The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Domicile divide in CM’s quota regime

Ranchi, Oct. 8: Chief minister Babulal Marandi today flicked open a can of worms and announced a “new” reservation policy for Jharkhand, earmarking the lion’s share of 26 per cent for the tribes, slashing the quota for the Scheduled Castes to 10 per cent and reserving only 14 per cent of the jobs in the state services for the Other Backward Classes.

The announcement, expected to have a serious political fallout, is set to rupture the new-found “unity” between Adivasis and Moolvasis, who, in the wake of the domicile disturbances, had joined hands to demand their “rightful” share in the state, including in government jobs.

Several Adivasi-Moolvasi fronts have been claiming that the government has the means and the right to cross the 50 per cent cap put by Jharkhand High Court.

The policy was approved at a thinly-attended meeting of the Cabinet this evening, which was “boycotted” by three senior ministers — Madhu Singh and Ramchandra Kesri of the Samata Party and Lalchand Mahto of the Janata Dal (United). The trio lashed out against the chief minister, charging him with meting out “injustice” to the OBCs.

Non-BJP ministers like Sudesh Mahto and Samresh Singh did not attend the crucial Cabinet meet.

The new arrangement became necessary after the high court, in its interim order, ruled that the total reservations must not exceed 50 per cent. Under the earlier 73 per cent regime, the STs had a quota of 32 per cent, OBCs 27 per cent and SCs had 14 per cent.

The quota regime will also be applicable in admissions to “earmarked” state-level educational institutions and industrial/technical training schools in the districts. The division of OBCs into “backward” and “extremely backward” groups has also been done away with and the 14 per cent figure is “cumulative”.

The government had kept the new break-up a closely guarded secret, though it had dropped hints that Adivasis would get the biggest slice of the pie. Sources said last-minute changes in the quota for SCs and OBCs were made to appease leaders of the backward classes, but the move backfired. The slash for the SC quota did not see any opposition in a Cabinet which does not have a single Dalit minister.

The dissenting trio, who left the chief minister’s office in a huff before the Cabinet meet could begin, claimed to have the support of at least four BJP ministers — P.N. Singh, Raghuvar Das, Dev Dayal Kushwaha and Ramjilal Sharda. But P.N. Singh, while coming out of the Cabinet room, said the BJP ministers were with the government on the policy.

Marandi justified the policy on two grounds. First, the founding fathers of the Constitution, in view of the historical deprivation of the SCs and STs, had effected a reservation arrangement for them soon after Independence and he went along with their sentiments. Second, the government had made a study of the reservation policies of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, West Bengal and Orissa and kept the quota for the STs and SCs in proportion to their population “as far as possible”.

Marandi, however, faltered on why the government chose to slash the quota for the OBCs by a whopping 13 per cent. “I had to first decide the reservations for the STs and SCs. The tribes, which constitute 27.67 per cent of the population, and SCs, who make up 11.85 per cent, were given 26 per cent and 10 per cent respectively. This is fair,” he said.

The Opposition parties described the new policy as a “bundle of contradictions”. “The lopsided arrangement will foster unrest in the society,” said a JMM communiqué.

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