Governor gives assent to Bill
JAMMU, Jan 24: After a long struggle and suspense notwithstanding the support of all political parties, Pahari Speaking People in Jammu and Kashmir finally got reservation as Governor Satya Pal Malik today gave his assent to the J&K Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2014, which was passed by both the Houses in February last year.
The Governor’s nod has finally cleared the way for three percent reservation to the persons belonging to Pahari Speaking community on the basis of their linguistic identity, in the State Government jobs.
The amendment provides for addition of a separate category of the persons belonging to Pahari community, clan or tribe having distinct, cultural, ethnic and linguistic identity among the socially and educationally backward classes (other than Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes). The methodology and authority for identification of Pahari community shall be notified by the Government, says an official spokesman.
Notwithstanding the support of all political parties, the Bill proposing reservation to the Pahari Speaking People had to wait around five years for final nod since it was first passed by both the Houses during then NC-Congress Government, led by Omar Abdullah in 2014.
The earlier Bill, proposing five percent reservation to Pahari Speaking People by amending the J&K Reservation Rules was returned by then Governor N N Vohra to the Legislative House for reconsidering the same in the light of its legal and other deficiencies.
Thereafter, the Bill was forwarded by the Assembly to the Law Department and then the Department of Social Welfare, which sent it further to the State Commission for Backward Classes in February 2015 for its observation. As the Commission was lying headless and therefore virtually defunct till the appointment of incumbent Jeet Lal Gupta as its Chairman in 2017, the Bill kept gathering dust for two years.
In his dissent note, Vohra 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.
To ascertain the socio-economic condition of the Paharis, Commission for Backward Classes made efforts to lay its hands on the authentic literature, surveys and statistics. It its recommendation report, the Commission quoted observations of Economic Survey Report 2011-12, para 36-50, page 480, according to which, “Pahari Speaking people are amongst most under privileged linguistic minority mostly living in pitiable conditions near the ALC and other remote areas of the State of J&K…. like Rajouri, Poonch, Baramulla, Kupwara and Anantnag.”
With a view to ensuring a more focused analysis, statistics reflected in various officials surveys pertaining to the district of Poonch and Rajouri were also examined by the Commission as 63.46 percent of the total population of the twin districts are Paharis that makes up 74 percent of their entire population.
Maintaining that Paharis were living in pitiable condition and their exact economic profile must be even worse, the Commission had explained that after partition of the country in 1947, geographical, social, economic and cultural links of the community with the plain of Punjab got disconnected while recurring disturbances and periodic shelling had rendered a good stretch of their land uncultivated.
Describing Pahari Speaking People as a class suffering from socio-economic backwardness and inadequacy of representation, the Commission in its recommendation to the Social Welfare Department, J&K Government, observed that the community deserves reservation to the extent of three percent.
On the basis of this recommendation, the Bill proposing three percent reservation to the Pahari Speaking People was again passed in both the House on February 10, 2018 by then PDP-BJP Government, led by Mehbooba Mufti and thereafter sent to the Governor for his final nod.
However, the much talked about legislation once again hit the roadblock as then Governor N N Vohra again sought clarifications on veracity of the claims put forth for declaring the community as `Reserved Category’. The Governor’s Secretariat 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 listed seven objections against declaring Pahari Speaking People as Reserved Category and sought comments of the State Government in respect of the each objection.
The Governor’s Secretary, vide communication No. GS-61 (JK-Amend) 2018/1349, dated 28-02-2018, wrote to then 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. In his observations, Mr Vohra 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.
Subsequently, the matter was again 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.
Thereafter, the Department of Law in conformity with the Social Welfare Department, submitted the State Government’s response on the queries raised by Raj Bhawan on the Bill in the month of April 2018. In its detailed and para-wise reply, the Law Department quoted the findings of the different panels on socio economic condition of the Pahari Speaking People and also clarified that reservation to the community was being extended by amending Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act of the State Constitution.
After submission of the State Government’s reply, Chairman of the Commission for Backward Class Commission, Jeet Lal Gupta personally met Mr Vohra and clarified all the confusions over the matter following which the later had purportedly agreed to give his nod to the legislation very soon but the same was not done.
On August 23, 2018, incumbent Satya Pal Malik took over as new Governor of J&K and he was also apprised the matter twice but it took him five months to give his formal assent to the Bill thus ending uncertainty over the much talked about reservation to the Pahari Speaking People in Jammu and Kashmir, ahead of forthcoming elections.