Tough test for TRS as focus is back on enhancing Muslim quota

Hyderabad, December 11: With Sudhir Commission recommending 9-12 percent reservation for Muslims in Telangana, the focus is back on the issue of enhancing the quota for the community from the current four percent.

The commission of inquiry on socio-economic and educational conditions of Muslims in Telangana headed by retired IAS officer G. Sudhir had submitted its report to the government in August this year but the report was made public on December 10.

The four member panel, constituted by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government last year, has recommended to the government to provide 12 percent or minimum 9 percent reservation to Muslims in jobs and education.
The commission in its report stated that Muslims, who constitute 12.68 percent of Telangana’s 3.52 crore population, are socially and economically backward and deprived. The data gathered by it shows the community is below the state average in some of the criteria for the backwardness.

“Therefore, Government may provide reservation to them. Given that more than 82 per cent of the Muslim population is already categorised as backward, there may be an increase in the reservation percentage to 12 percent or a minimum of 9 per cent based on their social and educational backwardness and deprivation,” said the report.

The panel observed that a suitable legislation needs to be passed duly obtaining legal opinion as the present provision of four percent reservation is continuing with interim order of the Supreme Court.

During 2014 elections, TRS had promised to increase the quota for Muslims to 12 percent but the promise still remained unfulfilled.

Over last two and half years, Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao on numerous occasions reiterated that he is committed to fulfill the promise to enhance the quota for Muslims in proportion to their population.
Whether TRS government decides to make the quota 9 percent or 12 percent, it has to overcome many constitutional and legal hurdles to honour its commitment.

The task is even more difficult considering the fact that four percent reservation is being currently implemented under an interim order of the Supreme Court. The petitions challenging then Andhra Pradesh government’s move in providing reservation to Muslims are still pending in the apex court.

Any hike in existing reservation will take the overall quota to over 50 percent, the maximum limit prescribed by the Supreme Court.

KCR repeatedly said the government will follow Tamil Nadu model, where total reservation is 69 percent as the relevant state Act was included the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.

The chief minister also stated that the state assembly will pass a resolution and send it to the Centre for Constitutional amendment.

KCR, however,  came under criticism from opposition and some Muslim groups for not being sincere on the issue. They had been demanding that the government constitute Backward Class Commission as it is the only appropriate authority to look into the demand.

“The TRS promise is unrealistic because Acts even under the Ninth Schedule are open for judicial review as ruled by the Supreme Court,,” said  Mohammed Ali Shabbir, the leader of opposition in the legislative council. The Congress leader said KCR knew well that the Centre will not accept the demand as  BJP is against reservation for Muslims

It was in 2004 that Congress government led by Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy in then united Andhra Pradesh had provided 5 percent quota to Muslims by creating a new category among backward classes. 

Several groups challenged in courts and after a three year long legal battle, the government brought down the quota to four percent so that the overall quota doesn’t exceed 50 percent. The government also limited the benefits to economically backward Muslims coming under 14 categories.

Shabbir who as a minister in YSR cabinet had played a key role in providing reservations to Muslims, believes that unless the recommendation for a hike in Muslim quota comes from backward classes commission, no progress can be made.

The TRS government will also have to face opposition from BJP and its front organisations who are strongly opposed to quota on the basis of religion.

The ruling party, however, will be under pressure from its ally Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) to stand by its word and take meaningful steps to fulfill it.

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