With lot of work yet to be done on deletions and additions of Backward Areas, the Jammu and Kashmir Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Commission has sought an extension of six-month term in its tenure beyond September 18, 2023.
Justice (Retd.) G D Sharma-led Commission comprising Rup Lal Bharat and Munir Khan has sent a request to the Union Territory Government for its extension by another six months, official sources told the Excelsior.
The Commission has completed its task on grant of reservation to Paharis, Paddari tribe, Koli and Gadda Brahamans, Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Valmikis as Scheduled Castes (SCs).
However, as per the sources, the Commission is yet to complete the task on deletion of backward areas which have developed over the years and include which are backward in real terms but were not part of backward areas.
Sources said the Government is expected to take a decision soon on Commission’s call for extension in its term by six months.
Residents of Backward Areas (RBA) had 20 percent reservation in Jammu and Kashmir which was later brought down to 10 percent following uproar that influential persons including politicians have got included their villages in the RBA category to avail benefits of reservation in Government jobs and educational institutions.
The Commission had invited representations from people in support of their claims for inclusion of their areas as backward.
As per the sources, a number of villages which were earlier declared as backward, have developed over the years as review of the areas wasn’t carried out for past quite some time.
The Commission is likely to recommend exclusion of such villages from the list of backward. In their place, it could include the villages which are genuinely backward but hadn’t been included in the list of RBA.
“To complete the task, the Commission needs time and in view of this as well as some other factors, it has sought extension of six months from the Government,” sources said.
“In 1995 when the then Commission declared backward areas, it was mentioned that a review will be carried out after every five years as some areas may develop during that time which can be excluded from the list of RBA while left out areas can be included,” sources said.
However, they said, the review was not carried out for last 28 years now but, at the same time, many areas were added. There were allegations that new areas were included as RBA due to “political considerations” to strengthen vote bank of the then ruling parties.
Connectivity, schools, hospitals etc were among the criteria listed for declaration of backward area. In 1995, 18 percent area of Jammu and Kashmir was declared as backward area and 20 percent reservation was given to RBA. The reservation was brought down to 10 percent in 2020.
“Now, the Commission is undertaking an extensive exercise on the backward areas and nearly 50 percent of the areas are likely to lose status of RBA,” sources said. In their place, the areas which deserve to be backward as per criteria will be included,” sources said.
The Commission has been receiving large number of communications and representations from the people for inclusion of their areas in the list of backward areas.
The Commission has sought extension as it’s extended tenure will expire on September 18. The last extension to the Panel was granted in March 2023.
If Government accepts the Panel’s recommendation, it would be fourth extension for the Commission.
Based on its recommendations, the Centre introduced three bills in the Parliament in July for restructuring reservation in Jammu & Kashmir.
These bills seek recognition of new groups as Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes and rechristening of Social Castes category in J&K as Other Backward Classes.
The Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill, 2023 pushes for inclusion of Pahari community, Paddaris, Gadda Brahman and Koli tribes in ST list, while the Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Castes Order (Amendment) Bill, 2023, seeks addition of the Valmiki community in the Scheduled Castes category.
The Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2023, seeks rechristening of the Social Caste category as OBC.