Political parties from various hues on Thursday demanded Constitutional Amendment to provide for promotion for SCs and STs in jobs, prompting the government to express readiness to convene an all-party meeting on the issue.
During a short-duration discussion in the Rajya Sabha, members demanded the amendment in the wake of the Supreme Court quashing Uttar Pradesh government's decision in this regard recently.
Replying to the discussion, Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is seized of the matter and is willing to call an all-party meeting to build a consensus for bringing a legislation.
Narayanasamy expressed deep concern over the issue and admitted much more was needed to be done for empowering the weaker sections of the society.
He said different governments had in the past 4-5 times tried to bring Amendment to provide more privileges for SCs, STs and OBCs but they were unfortunately stuck down in the courts.
BSP, which raised the issue, was not satisfied and staged a walkout led by its leader Mayawati.
Earlier, Minister for Law and Minorities Salman Khurshid, while intervening in the discussion, said the government was committed to empowerment of all backward communities and provide them reservation in government jobs in proportion to their population.
Opposition BJP, CPI and CPI-M also accused the government of delaying such a crucial issue.
Khurshid said the primary restriction of 50 per cent maximum limit for reservation in jobs for SCs, STs and OBCs "ties the hands of the government" in doing much for them in proportion to their population.
The government is holding regular meetings and consulting experts for further empowerment of weaker sections, he said and quoted Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's favourite lines ".... I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep..."
Khurshid appealed to all parties to join hands in this pursuit.
Narayanaswamy said the Centre launched a special drive in 2008 to fill the backlog in recruitment of officials belonging to SCs, STs and OBCs and said through sustained efforts the government managed to fill nearly 75 per cent of the backlog.
Citing figures, he said only 11.9 per cent SC officials are in class I jobs while their percentage in class II services is 14.3 per cent, in class III (16.2 per cent) and class IV (18.4 per cent).
Similarly, STs constituted only 4.4 per cent in class I jobs, 5.4 per cent in class II services, 7.3 per cent in class III and 6.5 per cent in class IV, Narayanaswamy said and added "this is not sufficient."
BJP, CPI and CPI-M members charged the government with "delaying" the issue in the name of building consensus among all parties.
"There is already a consensus on the issue among all parties...there is no point delaying it by calling an all party meeting to build a consensus," Prakash Javadekar (BJP) said.
Samajwadi Party and even some Congress members demanded a timeframe for bringing Amendment to ensure reservation for SCs and STs in promotions.