Ten per cent of government jobs will now be reserved for people outside high income brackets as President Ram Nath Kovind cleared a landmark bill passed by parliament this week.
The bill was introduced by the government amid criticism by the opposition which said the move was a pre-election gimmick amid high unemployment. However, with elections just months away, no major political party dared to oppose the bill directly.
Joblessness in India shot up to a 15-month high last month, data from an independent think-tank showed, underlining the challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bid to retain power in a vote due by May.
Though the bill also applies to people from all religions, the new public sector job quota and reservation in government colleges is expected to mainly benefit the upper echelons of the Hindu caste system, which has traditionally been a core voter base for the BJP.
Under the new amendment to the constitution, floated by the BJP weeks after three state election defeats, people with an annual income below Rs 8 lakh and owning fewer than five acres of land would be eligible.
“Glad to see such widespread support for the Bill,” PM Modi tweeted after the bill’s passage. “It ensures a wider canvas for our yuva shakti (youth) to showcase their prowess and contribute towards India’s transformation.”
India already has job and education quotas for its lowest social classes, but this is the first time upper caste Hindus and people from other religions will benefit from affirmative action.
Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy think-tank showed India lost as many as 1.1 crore jobs last year with around 83 per cent in rural areas, as operational costs surged for small businesses since the launch of the Goods and Services Tax in 2017 and an earlier ban on high value currency notes.
(With inputs from Reuters)