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Why in News?
Parliament passed the Constitution (126th Amendment) Bill, doing away with the provision for the nomination of Anglo Indians to Lok Sabha.
More on the news:
Union Cabinet recently approved a proposal to end the constitutional provisions that guarantee the reservation of two seats for the Anglo-Indian community in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.
This bill was brought for two objectives:
Extend reservation for Scheduled castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) to Lok Sabha and legislative bodies.
Remove the provision of nominating Anglo Indians to Lok Sabha and legislative bodies.
The bill has provisions for amending article 334 and extending reservation only for Scheduled castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) to Lok Sabha and legislative bodies till 25th January 2030 (which was expiring in 2020).
Currently, only some state Assemblies like Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, etc. have one Anglo-Indian member each. The Amendment does away with this as well.
No member from the Anglo-Indian community has been nominated to the current Lok Sabha.
Earlier a panel, comprising Union Defence Minister, Home Minister, Social Justice Minister, etc. had observed that the community was doing well and did not need a reservation.
Since the amendment falls within the purview of Article 368 (2) (d) dealing with “the representation of States in Parliament”, it is required to be ratified by the Legislature of not less than half of the States by a simple majority.
Anglo Indians were for the first time officially recognized as a specific community by the British and the term Anglo-Indian was formalized for the first time in the Census of 1911.
The Government of India Act, 1935 identified Anglo Indians as “a person whose father or any of whose other male progenitors in the male line is or was of European descent but who is a native of India.”
After independence, the Anglo-Indian community started leaving India on fears of reprisals and insecurity about their future in India. This insecurity led to three major waves of migration from the sub-continent.
The first wave of migration of Anglo-Indians came just after 1947. The second wave was in the early sixties during the time there was a push for Hindi to be made the national language which reduced chances of Employment.
The third wave came in the 1970s and is called by most sociologists as the ‘family reunion wave’.
Amid the recent decision of the government to take away reservation provided to the Anglo-Indian community, certain
sections of the community feel that they still need a political reservation as ground realities are very different from what is perceived otherwise.
Constitutional Provisions About Anglo-Indians
Article 366 (2) defines Anglo-Indian as a person – whose father or any of whose other male progenitors in the male line is or was of European descent but who is domiciled within the territory of India and is or was born within such territory of parents habitually resident therein and not established there for temporary purposes only.
Article 331- Representation of the Anglo-Indian Community in the House of the People. —Notwithstanding anything in article 81, the President may, if he is of opinion that the Anglo-Indian community is not adequately represented in the House of the People, nominate not more than two members of that community to the House of the People.
Article 333- Representation of the Anglo-Indian community in the Legislative Assemblies of the States - Notwithstanding anything in article 170, the Governor of a State may if he is of opinion that the Anglo-Indian community needs representation in the Legislative Assembly of the State and is not adequately represented therein, nominate one member of that community to the Assembly.
According to the 10th Schedule of the Constitution, Anglo-Indian members of Lok Sabha and State Assemblies can take the membership of any party within six months of their nomination. But, once they do so, they are bound by their party whip. The Anglo-Indian members enjoy the same powers as others, but they cannot vote in the Presidential election because they are nominated by the President.
Article 334 originally provided that reservation of seats and special representation would cease 10 years after the commencement of the Constitution. But this was extended every 10 years (8th,23rd,45th,62nd,79th, and 95th amendments).
The Anglo-Indian members of parliament enjoy the same powers as others, but they cannot vote in the Presidential election because they are nominated by the President.
Is there a need for a reservation for the community?
The nomination of Anglo Indians in Lok Sabha is a testament to the fair-minded approach and forward-looking vision of the founding fathers of India.
The idea of nominating Anglo-Indians can be traced to Frank Anthony, who headed the All India Anglo-Indian Association.
Article 331 was added in the Constitution following his suggestion to Jawaharlal Nehru for the representation of Anglo-Indians in Lok Sabha. This also gave Anglo-Indians a voice in the creation of India’s Constitution.
This representation gave the community space to raise their concern on various issues such as education and also air their view on various issues concerning the country.
The presence of Anglo-Indian MLAs in many State legislatures similarly provided a constructive pro-national voice which helped them in advancing their cause and betterment of the community.
In recent years, under its current president-in-chief, Barry O’Brien, the All-India Anglo-Indian Association has continued to expand, creating and promoting positive political engagement.
Thus, it would be a great loss to the nation if these voices were to be further marginalized by hasty decisions premised on short-term political considerations.
Ministry of Minority Affairs report (2013) on the situation of Anglo-Indians.
Based on surveys conducted among people belonging to the community in several cities, the report documented poor economic and social conditions for too many.
Among the major challenges and problems faced by people of the community, the report observed, the most significant ones related to an identity crisis, lack of employment, educational backwardness, lack of proper facilities, and cultural erosion.
The document also explicitly commended the assistance Anglo-Indians receive from their nominated MPs and MLAs, stating that “representatives of the Anglo-Indian community in the State Assemblies and local leaders of the community are working hard for the welfare and progress of the community”.
A stronger, less socio-economically marginalized Anglo Indian community would benefit the nation as a whole.
The Indian government needs to continue giving reservation to the community as it will encourage their political participation and will also provide recognition for the work done on the ground by grassroots groups involved with the community.
So, the government must think rationally before scrapping reservations provided to Anglo-Indians by considering all aspects associated with the representation of Anglo-Indians.