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Rajasthan government denies ST status to Gujjars
Between millions of downtrodden for whom reservation is the much needed flicker of hope absent in their otherwise dark lives and those who feel a level playing field snatched away from them, the real winner stands – Politics.
WITH THE Rajasthan government deciding not to provide ST (Scheduled Tribe) status to Gujjars all hopes of the community were shattered. The three-member Justice Jasraj Chopra Committee, which had been set up in May this year following the agitation of Gujjars, submitted its report to the Rajasthan government. In its report, the panel had mentioned that Gujjars “did not fulfil the criteria laid down by the government of India” to attain ST status. Later, the state government forwarded the 200-page report to the centre without making any recommendations.
 
Meanwhile, for healing the wounds of Gujjars, the Vasundhara Raje government decided to form a four-member cabinet sub-committee, headed by BJP MP Ramdas Agarwal, for offering a special compensatory package to the community.
 
According to MP Sachin Pilot, Gujjars had started a social movement for their rights, but later it took political shape. While talking to NDTV, Sachin Pilot went heavily against the state government. He said, “Gujjar movement was a social movement. They were demanding their rights, but the current state government made it a political issue. Four years ago, the BJP promised Gujjars to provide them reservation, but it did not fulfilled its promise.”
 
For the last few years the Gujjars have been demanding ST status with the hope of improving their economic condition. However, in the month of May this year, the community launched a massive agitation that eventually turned violent. National highways were blocked for couple of days, buses were burnt and around 26 people died. Finally, an agreement was signed between the Gujjar leaders and the state government. As per the agreement, the Rajasthan government also appointed the Chopra committee to look into the matter, which recommended the denial of ST status to Gujjars.
 
The reservation for weaker section of society has always remained a debated topic. At the time of independence, a major part of India’s population was poor and socially deprived. When Dr BR Ambedkar was drafting the Indian constitution, he kept the problems and social status of lower castes in his mind.
 
The downtrodden were given reservation and a specific time frame for the reservation was mentioned. Dr Ambedkar mentioned that for uplift of these sections of India reservation is required to make them strong enough economically and socially. However, the bill of providing reservation to tribes and backward classes has been amended many times by the Indian parliament.
 
Even sixty years after independence, the condition of a majority of tribals and backward classes hasn’t improved. On the other hand, the matter of reservation has now become a political issue and a part of the vote bank politics. Major parties like Congress, BJP, BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party), Samajwadi Party and others have used the matter of reservation as their political agenda. Earlier, the reservations were restricted to government institutions and government jobs, but now private institutions are targeted. Union HRD (Human Resource Department) minister Arjun Singh passed the provision of reservation in India’s premier institutions like AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Science), IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) and IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management). All over the country, the students protested strongly against the decision and a series of protests were witnessed. The matter went to the Supreme Court, which gave a stay order to government’s decision and the issue is on hold.
 
Of course, the backward classes get encouragement and feel themselves a little secure after availing the special status. But at the same time, it hurts the sentiments the people from lower middle class who do not get any reservation in education or jobs. It is true that the weaker section of the society need reservation but making it a political issue is not justified at all. Hence, the central and state governments should take utmost care before providing reservation to any community, as it is the matter of country’s democratic set up and sentiments of meritorious students.
 
After the Chopra committee recommendations, the angry Gujjar community has declared that it would launch its agitation again by the next week. Their last agitation had turned violent and two dozens lives perished as a result. Therefore, the government should not take this threat of Gujjars lightly. The need of the hour is that the Rajasthan government should take steps to control any type of violent situation in the future.
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