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VPP president’s hunger strike demanding review of 1972 job reservation policy enters eighth day

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The Khasis, numbering about 1.39 lakh, are one of the three indigenous matrilineal communities in Meghalaya. File

The Khasis, numbering about 1.39 lakh, are one of the three indigenous matrilineal communities in Meghalaya. File
| Photo Credit: Ritu Raj Konwar

Meghalaya Opposition Voice of People’s Party (VPP) president Ardent Basaiawmoit’s indefinite hunger strike demanding a review of the 1972 job reservation policy entered the eighth day on May 30 even as the State’s Deputy Chief Minister Sniawbhalang Dhar said the government would decide on the reservation policy after Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma was back in the State.

The VPP leader rejected the State government’s request for talks demanding that the 40:40 reservation of jobs between the Khasis and the Garos be reviewed.

Mr. Basaiawmoit said that his party would withdraw the indefinite hunger strike only if the government was ready to review the 1972 job reservation policy.

“Our stand was made clear before the government. If the government is still adamant, I will not leave this place until the government decides to review the present job reservation policy,” the VPP chief said.

He said the party had also made it very clear that the ratio in terms of job reservation should be proportionate as per the State’s population structure.

“We will take a call on this [reservation policy] when the Chief Minister is back in station,” Mr. Dhar told PTI.

The Deputy CM said, “The issue is sensitive and must be discussed at length. However, it should not be discussed in the streets but across the table.” Mr. Dhar also criticised the VPP president’s absence at the all-political party meeting on May 30, which was last chaired by Chief Minister Conrad Sangma.

“If he had attended [the all-political party meeting], he could have shared his views on the matter,” Mr. Dhar added.

Since 1972, 40 per cent of the State government jobs have been reserved for the Garo and Khasi communities each. Another five per cent is reserved for other tribes residing in the State, while the remaining 15 per cent is for the general category.

The VPP has been seeking a review of the policy, asserting that it was unfair to the Khasi tribe, the population of which has outnumbered that of the Garos over the years.

The current policy needed a review as the population of Khasis consisting of sub-tribes (Jaintias, Wars, Bhois and Lyngngams) was higher than the Garo people, it said. The VPP president called the policy “unfair and outdated”

According to the 2011 census, over 14.1 lakh Khasis live in Meghalaya, while the number of Garo people is slightly over 8.21 lakh.

The VPP president said he was not against the Garos’ right to government jobs, and that he was only calling for an “impartial” job reservation policy.

He also said that the VPP, with its 4 MLAs, was raking up the issue whereas 56 other MLAs understood the magnitude of the issue, adding that other parties do not support the VPP.

“The other Opposition parties also are not supporting the VPP’s stand on the reservation policy. Therefore, I think we should discuss it properly, in a nice manner,” he said.

A government-instituted committee on the reservation roster had met on May 29, but the VPP and several organisations did not attend the meeting.

Committee chairperson and Law Minister Ampareen Lyngdoh said the Committee would inform the government of the need to discuss the matter since there was a demand to review the reservation policy.

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