BHUBANESWAR: Acting with clinical precision, reminiscent of the way Narendra Modi Government revoked special status to Jammu and Kashmir by striking down Article 370 in a day, the Odisha Government on Monday empowered the State Commission for Backward Classes to conduct survey of the social and educational conditions of the OBCs after its request was ignored by the Government of India.
Taking the members by surprise, the Government introduced the Odisha State Commission for Backward Classes (Amendment) Bill, 2020 in the Assembly in the evening after discussion on the motion of thanks for the Governor’s address was over. The Bill, which was passed unanimously, enables the Commission, constituted on February 12, to conduct social and educational condition of backward classes in the State.
Earlier in the day, to facilitate amendment to the Odisha State Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993, a meeting of the Cabinet was held at 9.45 am before the Assembly started.
As the Bill was not listed for passing in the Assembly list of business for the day, Speaker Surya Narayan Patro convened the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) immediately by adjourning the House from 5.30 pm to 5.59 pm so that time can be allotted for the legislation.
Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Pradipta Kumar Naik and leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) Narasingh Mishra are among the members of the BAC.
However, none of the ruling BJD and other Opposition members except the Leader of the Opposition and CLP leader were aware of what was going on in the corridors of power throughout the day.
The entire exercise was over within 90 minutes in the Assembly without giving the opposition members any time to react to the development.
Though some Opposition Congress members including Santosh Singh Saluja and Tara Prasad Bahinipati opposed the hasty move and demanded that the Bill be deferred to be passed on Tuesday, the CLP leader and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Bikram Keshari Arukha explained that the Bill has to be passed on the day under special circumstances. Once budget is placed in the Assembly, the Bill cannot be introduced in the House till the budget is passed, Mishra said and added that the aim is to exclude the creamy layer which is in line with the Supreme Court judgment.
Soon after the Bill, piloted in the House by Minister of State for ST and SC Development, Minorities and Backward Classes Welfare Jagannath Saraka was passed in the House, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik rose to move a resolution to take up survey of the backward classes which was another surprise but it was unanimously adopted.
The resolution moved by the Chief Minister said the State will do a survey of social and educational conditions of the people belonging to the backward classes. “We are commemorating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. As a fitting tribute to Mahatma and his ideals, it is important that the State takes up the survey of the backward classes,” he said.
The Chief Minister said the Odisha Cabinet had resolved on January 11, 2020 to move the Centre to include backward class survey as part of the census 2021. “This has been formally moved by the State Government to the Centre. Further, the issue has been raised both in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha by BJD members. However, there has been no response,” he said.
Describing the decision as historic, the Chief Minister said the Assembly has resolved to amend the Odisha State Commission for Backward Classes Act 1993, to enable the Backward Classes Commission constituted on February 12, 2020 to conduct survey of the social and educational conditions of backward class people.
The Chief Minister said to further accelerate inclusive growth, it is important to have reliable data about backward classes, but the last such census was done in 1931 which is now almost 90 years old.
The Government acted with swift planning. On Sunday night, a call went from Naveen Niwas to all BJD members to remain present in the House and while 99 per cent party MLAs were present, none had any inkling.