Choosy reservation

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A Shed where a family in Backward area lives Photo: Bilal Bahadur

[stextbox id=”info”]A constitutional measure to improve the status of underprivileged classes – reservation in jobs and education – is proving a lopsided measure. Many deserving areas have been left out while many in the list have long acquired facilities available to advanced areas. HAMIDULLAH DAR  reports.[/stextbox]

It appears that Jammu and Kashmir is taking reverse steps on the developmental path. More and more people are demanding backward status for their areas.  Granting a Resident of Backward Area (RBA) or other reserved categories status is a measure aimed to bring underprivileged sections of the society at par with advanced categories.

But the ‘benign discrimination’ has of late been misused or moulded to suit vested interests, as the implementation of the reservation policy has been extended to areas that enjoy educational and other facilities at par with people of advanced categories. As a result, the state has been consigned to the hands of an army of incompetent officers, undeserving doctors and unqualified engineers.

The categorisation is in many ways lopsided. At the State Commission for Backward Classes (SCBC), representations are flooding for declaring different areas as backward.

“When villages and habitations with all necessary educational facilities and high social status are relishing the fruits of undeserving privileges, why can’t we apply for the same as we are the deserving ones,” said one Mohammad Amin Bhat of Laisoo, Kulgam coming out of SCBC office at Gagribal Srinagar. “We do not have road connectivity with the rest of the world, no middle school and ours is an area sitting far away in the lap of Pir Panjal range. The literacy rate is about five percent and the number of government employees is just five or six out of a total population of 2000,” explains Bhat to lend credence to his demand.

Laisoo is a village of Damhal Hanjipora Tehsil, and not listed backward while the Tehsil headquarter – having a higher secondary school (land has been acquired for the construction of degree college and work may start soon), hospital, Bus stand and above all a town with adequate facilities – is in the RBA list.

“We cannot do anything on our own. According to the rules, Damhal Hanjipora does not qualify for RBA status. However, there has not been the revision of the list for the last 14 years. So some undeserving areas are there in the list,” says Justice (retd) Brij Lal Bhat, Chairman SCBC.

Sakeena Itoo

Minister of Social Welfare Sakeena Itoo, who represents Damhal Hanjipora constituency in the assembly, defends RBA status to the area. “Everybody is after Damhal Hanji Pora. It is a poor area lacking facilities like college. It deserves the status,” said Itoo. When asked whether the status was in tune with the rules and regulations to have a Tehsil headquarter with RBA status, she blurts out, “If Gurez can be a backward area despite being tehsil headquarter, why not Damhal Hanjipora.”

Damhal Hanjipora is not the only tehsil headquarter categorised as ‘backward’, Banihal also enjoys the distinction. “Banihal also stands scornfully laughing at the reservation policy of the state. Bisected by Srinagar-Jammu highway, this tehsil headquarter till now enjoys RBA status while as those people putting up on the mountain tops and hilly terrain with no connectivity except one-foot broad several kilometres long serpentine walk-ways winding around precipitous terrain, are accorded status of advanced categories,” says a government employee from Nowgam Banihal, wishing anonymity.

In order to include and exclude the areas and categories from the list of reserved categories, J&K State Commission for Backward Classes came into being in 1997 by an act with effect from May 24, 1995.

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