Ranchi, June 12: Chief minister Hemant Soren favours a an all-party meeting to discuss the way forward on a state domicile policy, a draft of which was submitted to him yesterday even as Opposition parties are treading cautiously on what has always been a contentious matter.
Sources in the chief minister’s secretariat conceded that Hemant wanted to call an all-party meeting soon to work out a consensus on the issue that has met with a lot opposition whenever it was taken up in the last 13 years.
“The chief minister wants to elaborate discussions on each and every aspect of the draft policy with all parties before giving any final shape to it,” said an officer in Hemant’s secretariat.
Former chief minister Arjun Munda, a senior BJP leader who is also leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, indicated the thinking among parties.
“Let the government first present the recommendations of the draft policy officially and say what it wants. Let the government take the first step, we would come out with our suggestions on the matter which is of utmost importance to the state,” Munda told The Telegraph.
It is clear parties would like to hold back opinion on the various parameters suggested in the draft.
For, Jharkhand is looking at Assembly elections in November and no party would like to play its cards prematurely.
However, details of the draft policy seem to suggest a good deal for all those who have been residing in the new state, be it moolvasis (original settlers) of both categories_ khatiyani (those with land records) or non-khatiyani, besides Jharkhand Niwasis residing in the state for the last 15 years or are government employees.
Among other criteria laid down for consideration as local residents include school certificates and women from other states married to those residing in Jharkhand.
In 2002, during the chief ministerial tenure of Babulal Marandi, a notification was issued in which domicile was defined on the basis of last land survey documents which dated back to 1932 and in a few cases as early as 1960s.
Widespread protests by the anti-domicile groups ensued with several groups knocking on the doors of Jharkhand High Court.
On November 27, 2003, the high court quashed the notification on the state domicile policy that gave preference to those whose names figured in the last land record survey in grade III and IV government jobs.
The court termed the policy hostile and discriminatory, but directed the government to redefine local residents so that preference could be accorded to them.
The exercise of “redefining local residents policy” has remained pending for more than a ecade. Even during Munda’s tenure (2012), a ministerial sub-committee was formed under the chairmanship of Ajsu chief Sudesh Mahto with then deputy chief minister Hemant Soren and then HRD minister Baidyanath Ram as members.
But, after two meetings nothing concrete emerged. Then in January 2013, the Munda government fell after JMM withdrew support.
Developmental economist Ramesh Sharan said formulating a domicile policy was all about political will. “Every state has its own domicile policy under which third and fourth grade jobs are mainly reserved for locals. There is nothing wrong in this. This is not such a big problem as it had been projected in the past by groups/politicians with vested interests,” he explained.
The biggest problem for Jharkhand, he added, was its complicated land records.
“Here record of rights (RoR) should be revised so as to ensure who are the people who hold land in the state to decided a permanent residents’ policy,” he said.