Quotas: the government will set up a panel to study the status of scheduled castes converted to Christianity and Islam
In a move with far-reaching implications, the Center is set to set up a national commission to study the social, economic and educational status of members of Scheduled Castes, or Dalits, who have converted to religions other than Hinduism. , Buddhism and Sikhism. Indian Express learned.
The proposal to create such a commission is actively discussed at the Center, and a decision should be taken soon, we learn.
Sources from the Department of Minority Affairs and the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said they had given the green signal for such a move. It is learned that consultations on the proposal are currently underway between the Ministries of Interior, Law, Social Justice and Empowerment, and Finance.
The decision to set up such a commission takes on significance following several pending petitions in the Supreme Court seeking SC reservation benefits for Dalits who have converted to Christianity or Islam.
The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Ordinance 1950, under Section 341, states that no person professing a religion other than Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism shall be considered a member of a Scheduled Caste. The original order under which only Hindus were classified as SC was amended in 1956 to include Sikhs and in 1990 to cover Buddhists.
On August 30, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, and also including Justices Abhay S Oka and Vikram Nath, that he would record the government’s position on the issue raised by the applicants. The bench gave the solicitor general a three-week extension and listed the case on October 11.
“The Solicitor General submits that he wishes to record the current position/position on the matter in question which deals with the request for extension of the reservation claim of the Dalit communities to other religions other than those specified. Upon his request, a three-week extension is granted. The learned attorneys for the petitioners/appellants declare that they will file a response, if any, within one week,” the bench said.
The Indian Express has learned that the proposed commission could have three or four members, with its chairman having the rank of a Union Cabinet Minister – and a possible delay of well over a year to submit its report.
Apart from mapping the changes in status and circumstances of Dalits who have converted to Christianity or Islam, the proposed commission will also study the impact of adding new members to the current SC roster.
The problem is limited to Dalits since there is no religion-specific mandate for STs and OBCs. “The rights of a person from a Scheduled Tribe are independent of their religious faith,” the DoPT website states. Furthermore, following the implementation of the report of the Mandal Commission, several Christian and Muslim communities have found a place in the central or state lists of OBCs.
Among the main benefits offered to the SC community are 15% reservation for direct recruitment into central government jobs, 7.5% for STs and 27% for OBCs.
The question of the benefits of the SC reservation for Dalits who have converted mainly to Christianity or Islam has also been raised before previous governments.
In October 2004, the then UPA government, headed by Dr. Manmohan Singh, formed the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, headed by India’s former Chief Justice, Justice Ranganath Misra, to to recommend measures for the welfare of socially and economically backward sections among religious and linguistic groups. minorities.
In May 2007, the Ranganath Misra Commission submitted its report, recommending that SC status be completely divorced from religion and made religiously neutral like STs. The then UPA government did not accept the recommendation on the grounds that it was not supported by field studies.
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Furthermore, a study commissioned by the National Commission for Minorities in 2007 concluded that Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims should be granted SC status. This conclusion was also not accepted on the grounds that it was based on tiny sample sizes which could have led to unreliable estimates.
Sources within the Ministry of Minority Affairs said the latest proposal to set up a commission was necessitated by the idea that while the issue is of paramount importance there is no definitive data available. to study its different facets and arrive at a clear position.