Moving the Constitution (117th Amendment) Bill, 2012, Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy said it is important in the backdrop of backwardness of the Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes and their inadequate representation in government jobs.
With an aim of garnering maximum support, government has incorporated some crucial elements like 22 per cent cap on promotions for which consideration of Annual Confidential Report (ACR) will be crucial.
The bill, which is strongly opposed by Samajwadi Party, got conditional support from BJP and clear cut backing from some other parties like BSP, CPI-M, CPI, Trinamool Congress and JD-U. However, Shiv Sena did not support the bill.
Voting on the bill, which will require two-third support for its passage, is expected to take place on Monday.
The Upper House witnessed high drama when two SP members were directed to leave the House for causing disruptions over the quota bill, leading to arguments and counter-arguments before all members of the party walked out.
After the walkout by SP members, proceedings of the House went on smoothly.
Trouble started just before the bill was moved by Narayanasamy for consideration and passing, in the third attempt in the last four days.
He said agitations are going in some states and bill is aimed at removing injustice to the deprived categories.
The government will consider the efficiency in services part of the bill, he said.
The question of efficiency was raised by Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley, who initiated the debate on the bill.
The BJP leader asked the government to make changes so that the bill did not create reverse discrimination.
"My party is fully committed to the concept of social justice," he said.
Jaitley said BJP supports the affirmative action for uplift of those who have been historically deprived of opportunities, but sought changes in the bill pertaining to efficiency of services while granting such promotions.
Urging the government to reconsider the provisions in the bill concerning Article 335, he said that the bill in its present form runs the risk of being struck down by courts.
BSP chief Mayawati, who has been pushing for the bill, said it has been brought to the House with great difficulties and hoped it would pass with comfortable majority.
She slammed Congress for the plight of SCs and STs in the country and its failure to take action for their uplift.
Mayawati also advocated reservation for economically weaker sections of upper castes as well as backwards.
Balachandra Mungekar (Cong) said it is a very crucial bill and reservation in promotion is absolutely necessary. He pointed out that of the 84 secretaries in the central government, none belongs to SC/ST category.
T K Ranagrajan (CPI-M), Shivanand Tiwari (JD-U) and D Bandopadhyay (AITC) also participated in the debate.
Mayawati, who virtually arm-twisted the government to bring the quota bill for SCs/STs, slammed Congress for not doing any such thing because of which condition of these communities deteriorated.
She said if the intention of the Congress government was clear on the issue, the situation would not have deteriorated to the present extent.
Congress ruled the nation for a long time but sadly BSP has to explain to its MPs the need for quota in promotions to SC/ST, she said.
"It is a matter of sadness....the truth is bitter. We only know how we could get the bill moved in a situation where under a planned conspiracy the bill was opposed. It is being portrayed as if it is for the first time that such a move has been initiated by the Centre, whereas the fact is such provisions existed but faced impediments," she said.
Supporting the bill, T M Selvaganapathi (DMK) suggested the government to take away the 50 per cent cap on reservation to SCs/STs in promotions as it would be impeding factor during implementation.
AIADMK member A W Rabi Bernard also favoured the amendments saying Tamil Nadu has 69 per cent reservation quota and strong legal measures are required to ensure social equity and provide equal opportunities.
Emphasising the need to protect the reservation policy, D Raja (CPI) suggested, "Time has come, the government has to think extending reservation policy to private sector as more and more government is moving towards public private partnership (PPP)."
He pointed out "serious omissions" in the 'Statement of Objectives' of the bill and sought the government to make necessary changes.
Supporting the bill, Devender Goud (TDP) asked the government to keep in mind the interest of Other Backward Castes (OBCs) as they represent 52 per cent of the country's population.
Shiv Sena member Anil Desai opposed the move saying it would lead to inefficiency, generate feeling of frustration and heartburn among general category.
T K Rangarajan (CPI-M) said his party "supported fully" the bill as Dalits were subjected to neglect for long.
Urging parties to support the Bill, he said was it not a shame that the nation ruled by various governments including Congress, UPA and NDA could not provide even one class-I officer from SC/ST category out of 84 secretaries in the central government.
He asked Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath to make efforts to garner support from SP as well.
Rangarajan said it was a sorry state of affairs that even after seven decades of freedom, SC/ST communities were the poorest.
He said it was a matter of concern that in the past senior bureaucrats did not implement any Act for welfare of Dalits.
Shivanand Tiwari (JD-U) said his party too fully supported the bill and questioned what was wrong if BSP chief Mayawati sought support for welfare of SC/ST communities in a situation where they lagged much behind in government jobs.
Slamming Congress for its approach on the issue, he said even Jawaharlal Nehru in a letter to Chief Ministers had opposed any such reservation, which was strongly objected to by Minister of State in PMO V Narayanasamy.
Tiwari said he was in possession of a copy of such letter and was ready to resign from the House if it was proved wrong.
At the same time he challenged Narayanasamy to quit he was found wrong.
D Bandopadhyay (Trinamool) said the bill will correct all historical injustices. Even after reservation in early stages in government jobs, the condition was such that there were only five officials from the community in additional secretary rank and only 42 in joint secretary rank.