This February when the state government passed a bill in the Legislative Assembly to set aside quotas for jobs and admissions in colleges in order to improve conditions of the poor in urban areas, it was greeted with a warm reception. Two months afterwards, though, Governor N N Vohra has cast doubt on the legality of the issue of reservation for “the poorest of the poor.”
The Governor, according to sources, has sent to the government a set of questions asking it to explain the legal basis of the bill that seeks to earmark quotas for jobs in the government sector and admissions in professional colleges.The bill had been sent to the Governor for his assent as it was a constitutional requirement.
Sajjad Gani Lone, the Minister of Social Welfare, had come up with the idea for affirmative action for the urban poor and convinced his colleagues in the PDP-BJP government to go along. The bill, which was passed in the Legislative assembly on February 10, was hailed as a historic move and one of the accomplishments of the ruling government.
The government, through this bill, wanted to reach-out to the urban pockets of the state, particularly Srinagar where a miniscule population is covered by the existing reservation policy.
“The Governor’s secretariat has asked us what is the basis of the proposal when there is no provision for such proposition in the constitution, “he said.
It has asked the government “whether any attempt has been made to collect the data regarding the actual number of such families and the conditions/ criteria to be taken into account for assessing their economic backwardness.” The office of the Governor also wanted to know whether any study was carried out to justify the proposal.
After the bill was passed by the Assembly, Sajjad had said the reservation can make a redeeming difference to the plight of urban poor who can hope to get “their due share in government jobs and admissions in professional colleges.” “We desperately needed reservation for economically poor sections of the society, more particularly, the urban poor,” he said.
Altaf Bukhari, the Minister of Finance, had said the move would address a long pending demand of the economically poor sections of the society living in Srinagar. “This reservation will ensure greater opportunity for the inhabitants Srinagar who seek jobs and other benefits in government sector which were so far not available to them,” Bukhari had said.