Meghalaya is presently caught in a bind on the 51 year old Reservation Policy. The subject is emotive and has unfortunately become a vote-gathering ploy for all political parties. The Policy crafted even before Meghalaya was a full- fledged state, has for a while now been seen to suffer from infirmities of being disproportional. In a state with three major tribes the Reservation Policy has segmented the tribes according to language and region. Tribes speaking one language and occupying one region of the State – the Khasi-Jaintia community have been allocated 40% seats for jobs and education; the Garos 40%; the minor tribes 5% and 15% of seats are unreserved or left open to general categories of citizens from the State.
At the time of its conception the Reservation Policy might have seemed fair and equitable in view of Garo Hills being relatively backward in terms of quality educational opportunities and other development backlogs. But every Reservation Policy is meant to be reviewed at least after every ten years to check whether it works and if the respective tribes are able to fill the vacancies arising from time to time or whether the more forward tribes residing closer to the state capital are taking away the share of those that do not ostensibly qualify despite the relaxations in scores etc. That assessment would have been possible had there been a record of all appointments made and who got what percentage of the reserved seats. Unfortunately, Meghalaya did not have a single statesman to detect this major lacuna. It took the High Court of Meghalaya to point to this administrative oversight and to question the state for not maintaining a Roster to record these details in all these years. Without a Roster how does the State know if one community has garnered the vacancy of the other and how that is being adjusted in subsequent years.
The Reservation Policy is a sensitive issue simply because it has been used as a political tool. And that is precisely the reason why Meghalaya is facing this predicament. Some of the best minds represented their people in the State Legislature but they never once raked up the issue of proportional representation based on the population of the tribes. The 40:40:5:15 ratio in the Reservation Policy has remained the benchmark for 50 years without any record of who gained and who lost out.
Now that a Roster System is being worked out the fear of the Khasi-Jaintia community is of retrospective implementation of the Reservation Policy which they feel would deprive the youth of this community of their due share. This, without considering that the same community had garnered the vacancies of the Garos in the past when they failed to meet the set benchmarks. Resolving this would require statesmanship and not politics. Meghalaya, unfortunately has not produced a statesman in a very long time.