Battle-lines drawn between coalition, opposition on bill8 April 2010
The Daily Excelsior
JAMMU: Extended by a day, last day of current budget session of the Legislative Assembly tomorrow is expected to be stormy with both major opposition parties, PDP and BJP all set to take on the Government, albeit for different reasons, on inter-district recruitment bill which the coalition proposed to pass tomorrow with certain amendments. Battle lines for tomorrow were drawn today with the 21 member PDP deciding to join the Assembly proceedings, like it did on April 5, but to support the bill in present form as reported by the Joint Select Committee without any amendment. The 11 member BJP will, however, oppose the bill with or without amendments as it wants present system of recruitment in the State, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court, to continue. The party has already given a bandh call in Jammu tomorrow against the Government decision to pass the bill. The NC-Congress are likely to support the bill in amended form keeping open 8 per cent reservation quota for Scheduled Castes (SCs) across the State but confining all other reservations including that of Scheduled Tribes (STs) within the parameters of the district and the division, as the case may be. The 3 member NPP will also support the bill but would press that its leader Harshdev Singh's already moved amendment, which was similar to the one the Government is expected to introduce tomorrow, be adopted. The JSM is opposed to the bill even in the amended form while the CPM was playing neutral. The business released this evening by the Assembly Secretariat for tomorrow's extended sitting include discussion on the Motion for consideration moved by Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar to the inter-district recruitment bill along with amendments moved by Congress and NPP MLAs on April 5. The Minister will also move that the bill be passed, a three paragraph business released for tomorrow by Secretary Assembly Mohammad Ramzan, said. Official sources said as per the understanding reached at NC-Congress co-ordination committee meeting on Tuesday, the Law Minister will move a supplementary list of business tomorrow proposing an amendment to the bill incorporating that 8 per cent reservation quota for SCs in all recruitment will remain open across the State. This means that 92 per cent jobs of district cadre will be confined for the candidates of that particular district alone while the SCs would be free to apply anywhere in the State to avail their 8 per cent job quota. Similar would be the case for divisional level recruitment where 92 per cent jobs would be reserved for the division while SCs would be able to apply in any division to seek their 8 per cent job quota. Though some sections of the STs had also been demanding a similar provision for them, their demand has not been considered by the Government on the ground that STs population was spread all across the State, though minimal in some districts. The SCs virtually have negligible population in two regions-Kashmir and Ladakh. According to sources, despite opposition to the bill by PDP (in amended form), BJP and JSM, the Government has enough numbers in both Houses of Legislature to get it through. As it was a new law and not a Constitutional amendment bill, it could be passed by a voice vote. The Speaker is at liberty to declare that the bill with amendments has been passed without head count. If pressed for head count by the Opposition to corner the Government, the NC-Congress coalition had more numbers than the simple majority of 45 required to get the bill passed. The PDP today made it clear that it would join proceedings in the Assembly tomorrow as it did on April 5 after the bill was moved for discussion ending its boycott of the session. However, the party said, it would support the bill in original form as approved by the Joint Select Committee and not with proposed amendments to keep recruitment open for SCs across the State. The BJP has made it known its opposition to the bill in present as well as amended form saying it wants ongoing system of recruitment to continue as it has been upheld by the Supreme Court. The party has also given a call for bandh in Jammu tomorrow to protest passage of the bill. NPP Legislature Party leader Harshdev Singh, whose amendment for keeping 8 per cent reservation for SCs open while freezing 92 per cent appointments for the district has already been moved in the Assembly on April 5, said the political parties should debate the bill along with his amendment rather than disrupting proceedings of the House and evolve a best possible solution. Both Houses of the Legislature are expected to adjourn sine die tomorrow after deciding fate of job quota bill as there is no other business left before them. While the Assembly will take up the bill for discussion and passing at 10.30 am tomorrow, the Council will meet at 3.30 pm for similar purpose. On April 5 when the bill was just moved in the House when Speaker Mohammad Akbar Lone adjourned proceedings of the Assembly till 10.30 am on Friday, two Congress MLAs-Abdul Mujeed Wani and Ashok Kumar had moved a joint amendment proposing that the bill once again be sent to a Joint Select Committee for more deliberations. However, according to sources, the Congress MLAs were expected to withdraw their amendment once the Law Minister moved the amendment on behalf of the Government proposing to keep 8 per cent job quota of SCs out of the purview of ban on inter-district recruitment. The issue of ESMA invoked on the State Government employees is also expected to invite Opposition's wrath during tomorrow's sitting of the Assembly. It may be mentioned here that the Assembly was scheduled to adjourn sine die on April 5 as per the calendar. However, the Speaker extended it till tomorrow after the bill on inter-district recruitment was moved on April 5 for a discussion by Mr Sagar. The Government wanted to evolve a consensus on passing the bill with amendments, which was reportedly reached on Tuesday's meeting of NC-Congress co-ordination committee. Amendment moved by two Congress MLAs, Abdul Mujeed Wani, a former Minister and Ashok Kumar, who represents Ramban (reserve) constituency, sought that the bill once again be sent to a new Select Committee of the House comprising nine members. 'The Speaker should nominate members of the Joint Select Committee with a direction to report their observations in next session of the Legislative Assembly', the Congress MLAs had proposed. However, National Panthers Party (NPP) MLA and former Minister Harshdev Singh had moved another amendment to the bill seeking that Scheduled Castes (SCs), who are entitled to eight per cent reservation in appointments, should be allowed to apply for jobs in any district. 'The district of their residents shall not be a bar for the SCs to apply for the jobs in those districts where population of the SCs didn't exist', Mr Singh had proposed. He had also moved a similar amendment for the divisional level recruitment saying that SCs shall be entitled to a reservation of 8 per cent in every division. Another significant amendment moved by Harshdev is that condition of residence for 15 years living in a district or division shall not be applicable to a married female in whose case the residence of the husband shall be deemed as the residence of married women. In present form of the bill, as reported by the Joint Select Committee, the SCs would virtually lose their quota of 8 per cent reservation in jobs in 12 districts of the State-10 in Kashmir and two in Ladakh where there is no population of SCs. Presently, the SC and STs from Jammu region were also applying for the posts in Kashmir. Though the STs population existed in the Valley, there are no SCs in the Valley and Ladakh. The Congress and NPP were insisting on an amendment to the bill to ensure that the SCs continue to get their quota of job reservations while favouring a ban on inter-district recruitment. The bill proposing a ban on inter-district recruitment was introduced in the Legislative Assembly during first session of NC-Congress coalition Government on February 28, 2009. It was referred to the Joint Select Committee (comprising members of both Lower and Upper Houses) on March 9, 2009. The Committee held four sittings and considered the bill clause by clause on May 27, 2009, June 15, 2009 and July 6, 2009. It adopted the bill in its fourth sitting on July 8, 2009. The High Court had in 2004 ruled that any youth can apply for any post in any district across the State on a petition filed by a candidate. The judgment was upheld by the Supreme Court. During the tenure of the then Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, NPP MLA Balwant Singh Mankotia had forcefully pleaded for a ban on inter-district recruitment. Mr Azad have an assurance on floor of the House on January 15, 2007 that the Government would introduce a legislation in the House banning inter-district recruitment. The bill was introduced by the NC-Congress coalition Government on February 28, 2009 in its very first session of the Legislature.