ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Reservations for Muslims

West Bengal needs to be careful in implementing its new decision on reservations.

The announcement by the Left Front (LF) government of West Bengal to provide 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions to economically, socially and educationally backward minority Muslims was not unexpected. The beleaguered LF has steadily lost support in the past three years, reflected in its electoral performances at various levels in the state. The losses have been particularly acute in its traditional support bases among the poor, including the Muslims who constitute about a quarter of the state’s population. The Justice Rajinder Sachar Committee report in 2006 had identified a number of indicators that revealed the social, economic and educational backwardness among Muslims in the rural areas of the state. Muslims in West Bengal are mostly residents in rural areas while they are far more urbanised in other states. The decision to go ahead with steps for reservation should help the LF government address the grievances among sections of the minorities in the state, which have become more open after the findings of the Sachar Committee that the West Bengal government had not been sensitive to their concerns.

The LF government’s decision to provide reservation for backward minority Muslims will take the quota of reservation for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the state to 17%. This along with the extant quotas for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes will keep total reservations below the Supreme Court mandated ceiling of 50%. The additional groups of backward Muslims to be included in the OBCs would be identified by a panel comprising representatives from a number of state commissions and would exclude the creamy layer, identified as persons from families with an income of Rs 4.5 lakh per annum.

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