 50 per cent reservation, while noting that as 90 per cent of Telangana's population comprises Backward Classes, SCs, STs and minorities, the state definitely needed more than 50 per cent reservation.

He made it clear that he will not beg the Centre but will fight to get the new quotas included in the 9th Schedule.

KCR, as the Chief Minister is popularly known, said Telangana would raise this issue at the meeting of the Niti Aayog and in Parliament. He hoped that a debate on the issue will begin and consensus will build at the national level.

He defended the state's hike in quota for Muslims and hit back at the BJP for opposing it.

"Why can't we give them reservation? Why should they be denied reservation just because they are Muslims? Are they not part of this country? Are they not paying taxes?" he asked.

He pointed out that India has the largest Muslim community in the world and even some of the so-called Islamic countries do not have such a large Muslim population.

KCR said the promise to increase the Muslim quota was part of the TRS manifesto and people approved this agenda by giving their mandate to the party.

The AIMIM suggested to the government to take steps to protect the existing four per cent reservation while increasing the quota by eight per cent. Its member Ahmed Pasha Khadri said a new category BC (F) be created for hiked quota.

The Chief Minister, however, said there was no need for any apprehensions as there will be no threat to the existing four percent reservations.