Bill for quota to Gen categories in J&K awaiting Guv’s nod for about 11 months

Nishikant Khajuria
JAMMU, Jan 8: At the time when discussions are going on over fate of the Central Government’s move on according 10 percent quota to economically weaker sections from general categories, a similar and rather more justified Bill envisaging reservation to poorest among poor in Jammu and Kashmir has been awaiting Governor’s nod for the last several months without any specific reason.
The historic Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill 2018, which envisages six percent reservation to weaker and under privileged classes of the unreserved category was passed by the State Legislative Assembly as well as the Legislative Council on February 10, 2018.
More than 10 months since passage of the Bill by both the Houses and even after the State Government’s ‘satisfactory’ replies in response to some clarifications sought by then Governor N N Vohra on the significant legislation in April last, the Governor House has neither raised any further query nor accorded its assent to the same till date.
While the Central Government’s Bill seems a political gimmick ahead of Lok Sabha polls because of apparent attempt to appease everyone by keeping the maximum income limit for a beneficiary to Rs 8 lakh per annum y, which is likely to cover almost 95 percent population among the unreserved categories, the J&K Bill for quota to under privileged classes proposes benefit of reservation to only poorest among poor, whose income is less than Rs one lakh per annum.
Pertinent to mention that out of total 125 lakh population of J&K, as per the census 2011, approximately 64 percent of the population is covered under the benefit of reservation under various categories, including Scheduled Castes (8 percent), Scheduled Tribes (10 percent), Social Caste (2 percent, RBA (20 percent), etc.
As 46 percent quota has already been fixed to various categories and the remaining four percent is available as of now, the said Bill envisages that the percentage of RBA reservation shall be restricted to 15 percent instead of existing 20 percent and the percentage so saved shall be utilized for economically poor class.
The Governor’s Secretariat had sought clarification on veracity of the claims and the Constitutional provision to substantiate the State Government’s move on extending reservation benefits to the economically backward among unreserved categories in Jammu and Kashmir. In its communication vide No GS-28(Assent-Bill 018/18E, dated 28-03, 2018, to the Secretary, Department of Law, Justice & Parliamentary Affairs, the Governor’s Secretariat had sought to know whether an attempt was ever made to collect data regarding the actual number of families and the conditions/criteria to be taken into account for assessing economic backwardness of the beneficiaries, which is proposed to be remedied by the provisions of the Bill.
Asking the Government to furnish copy of such report, the Governor had also asked whether any detailed study was carried out to justify the requirement, if any, for the proposed legislation, especially in view of the fact that almost all socially and economically backward section and backward areas of society in the State have been covered under the existing Reservation Policy. Further, the Governor had also sought to know the legal basis of the proposed legislation when there is no provision in the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution to support such enactment.
In response to then Governor’s letter, the Department of Law, in conformity with the Social Welfare Department, had submitted the State Government’s response in April last. In its detailed and para-wise reply submitted to the Governor’s Secretariat, the Law Department had quoted the findings of the different panels on socio economic condition of the economically weaker classes among the general categories and their recommendations for reservations. It was also clarified in the reply that reservation to the economically weaker among general categories is being extended by amending Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act of the State Constitution.
The Law Department, in its reply, had also quoted recommendations of the committee constituted to examine the inclusion of poor classes of the general category under J&K Reservation Rules. The committee, headed by Jeet Lal Gupta, Chairman of State Commission for Backward Classes, had observed that about 36 percent population of the State (45 lakh people) is not covered under any reservation at present and approximately 10 percent of this is supposed to be targeted under the proposed reservation. The report further says that as per the census 2011, approximately 64 percent of the State population is covered under the benefit of reservation under various categories. These include SCs (8 percent), STs (10 percent), Social Caste (2 percent), Residence of area ALC (3 percent) and RBA (20 percent). Observing that already 46 percent reservation has been fixed to various categories and the remaining four percent is available as of now, the Committee had recommended that the percentage of reservation for RBA should be restricted to 15 percent instead of existing 20 percent and utilize the percentage so saved for the economically poor classes. While fixing the quota for various categories, the committee said that due consideration has been given to their population, economic status and employment in the Government. These observations of the committee were mentioned in the reply submitted to the Raj Bhawan with regard to the Bill for reservation to economically backward among general category.
Even after submission of the reply through Law Department, sources said that Chairman of the State Commission for Backward Classes, Jeet Lal Gupta had personally called on then Governor N N Vohra and held a detailed discussion over the Bill. Sources claimed that Mr Vohra had expressed satisfaction over the reply on his queries and assured to accord his official consent.
However, soon after this meeting, N N Vohra was replaced by the incumbent Satya Pal Malik as the Governor of J&K, who was also apprised of status of the significant bill pending for his final nod.
And now even after more than four months since Malik assumed the office of Governor, fate of the Bill for reservation to poorest among poor in Jammu and Kashmir is still hanging in balance for no apparent reasons.