On 9th January, Rajya Sabha passed the 124th constitution amendment bill granting 10% reservation to the economically backward section not covered under the existing reservation for SCs, STs and OBCs. The bill was passed by Lok Sabha on 8th January and is all set to become a law after the President of India signs it. Since the bill was announced by the government, various kinds of misinformation and fake news have been circulated by a section of media and opposition parties about it.
We have earlier demolished, point-by-point, the fake narrative peddled by media and politicians, about the reservation brought by the Modi government for the economically backward section of society. In addition to those lies, politicians have already started spreading dangerous attractive, that is not only fake but outlandish and bizarre too.
Alok Agarwal, an IIT alumnus and Aam Aadmi Politician from Madhya Pradesh, on 8 January took to Twitter and shared his theory:
चौकाने वाली बात
8 लाख तक इनकम वाले – 85%
5 एकड़ तक के किसान – 85%
सुप्रीमकोर्ट के अनुसार आरक्षण का लाभ लेने वालों को अनारक्षित सीट पर लाभ नहीं
यानि, 85% के लिये 10% सीटें जो कि पहले 51% थीं
यानि, 8 लाख से ऊपर व 5 एकड़ से ऊपर के 15% लोगों के लिये 41% आरक्षण
मोदी जी की अमीर भक्ति!
— Alok Agarwal (@iAlokAgarwal) January 8, 2019
“Shocking. People earning up to 8 lakh, 85%. People possessing land less than 5-acre, 85%. According to SC, a reserved candidate cannot go for the unreserved seat. Now, 85% population will only have, access to 10% seats, that so far was 51%. That means, people with income of more than 8 lakh and having more than 5 acres, will have access to 41% reservation.” Aggarwal tweeted. He was the chief ministerial candidate for AAP in Madhya Pradesh, in recent assembly elections.
Ram Gopal Verma, A Rajya Sabha MP from Samajwadi Party, also spread a similar type of theory in the august house of Rajya Sabha:
“….Supreme Court has already given 50 per cent reservation to Savarna class of society (General cast). Because SC/ST and OBC reservation are restricted to 50%. Now, an SC/ST candidate cannot go for seats reserved for Savarna, even though his merit is higher.” Yadav said in the house. He added, quoting Congress MP Anand Sharma, that rest of the 50% candidates, which SC/ST candidates cannot contest, goes to Economically Weaker Savana section of society.
“Now According to Kapil Sibal, in our country 98% people fall under this category. Now, the 98% population will only have 10% reservation, and 2% people (earning more than 8 lakh and having more than 5-acre land) will have 40% reservation”.
In a nutshell, Ram Gopal Yadav asserted that SC had already given reservation to Economically weaker General caste people, that is 50 per cent and the government has reduced it to 10%, and economically strong people will now get more reservation then before.
Now, let’s examine the claims with facts.
This two outlandish theories or fake narrative, is emanating from misassumption of the fact that people from SC/ST and OBC categories can only contest for seats that are reserved for them, and not for remaining seats. First of all, the remaining 50% seats, that is left after SC/ST and OBC reservation, is an ‘open category’ and not a ‘reserved category’, means the balanced 50% is not reserved for anyone. Any candidate (SC/ST, OBC, or general caste etc.) can fill the seats left out of the reservation. That means, if an SC/ST/OBC candidate has high merit, he/she can still outcompete a general caste candidate on the unreserved seat. This is a common phenomenon, that candidates from SC/ST and OBC categories go for unreserved eats if they fulfil qualification criteria. However, the opposite is not correct. An unreserved candidate cannot go for reserved seats. So in a non-technical way of speaking, SC/ST and OBC candidates can contest for 100% setas but the general category candidates can only contest for 50% seats.
Both Alok Agarwal and Yadav are spreading misinformation about the basic tenet of quota. The new amendment in the constitution ensures that people from unreserved category (not upper caste category) who come from the economically weaker section of the society (which according to Yadav are 98% population of the country and according to Aggarwal is 85%), can avail the benefit of reservation in higher education and jobs. So here also, the economically weaker section can contest not only on their reserved 10 per cent seats but also all the seats under the general category. A candidate from economically weaker section (and from the unreserved category, irrespective of religion) can still contest on 50% seats, 10% of which is reserved for them. While the general category (non SC/ST and OBC) candidates with high income and more than 5-acre land can only contest from 40% seats, after this new reservation.
We can also summarize the argument in one line. Earlier, general category EWS candidates had 50% seats to contest, even now they will have 50%, but in that 10% is exclusively reserved for them. The higher income group so far had 50% seats, but now they will have only 40% seats to contest, hence benefiting the EWS candidates.
In the end, this a big relief for candidates from the economically weak section. Earlier, the reservation was not given on grounds of the economic status of candidate, but now candidates can also have access to higher education and jobs, on basis of their economic background.
We have already demolished the narrative that reservation is not only meant for the upper castes but all sections that are economically weaker, including people from different religions. Whether the politicians are deliberately engaging in the spread of fake news or are misassuming facts, we can’t say.