A special meeting of the Union cabinet on Sunday offered another bonanza ahead of the Lok Sabha elections by extending reservations in central government services to Jats of nine states by including them in the list of the OBCs. The cabinet, however, did not pursue the ordinance route for anti-corruption bills pushed by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to proclaim that the party will not tolerate corruption.
The states where Jats will enjoy reservation are Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand and Bihar. The decision was taken on the recommendation of the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) whose advice was sought by the government on December 19. The move is aimed at reaping electoral benefits as a sizeable number of Jats live in these states.
Another important decision taken at the UPA’s last cabinet meeting was that of denotifying 123 properties with the government and transferring their titles to the Delhi Wakf Board, a long-standing demand of the Muslim community. It also cleared resettlement and rehabilitation of those affected by the Polavaram irrigation project in Andhra Pradesh.
The cabinet also approved changes in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, envisaging a 10-year tax concession and five-year special status to Seemandhra region and also an ordinance on the Prevention of Atrocities (SC/ST) Act. The demand for granting special category status to Bihar was discussed, but nothing was finalised.
The meeting, chaired by PM Manmohan Singh, skirted the ordinance route for anti-corruption bills, reportedly due to president Pranab Mukherjee’s reluctance to sign the ordinance at the fag end of the UPA government. For the past few days, the UPA government had kept its officials on their toes, asking them to clear a record number of backlog laws for the approval of the last cabinet meet. Sources said since the government failed to table these laws in the Parliament session, it had chosen to take the ordinance route.
The law ministry had kept the drafts of nine ordinances ready and were drafting a few more for the approval of the cabinet.
The amendment in the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, had been stalled since it was introduced in the Lok Sabha last December. The social justice and empowerment ministry had been drafting the bill since 2011, but it received cabinet clearance only last November.
Women and child development minister Krishna Tirath wanted an ordinance to lower the age limit for juveniles from 18 to 16 in some cases. The draft bill has been in the making for almost three years. The ministry has been focusing on reducing the age limit since the December 16, 2012, gang rape of a medical student in Delhi in which one of the accused was 17 years old.
The law ministry had also redrafted three ordinances that have lapsed: one that gives greater powers to capital market regulator Sebi, one dealing with the medical education regulator and the third relating to reserved constituencies for Dalit and tribal candidates.