Social Empowerment

Why are the Gujjars agitated?

The nine-day-long renewed statement of Gujjars in Rajasthan earlier this month, seeking 5% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions, has again shifted focus on the community’s demand which has generated considerable political heat and disrupted public life various times since 2007. As many as 72 Gujjars have so far died in police firing during the quota agitation. Gujjars, who had before demanded the Scheduled Tribe status in Rajasthan, point out that their main occupation is agriculture and animal husbandry and they have been left behind in educational and economic progress because they did not have the clout enjoyed by other influential communities. The caste structure among Hindus departed them from the fruits of development, as they lived mostly in the remote regions of eastern Rajasthan districts. Though they were included in the Other Backward Class (OBC) list in 1994, the dominant Jat community has taken away the lion’s share of the quota.

What is the status of quotas?

At currently, Rajasthan gives 21% reservation to OBCs, which covers 90 castes of both Hindu and Muslim communities. The Scheduled Castes get 16% reservation and the Scheduled Tribes 12%. This brings the whole reservation to 49%, which is 1% less than the 50% ceiling necessity by the Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney judgment. Gujjars, along with nomadic communities Banjara, Gadia-Lohar, Raika, and Gadariya, were given 1% quota in the “most-backward” category, in addition to the OBC benefit, in 2010. The State government has tried thrice in the past to give 5% reservation to Gujjars as a ‘Special Backward Class,’ but the legislation was struck down every time by the Rajasthan High Court, which ruled that the quota had not only increased the 50% limit but was also not supported by quantifiable data.

What is the govt. stand?

The newly elected Congress government passed a Bill in the Assembly in the Budget session on February 13, giving 5% reservation to Gujjars and four other nomadic communities as an ‘Extremely Backward Class’ and made a “recommendation” to the Centre that the legislation be included in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution to protect it from being challenged in courts. This has an outcome in the quota exceeding the 50% limit. The Bill, which amended an Act of 2017, made mention of the Constitution Amendment Bill passed by the Union government to extend quota to the poor, which breached the 50% ceiling. The 10% reservation for the poor in the general category introduced by the Centre has also been implemented in Rajasthan, taking the whole quota to 64%.

Are Gujjars satisfied now?

Gujjar AarakshanSangharh Samiti convener Kirori Singh Bainsla, who along with his supporters occupied the Delhi-Mumbai rail tracks in Sawai Madhopur district for nine days, lifted the blockade after the government gave a written assurance of legal steps to safeguard the quota. Col. Bainsla (retired) says Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has promised the Gujjars that he will intervene if an issue arises later.

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