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TUR seeks evidence-based review of state job reservation policy

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By Our Reporter

SHILLONG, June 17: The Thma U Rangli Juki (TUR) has called for an evidence-based review of Meghalaya’s State Reservation Policy to make it non-sectarian and constitutionally sound. It also sought a deprivation point system to favour the least privileged in the state.
TUR recently submitted its suggestions on the Meghalaya Reservation Policy of 1972 to the Expert Committee which was constituted on September 12, 2023.
In a statement, TUR member Angela Rangad said they provided a historical background of the 40-40-5 formula of the reservation policy, looking at the developmental scenario in Meghalaya, the nature of deprivation and underdevelopment in the state, and the methodological challenges. The organisation accordingly provided six suggestions for a just review of the quota policy.
She said the suggestions were based on a wide range of statistical inputs, and historical and contemporary information. These data points included district-wise employment (including government jobs) for the tribals in 1971, distribution of government jobs among Scheduled Tribes (Hills), ST (Plains), Scheduled Castes, and OBCs in 1972, literate and educated among the Khasi-Jaintia and Garo communities in 1971, district-wise nature of the educated in 1971.
Among the other suggestions were a community-wise breakup of state government employees (2019/2010), a community-wise breakup of state government employees (2022), a district-wise spread of government jobs, and a region-wise spread of government jobs.
Rangad said their suggestions included an innovative deprivation point system within the reservation policy.
According to her, the deprivation and representation in Meghalaya is not only community-based but also has a geographical and economic basis. The present reservation favours privileged people who, although belonging to the indigenous communities, are based in developed districts and belong to the upper classes of these communities who have gone to expensive private schools and colleges in the state and elsewhere.
“If the reservation policy has to have more egalitarian outcomes, various indicators of deprivation of individuals have to be taken into account. TUR proposed adopting a ‘deprivation point system’ with the reservation policy,” Rangad said.
She said such a point system would be based on an individual’s family background, where she is from, and where she has been educated. She added that these points can be calculated every five years based on the district-wise developmental data.
Citing an example, she said a first-generation learner, whose parents are not government servants and who is from an underdeveloped district and has studied in a local vernacular school and college, would get certain points that shall elevate her chances of getting the job compared to someone who may belong to her tribe but is a child of a Grade A officer and has studied in an expensive private school.
“In the age of big data, this exercise of deprivation points within the existing reservation can be easily implemented. The recent demands to review (and change) the Meghalaya Reservation Policy have opened a Pandora’s box of grievances. On one side are some who see the review as a zero-sum game of communities, where one community’s gain would be another community’s loss. On the other hand, are those who do not want to upset the status quo because the tenuous and fragile community relations that make up Meghalaya are threatened,” Rangad said.
She further said affirmative action is not about numerical representation but transcending historic power imbalances and deprivation for a more egalitarian future.
According to her, the privileged (numerical or otherwise) have always found affirmative action problematic because they believe in the immutability of hierarchies and privileges. “They see society as a place where only the meritorious powerful survive,” she said.
She stated that the STs and SCs always face the scorn of reservation and this attitude should not be encouraged in Meghalaya between the communities.
“In a democracy, it is important to subject public policy to people’s scrutiny. But people’s scrutiny cannot be based on mere subjective perception or majoritarian emotional impulses and has to be evidence-based and constitutionally tenable. It should be ready to acknowledge conflicting responses in society. Scrutiny has to respect historical context as well as historical compactness between the diverse groups of people that constitute the citizenry,” Rangad said.
The TUR member said the reservation policy should benefit the weakest and most deprived among the communities. “It is not about the reworking of the 40-40-5 formula but about the outcomes and realities of the functioning of the reservation policy after 50 years of Meghalaya’s statehood,” she said.
“We also think that without historically contextualising the Meghalaya Reservation Policy, we will not be able to understand and think through various claims and counterclaims about it. Objectivity demands that any claim and counterclaim about the policy should be substantiated with evidence, both in terms of data and its legal validity,” she stated.
Rangad further said the TUR’s comments or suggestions are therefore not about making demands for change or for seeking status quo but about the methodology and evidence available for review as well as looking at some newer ideas to deepen affirmative action policies in the state to ensure an egalitarian and empathetic Meghalaya.
“We want a Meghalaya where communities and individuals are not engaged in the winner and loser contest but are working together for a peaceful, just, and developed state,” Rangad added.

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