NEW DELHI: Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge in Parliament on Monday accused the government of conspiring to end reservation for Scheduled Castes (SCs) as it had not yet filling 50 per cent vacancies under this category in all government departments.
He also slammed the government for bringing an amendment bill to include seven castes in Tamil Nadu under one group of the SC list ahead of assembly polls in the state despite the demand being made in 2015.
Participating in a discussion on The Constitution (Scheduled castes) order (Amendment) bill 2021, Leader of Opposition Kharge said: "Reservation is ending gradually in public and private sectors. There is a 50 per cent vacancy in the SC category in every department," he said.
There are 56 per cent SC category vacancies in Railways, 85 per cent in Defence and 28 per cent in posts, he said.
"They don't want to fill the vacancies. There is a conspiracy to end the assured job available to SCs. The conspiracy is to prevent SCs from getting jobs and keep them financially weak and as slaves like before. This is the thinking," he noted.
Expressing concern over the plight of SCs, Kharge said the situation is such that no one in the upper house has "ever cried when these people are murdered".
"When you need to, you have learnt to cry, laugh and also make fun of others," he said.
The Congress leader told the government that it should not think that it was doing great help whenever some castes are brought under the SC list because reservation to these people was ensured under the Constitution after much struggle by B R Ambedkar since 1919.
Supporting the bill, Kharge said a delegation from Tamil Nadu had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015 and sought the inclusion of seven castes under the SC list.
But at that time, Modi neither spoke about it nor extended any support.
Now, the bill has been brought in the wake of forthcoming assembly polls in Tamil Nadu, he claimed.
"The intentions are not good. You are taking the wrong path in policy. You could have done this in 2015," he said, adding that these days many bills come to the House which are prepared in two days and on the third day they are passed in Lok Sabha and on the fourth in Rajya Sabha.
He also criticised the ruling party members for talking about SCs without being part of their movement in the past.
"We went to jail when there was a plan to install an Ambedkar statue here. Where were you at that time?" he said and added that it was Congress party which made Ambedkar as chairman of the drafting committee of the Constituent Assembly.
"You are destroying this. Now, instead of democracy, you want to bring autocracy," he said, urging the government to fill up the vacant SC posts first.
However, Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale said Modi "does not have a habit to do politics in the name of Dalits" and the government is not thinking about ending reservation.
"Our demand is reservation in the private sector and there is a need for the government to consider this," he said while participating in the debate.
Athawale said Thaawar Chand Gehlot, a prominent Dalit face of the BJP, was made the Union Minister and even Kharge has been appointed as Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
Hitting back at Kharge, BJP member Bhupender Yadav, while participating in a debate on the bill, said it was the Congress which suspended fundamental rights of the citizens by imposing national emergency in 1975.
He also informed that Ambedkar had headed the drafting committee, but it was the Congress party which ensured he was defeated in his first election, thus preventing his entry in Lok Sabha.
"We respect Ambedkar and therefore Bharat Ratna award was given to him during the BJP regime. Today, Congress is giving wrong statements for vote bank politics," he said and accused the Congress of making SC reservation religion based.
He also said the BJP's commitment is to continue reservation for SCs.
The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) too questioned the timing of the bill.
TRS member Bandra Prakash said a bill from Telangana on reservation for SCs is pending with the centre since the last four years.
"When elections are coming, you are placing it (bill) before parliament. For the sake of social justice, kindly consider such bills from Telangana and other states," he said.
Both SC and ST posts are lying vacant.
Even the standing committee should be given instructions to review every institution once in three months and parliament should also discuss the reservation issue once every year, he suggested.
Aam Aadmi Party leader Sanjay Singh asked the government to address the plight of Dalits in BJP-ruled states, while observing that the saffron party has not had a president from the Dalit community so far or even a chief minister in any state.
NCP leader Fauzia Khan asked the government to consider reservation for Marathas despite the matter being in court.