Reservation needs to be on socio-economic criteria: Major General (Retd) SR Sinho
SR Sinho headed the 3-member panel, whose report formed the basis of the govt’s constitution amendment bill.
The commission submitted the report in July 2010. What has happened since then?
We submitted the report after four years of intensive study between 2006 and 2010. We visited 28 states and interacted with governors, chief secretaries, ministries, NGOs and all stakeholders. The report was even discussed in the Cabinet. But then the government did not move on it.
How do you view the Constitution Amendment Bill passed by Parliament?
Without commenting on the timing, I would like to welcome the move. It has been pending for long. During our visits to the states we felt the need to completely rethink the way reservation is implemented.
What is the way forward for the government?
The government needs to tread carefully. As we had recommended in our report, it is not just about quantum of reservation. It is also about welfare measures in healthcare, education and jobs.
Your report was never made public by the government. What were the main findings?
The report addressed the basic question — who is poor and why he is poor. Poverty is not a caste or religion-based problem. It is a social and economic problem. So reservation needs to be on socioeconomic criteria. In our report we had identified 13 parameters for identification of beneficiaries for education, healthcare and jobs.
How should the government implement the recommendations of the report?
We had proposed setting up of commissions at state level and national level to frame guidelines. The government would need to study geographical distribution of economically backward classes and focus on those areas. For instance, in our study we found that hilly areas, tsunami-hit regions or states more prone to natural calamities had poor access to education. We need to concentrate on them.
What are the welfare measures that need to be considered?
The government should consider, as we had recommended in our report, a host of preferential treatment policies for non-income tax paying economically backward classes. These include scholarships, free coaching for IAS examinations, easy loans for higher education and subsidised health facilities.
What was the view of state governments?
Some of the state governments were keen on even 14-15% reservation for economically backward classes. States like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh had recommended 14% reservation in this category. Even West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Sikkim – all states had agreed. But when I asked them to put on record a summary of discussions, state governments did not send anything.
Did the states agree to quantum of reservation?
All states – barring Tamil Nadu and Kerala – agreed to quantum of reservation. They asked the commission to recommend constitutional and legal framework to define the way ahead.
What were the reservations expressed by states?
Tamil Nadu was against increasing the quantum. It already has 69% reservation, so the government did not want any further increase. Kerala had said a categoric no to reservation, especially in government jobs. But it agreed to all welfare measures we proposed.
What was the view of states on creamy layer?
All state governments were upset with creamy layer cornering the benefits of reservation. The governments were of the view that creamy layer criteria need to be defined so that deserving get the reservation benefits.