Sunday, July 14, 2024
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VPP wants population as quota marker; GH says no to revision

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Expert panel receives contrasting views on quota policy

Our Bureau

SHILLONG/ TURA, June 14: The state government seems to have invited trouble by buckling under pressure and notifying the formation of an Expert Committee to review the Meghalaya State Reservation Policy of 1972.
The government’s decision followed a 10-day hunger strike called by Voice of the People Party supremo Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit in May last year which received widespread support from the citizens in Khasi-Jaintia Hills.
The Expert Committee is now caught between the proverbial Devil and the Deep Sea with contrasting opinions and suggestions pouring in with regards to the reservation policy.
Many stakeholders are either demanding a hike in the Khasi-Jaintia quota from 40 per cent to 50 per cent, while some are demanding revision of the job quota policy based on the population of the three tribes.
Stakeholder in Garo Hills have made it explicitly clear that the expert committee should maintain status quo on the reservation policy and have warned of repercussions, should any change be proposed that is detrimental to the Garo people.
In its submission to the Committee for a review of the policy, the Voice of the People Party (VPP) suggested that the percentage of reservation for Khasi-Jaintia, Garos, Scheduled Castes and other tribes should be based in terms of their population as in the 1971 census and the Khasis and the Jaintias should be viewed as one community.
VPP chief and Nongkrem legislator Ardent M Basaiawmoit referred to the first paragraph of the reservation policy, backed with figures and statistics of the population in 1971 and the Statistical Abstract Meghalaya, 2023.
He said although the policy states “representation in terms of their population”, yet the accurate official census data was not taken into consideration while allocating the percentage of reservation.
“Therefore, the allocation of 40 per cent for the Khasi-Jaintia, 40 per cent for the Garos and 5 per cent for other STs lacked logical and scientific basis. The percentage was based on assumption rather than on facts. Hence, it went against the very basis of the policy itself,” he said.
Stating that the failure of the state government to put in place the roster system while implementing job reservation was eventually corrected by a judgment of the Meghalaya High Court in 2022, he said, “In view of this, the over-representation and under-representation of the respective communities due to interchangeability provision of the 1972 policy as per the allotted percentage would be gradually corrected henceforth.”
In light of these facts, the party suggested that the percentage of reservation for Khasi-Jaintia, Garos, Scheduled Castes and other tribes should be based in terms of their population as per the 1971 census. The Khasi-Jaintia community should be taken as one community while separate percentages of reservation should be allotted for the Scheduled Castes and the other STs.
According to Basaiawmoit, the proficiency in either of the state’s associate official languages – Khasi or Garo – should be made as a condition for consideration for appointments to both reserved and unreserved posts in the state and only the domicile of Meghalaya should be considered for appointments.

Garo Hills against job quota review

The opposition to the review of state reservation policy continues with the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council’s Rongrong MDC Rinaldo K Sangma also submitting his views on the matter to LK Diengdoh, the Secretary of the Expert Committee.
In his letter, Rinaldo felt that the current reservation system is indispensable in ensuring equitable opportunities and empowerment for the Garo tribe, stating that it constitutes  a significant marginalised portion of the state’s population.
“To cite by the numbers, a perusal of the Census of Meghalaya State Government Employees 2022, issued by the Directorate of Economics & Statistics, Government of Meghalaya, clearly reports that the Khasi/Jaintia community comprises 35,031 (61.69%) out of the 56,790 Scheduled Tribe employees and our Garo community is only at 19,874 (35%) in the Government of Meghalaya. It is prima facie evident by this record that since the beginning of time, we, the Garos, have been the deprived lot in matters of employment to government services,” Rinaldo stated.
He recalled that the High Court of Meghalaya also acknowledged this deprivation and issued directions for the implementation of the roster system in recruitments.
“The Job Reservation Policy of Meghalaya provisions for 40% each for Khasi/Jaintia and the Garos in letter but seldom applied in spirit as evidently seen in government records,” he added and urged that the same not be reviewed.
Meanwhile, the Central Executive Committee of the Garo Students’ Union, led by Tengsak G Momin also opposed the possible review of the reservation policy but declined to give any suggestions or views for its review to the Expert Committee.
“If a suggestion is to be given, it would be a simple statement that maintain status quo on JRP and eschew revision by the Committee. Reviewing it will simply mean listening to only one community; the United Khasi-Jaintia nation in Meghalaya state. There is a fragile common understanding and peace between the Khasi-Jaintia brothers and the Garos. Any attempt of revision of the policy, particularly the 40% reservation for the Garos, could actually be igniting something, culminating in law-and-order situations as witnessed in the MBoSE issue,” the union cautioned.

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