India to approve jobs quota for less well-off not covered by affirmative action
India's parliament is set to approve a bill allowing 10% of state posts to be taken up by economically weak recipients in a move called a pre-election 'gimmick'
New Delhi — India’s parliament will pass a landmark bill on Wednesday reserving 10% of government jobs for the less well-off, a move criticised by some political analysts as a pre-election “gimmick” amid high unemployment rates in the country.
Joblessness in the world’s second most populous country shot up to a 15-month high in December, data from independent think-tank the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy showed, underlining the biggest challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bid to retain power in a general election due in May.
The data also showed that India lost as many as 11-million jobs in 2018 with about 83% in rural areas, as operational costs surged for small businesses since the launch of a national sales tax in 2017 and an earlier ban on high value currency notes.
Under the bill to amend the constitution, floated by Modi’s party days after losing power in three heartland states and ahead of a national election, recipients must be classed as “economically weak”. Only people with an annual income below 800,000 rupees ($11,354) and owning fewer than five acres of land will be eligible.
The lower house of parliament has already passed the bill while almost all political parties have voiced their support for it in the upper house, meaning its approval was a formality.
India already has job and education quotas for socially backward classes but this is the first time upper caste Hindus and people from other religions will benefit from any affirmative action.
“There is no food but every hungry man is handed an empty plate, that’s what Modi government is doing with the youth of India,” Shahid Siddiqui, a political analyst and a former legislator, said on Twitter. “There are no jobs, but 10% reservation in the line of unemployed.”
Derek O’Brien, a legislator from the opposition All India Trinamool Congress, said the bill was “an acknowledgement of guilt, that we haven’t created any jobs in the last four and a half years”.
But Modi said the bill “sets into motion the process to achieve an effective measure that ensures justice for all sections of society”.