Bill for new panel for backward classes today

March 29, 2017:The Indian Express

Amid continuing Opposition protests over the government’s move to set up a new body for socially and educationally backward classes with constitutional status and judicial powers, the government is set to bring in Lok Sabha Wednesday a bill to set it up. The bill will give the National Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (NCSEBC) — it will replace the National Commission for Backward Classes — powers equivalent to those of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes. Once the bill becomes an Act, the states will not be able to add or delete castes from the backward classes list without Parliament’s consent.

The decision is seen as a move to further consolidate the backward communities behind the BJP. Party leaders said they got huge backing from backward communities in recent assembly elections, especially in UP. At the BJP parliamentary party meeting Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was felicitated for the decision. Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the Opposition, which has been disrupting Rajya Sabha over the decision to set up the new body, was trying to “spread disinformation¶ and “sending a wrong message¶ about it. “The truth is not palatable to them because it is not suitable to them. Their allegation that the government would remove some caste groups from the OBC list is absurd,¶ he said.

Naidu said the new commission would have constitutional status and judicial powers, and its chairman will be a retired judge. “A clause 342 (A) will be incorporated making it mandatory to take concurrence of Parliament for adding or deleting any caste from the category,¶ Naidu said. Denying the Opposition’s charge that the government was delaying vacancies in the commissions for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, backward classes and minorities, Naidu said there had been delays in appointments in these panels in the past too, sometimes as long as five to 12 months.

The Opposition led by the Samajwadi Party has repeatedly disrupted proceedings in Rajya Sabha alleging the cabinet decision to constitute the NCSEBC would lead to removal of some castes from the OBC list. On Monday and Tuesday, Rajya Sabha witnessed repeated adjournments with the Opposition protesting the delay in the filling vacancies in commissions for SCs, STs, backward classes and minorities. BJP leaders alleged the Opposition’s “real concern¶ was over the “reality that PM Modi is becoming the messiah of the poor¶. Naidu said a constitutional body with judicial powers had long been a demand from OBC communities. “A delegation of OBC MPs met the PM recently too,¶ he said, adding existing castes will not be excluded.

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