Giving in to the increasing clamour by the politically affluent Patidar community for reservation, the Gujarat government has chosen to tread a middle path by announcing a 10% quota for all non-reserved categories on the basis of their annual income.
In accordance with this, a 10% quota will be provided in education and government jobs for children hailing from families whose income is up to R6 lakh per annum.
Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel made the announcement, after a meeting with the state Cabinet ministers and discussion with Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah. Making the official announcement, Patel said, “This 10% reservation will not cause any changes to the reservation already offered to members of the Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBC).”
Over the last year, the Patidar community’s demand for reservation has risen in pitch with members of the community threatening to withdraw their support to the state BJP government, which counts the community among its vote bank. The state government’s former refusal to budge from its stand of not giving in to the pressure created appears to have been shaken post the recent Gandhinagar civic polls, which resulted in a tie between BJP and the Congress.
In September last year, soon after the Patel agitation left nine persons dead in Gujarat, the state government had announced a R1,000-crore package for the economically backward community under the Mukhyamantri Yuva Swavlamban Yojna (Chief Minister’s Youth Self-Reliance Scheme). The scheme, which included scholarships for students and age limit relaxation for its jobs, had as its criterion that the annual income of the beneficiary’s family must not exceed R4.5 lakh. Students securing 90% or more in Class 12 would get 50% fee waiver with a ceiling of R2 lakh per year in self-financed medical colleges, while those in engineering and pharmacy courses would be eligible to a ceiling of R50,000. The age limit of applying to government jobs was also raised from 28 years to 33 years.
However, the Patel community led by Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) convenor Hardik Patel, had dismissed the package as a ‘lollipop’ and continued to agitate for their demands. The community’s most recent attempt to hold the state to ransom with their call for ‘Gujarat bandh’, to protest against the imprisonment of Hardik and other community leaders, saw a lukewarm response with trade continuing as usual in most parts of the state.