Headless Commission keeps Pahari reservation bill in cold storage

Nishikant Khajuria

Jammu, Oct 25: The much talked about bill seeking reservation for the Pahari speaking people in Jammu and Kashmir, continues to remain in cold storage even after more than seven months since it was returned by Governor N N Vohra for reconsideration of the same.
The draft bill, passed by then Omar Abdullah-led coalition Government in its last Assembly session at Srinagar but not approved by the Governor, has been gathering dust in the office of Jammu Kashmir State Backward Classes Commission, official sources informed the Excelsior.
Since February last, there has been zero progress on the fate of this bill, which could not be taken up for discussion by State Backward Commission as the body is itself lying headless and therefore virtually defunct since long, sources added.
The unprecedented delay on the fate of this bill is depriving the Pahari community from getting the benefit of five percent reservation in jobs etc, like other reserved categories in Jammu and Kashmir.
It may be recalled that along with several other legislations, the bill proposing five percent reservation to Pahari-speaking people by amending the J&K Reservation Rules, was passed by the State Legislature in August 2014 and then sent to the Governor for his concurrence in first week of the last October. Even as the Governor approved all the legislations, the bill for reservation to Paharis was put on hold for more than three months and then returned to the Legislative House for reconsidering the same in the light of its legal and other deficiencies.
In his dissent note, attached with the Bill, the Governor had observed that seeking reservation to persons living anywhere in the State on the sole ground of their speaking a particular language without any criteria of backwardness being assessed and satisfied, was constitutionally questionable.
Following the Governor’s refusal for a nod, the bill was forwarded by the Legislative Assembly to the Law Department and then the Department of Social Welfare, which sent it further to the State Commission for Backward Classes for its observation.
According to Kuldeep Raj Gupta, Vice-Chairman of the Advisory Board for Welfare of Pahari Speaking People, the State Government has assured an early decision on the fate of Pahari reservation bill. “This issue was prominently highlighted by all the members in the recently held Pahari Board meeting where the Chief Minister Mufti Mohd Sayeed himself informed that the State Government was taking all required steps for reservation to the Paharis,” Mr Gupta added but admitted that no time frame was set for getting the bill through.
Meanwhile, sources said, the expert committee for a survey of the Pahari Speaking People in Jammu and Kashmir, which submitted its report to the State Social Welfare Department a few days ago, has made several positive observations on socio-ethno conditions of the community.
In its voluminous report of more than 200 pages, sources added, the expert panel has also listed some commonalities between this linguistic group and tribal Gujjars.
This four-member expert panel, comprising of Peerzada Mohd Amin, Head of the Social Work Department in Kashmir University, Suresh Babu of Sociology Department in Jammu University, Ashish Saxena of Banaras Hindu University and Dr Shazia of Social Work Department in KU, was constituted by the State Government in April 2013 following the direction of Union Home Ministry, which was approached for its recommendation of a Scheduled Tribe status to the Pahari speaking people in Jammu and Kashmir.


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