NASEER A GANAI
According to sources, the government is treading a cautious path on the issue in view of the ‘stiff opposition’ from Jammu, Kathua, Samba and Udhampur-based Congress and BJP legislators to any move aimed at altering the present recruitment system which is heavily tilted in their favour. It is trying hard to enlist the support of Congress legislators so that the bill aimed at banning inter-district recruitments is passed in the next session of the legislature. However, till then, it cannot halt the prevailing drift.
The bill brought by the Congress-PDP coalition earlier was referred to a Joint Select Committee. After a review by the House panel, it was moved for passage during the recent session. However, the government was forced to put the bill to the back burner following overt and covert resistance by the more vocal
The practice of allowing candidates to apply for district cadre posts other than in their native districts started in 2004 following the Supreme Court direction that the district cadre posts should not be exclusively reserved for candidates of the concerned districts. The state High Court also quashed some selections on the ground that residence in a district was not a requirement under the rules.
The issue of banning the inter-district recruitments was initially raised in the house in 2006 by the Panthers Party MLAs Balwant Singh Mankotia and Harsh Dev Singh and some BJP and Congress members. Piloting it, Harsh Dev Singh had cited the recruitment in Udhampur district saying that candidates from other districts had usurped the rights of candidates of his district. The members had asked the government to bring a bill to halt the inter-district recruitments.
The then chief minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, had assured the members of undoing the wrong. Subsequently, the then Congress-led government introduced the ‘J&K Civil Service Decentralization and Recruitment Bill’ proposing ban on inter-district and inter-division recruitment. The bill sought to reserve the district and division cadre posts for the candidates of the respective districts and divisions, to ensure that job rights of the local youth were not usurped by the applicants from other districts or division. However, it was referred to the Joint Select Committee headed by present finance minister, Abdul Rahim Rather, for review.
In its recommendation, the Committee said, “a person should be deemed to be a resident of a particular district or division if he/she has lived in the district or the division, as the case may be, for not less than 15 years before the date of applying for the particular post and is actually residing in the said area at the time of filing the application.” Further, it said, “the person should not be disentitled from claiming the residence in a particular district or division only on the ground that his/her father/mother or the person on whom he/she is dependent is living in a place outside the district or division, as the case may be, due to certain reasons.”
However, when the present law minister, Ali Muhammad Sagar, tabled the Committee’s report in the Assembly, the House was polarized on regional lines. Even within Congress, the PHE minister, Taj Mohiuddin, supported it and the health minister, Sham Lal Sharma, opposed it. The ruling National Conference and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party supported the ban on inter-district recruitments. Five MLAs from Kupwara even threatened to commit suicide in case the bill was not passed. However, buckling under the Congress pressure, the government sought more time.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, senior PDP leader and former law minister, Muzaffar Husain Baig, said the government should bring an ordinance if there was consensus in the ruling coalition and it was sincere and serious over the issue. He said there should be no hesitation in bringing the ordinance to do away with the prevailing method which is disturbingly discriminatory against the candidates from Kashmir valley and parts of
However, because of the coalition compulsions, the National Conference has preferred stoic silence on the highly sensitive issue. “It is a very sensitive issue and I don’t want to comment on it,” said a senior NC leader and minister pleading not to be named for obvious political reasons.
The Congress MLA from Gandhinagar and revenue minister, Raman Bhalla, said the issue would be sorted out by the coalition partners in the Coordination Committee. He refused to divulge any information about the difference in the Congress over the issue. During the recent session of the legislature, Bhalla had taken a tough stand and openly said that the bill would not be allowed to go through.
Senior Congress leader and PHE minister, Taj Mohiuddin, said the government has failed to stop inter-district recruitments. “Even conducting the examinations for various posts on the same day couldn’t help, compelling the government to bring a bill to address the unrest among the educated youth at district and divisional levels,” he said, hoping the bill would be passed in the next assembly session in pursuance of the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee.
The Panthers Party MLA, Balwant Singh Mankotia, said his party had not changed its stance on the issue. “There should be total ban in the open merit category while as SCs, STs and other reserved categories could be exempted from the ban,” he said even while Taj said the Select Committee had recommended embargo on inter-district recruitments in all categories, adding that its recommendations needed to be implemented in letter and spirit.
The practice of opening up district cadre posts to candidates from all the districts has hit the Kashmir valley the most, as more than half of the vacancies against valley districts and divisional cadre are routinely being made from Jammu region, while hardly anyone from Kashmir is selected against district or divisional posts in Jammu region.
As per official figures, out of 3,689 divisional and district cadre selections made by SSB under the fast-track mode in the Kashmir, candidates from Jammu region walked away with around 800 posts while, on the contrary, just two candidates from the valley got selected in over 3,000 district/divisional cadre selections made in Jammu region.