KASHMIR COMPROMISED

After the courts intervened and a pro-active bureaucracy implemented it overnight a few years back, the issue of inter-district recruitments was gradually snowballing into a major crisis. As the new system made jobs area neutral, anybody from any district started applying for any job in any district. This triggered massive imbalances. Given their better academic record, mainly due to access to better quality education, most of the applicants from urban areas would bag substantial number of opportunities in the countryside. The rest would be cannibalized by the reserved categories, many of whom were not residents of the particular districts.

Currently SCs, STs, RBAs, SLCs and those living on the LoC have vertical reservations on 43 percent of jobs and another nine percent goes to ex-servicemen and handicapped in horizontal reservations. As most of the Kashmir valley lacks any sizable population of the reserved categories a section of the jobs including teachers goes to the applicants who live as far away as Kathua, Udhampur and Samba.

Efforts were made to ban the new system and revert back to the earlier practice in which all the reservations were limited to the particular district. An effort was made by the last coalition government and it failed. Under pressure from his own members and the opposition, the chief minister wanted a ban but Congress did not support it.

Now finally they passed a law banning inter-district recruitments but the scheduled castes will continue to have their eight percent reservations in all districts. All the SCs live in three Jammu districts unlike STs which have comparatively a better dispersal throughout J&K. Permitting SCs to enjoy the privilege is dictated by the Congress that has part of its vote bank in these areas. The new law will protect 92 percent of the jobs for the respective district, but it still discriminates against the STs, another population of the under-privileged lot.

Earlier practice was general but the lawmakers have given the crisis a new shape. SCs are concentrated in three Jammu districts and the only place that lacks any SC population are the 10 districts of Kashmir Valley. The new law has narrowed the crises and made it a Jammu versus Kashmir issue that even vested interests can project on communal lines.

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