Pahari Reservation Bill again hits roadblock as Guv seeks clarifications

Nishikant Khajuria
JAMMU, Mar 20: The much talked about legislation for extending reservation benefits to the Pahari Speaking People in Jammu and Kashmir has once again hit the roadblock as Governor N N Vohra is learnt to have sought clarifications on veracity of the claims put forth for declaring the community as `Reserved Category’.
Highly placed authoritative sources told the Excelsior that the Governor’s Secretariat has asked the State Government to examine the matter in light of some objections raised by individuals against the Bill granting reservation on linguistic basis.
Quoting a memorandum, submitted by Jammu and Kashmir Reserved Classes Union, the Governor’s Secretariat has listed seven objections against declaring Pahari Speaking people as Reserved Category and sought comments of the State Government in respect of the each objection.
As per the listed objections, “the reservation on linguistic basis is unconstitutional, unlawful and the language can not be criteria to assess backwardness of a community. None of the Commissions ( Gajendragadkar Commission, the Sikri Commission, the Wazir Commission (1969), the Anand Commission (1976) and the Mandal Commission (1969) has ever identified Paharis as Weaker Section. Further, Pahari Speaking People do not face any social stigma as 85 percent of them belong to upper castes and they are already enjoying reservation under ALC (3 percent), RBA (20 percent), SC (8 percent), OSC (2 percent) and Open Merit (59 percent) besides maximum population of the community falls under RBA and ALC categories.”
Further quoting the memorandum, the communication from Governor’s Secretariat says that the Backward Classes Commission has blindly recommended reservation to the Paharis without going into the Constitutional provision for caste based or area based reservations only.
“Neither any criteria was adopted for identification of such areas and backwardness nor any survey was conducted by any Government Department to suggest inadequacy of representation of such people in Government offices etc. Advisory Board for Pahari Speaking People works for the welfare of the people who speak six dialects falling under Western Pahari group in the State (Poonch, Mirpur, Pothari, Kaghan, Shabeel, Hindko) while as those speaking Siraji, Bhaderwahi, Pogli, Kishtwari, Dachani, Madwi, Padri, Bhalesi, Ludhari and Khasali have been ignored,” says the communication in reference to excerpts of the memorandum.
Sources in the Raj Bhawan said that the Governor’s Secretary, vide communication No. GS-61 (JK-Amend) 2018/1349, dated 28-02-2018, has written to the Chief Secretary B B Vyas for submitting necessary comments of the State Government in respect of the each of the issues raised in the memorandum on urgent basis.
Pertinent to mention that the legislation, extending three percent reservation benefits to the Pahari Speaking People in the State, was sent to the Governor for his final nod after the State Legislative Assembly as well as the Legislative Council passed the J&K Reservation (Amendment) Bill 2014, aimed at amending Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act-2004 at the fag end of the recently held Budget Session of the Legislature.
This is the second time that the Governor N N Vohra has sought clarification on the legislation seeking reservation to the Pahari Speaking People. The Bill envisaging five percent quota to the Paharis was earlier passed by the State Legislature in 2014 during the tenure of NC-Congress Government and then placed before the Governor who had returned the same to the House conveying his dissent against reservation on the basis of language.
In his four point observations that time, the Governor had also said that the criteria to be adopted and the authority competent to identify such areas where Pahari speaking people should be residing in order to become entitled to the proposed reservation, had not been specified. He had also mentioned about the Supreme Court ceiling limit of 50 percent and its observations on Constitutional requirements before making provisions for reservations.
Subsequently, the matter was referred to the J&K State Commission for Backward Classes, which examined identification of Pahari Speaking Areas, criteria for identification of such areas and backwardness, inadequacy of representation and overall administrative efficacy of such areas.
However, fresh queries on legality of the Bill on the basis of a memorandum submitted an organization have once against put a big question mark on fate of the Government move even as all the political parties in Jammu and Kashmir are unanimous for according reservation to the Pahari Speaking People in the State.
On being contacted, Chairman of the J&K State Commission for Backward Classes, Jeet Lal Gupta said that the Commission was aware of the development with regard to the Bill and the issues raised by the Governor’s Secretariat would be appropriately addressed.