Union minister Ramdas Athawale today accused the Congress of not allowing the passage of a bill on backward classes in the Rajya Sabha and asked if the party was against empowerment of the OBCs. He said that the Congress was in power for 27 years but did nothing to empower the OBC Commission. Yesterday it proposed an amendment seeking increase in the number of members of the proposed commission, “which shows it did not want the bill to be passed”, he alleged. “I want to ask the Congress today if it is against the OBCs,” the minister of state for social justice and empowerment asked.
There was high drama in the Rajya Sabha yesterday and embarrassment for the government as some amendments moved by the Opposition on the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty- Third Amendment) Bill was passed because of thin strength of ruling NDA MPs in the House. When the House took up the bill, whose passage required two-third majority of those present and voting in the 245- member House, the ruling benches were clearly short of several members. The amended bill will now have to be returned to the Lok Sabha for its fresh approval. The Lower House had already passed the bill but in the Upper House it had been referred to a Select Committee as the Opposition had wanted more scrutiny. The Committee gave its report recently.
While the clauses of the bill were being put to vote, Congress members Digvijaya Singh, B K Hariprasad and Hussain Dalvai moved a number of amendments to clause 3. One amendment sought increase in the number of members of the proposed commission from three to five with reservation for a member from a minority community and another for women. Another amendment spoke about protecting the rights of states by making their recommendations binding. Under the NCBC Act, the Commission merely has the power to recommend inclusion or exclusion of communities in the OBC list.
The new Bill, once passed by Parliament, will give the Commission powers equivalent to that of a civil court. It will be able to summon any person, ask for a document or public record, and receive evidence on affidavits.