Open Merit Shrinks in J&K: Aspirants Demand Fairer Reservation Policy

Open Merit Shrinks in J&K: Aspirants Demand Fairer Reservation Policy

Srinagar: Eight months of dedication, countless hours spent with his nose buried in books, Mohammad Ubair, 25, was laser-focused on cracking the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET). But his confidence took a hit in the past two weeks. The news of a 10% reservation for Paharis being carved out of the general/open merit quota, reducing it to just 30%, cast a shadow of uncertainty on his dreams.

On March 15, the Jammu & Kashmir administration approved 10% reservation for newly-included tribes, including Paharis, in the Schedule Tribe (ST). The Council also approved the addition of 15 new castes in OBCs and enhancement of reservation in favour of OBCs to 8%.

The bill will provide reservation in government jobs, promotions, educational institutions etc. The bill was earlier cleared by Lok Sabha on 06 March. The Bill aims at empowering (i) Pahari Ethnic Group (ii) Padari Tribes (iii) Koli and (iv) Gadda Brahmin by providing Scheduled Tribe status. This has been a long pending demand of these communities.

Earlier, J&K had 8% reservation for SC, 10% for STs, 4% for OBCs, 4% for residents along Line of Actual Control/International Border, 10% for Residents of Backward Area (RBA) and 10% for Economically Weaker Sections (EWSs).

The government said that the inclusion of these communities in the list of Scheduled Tribes in Jammu and Kashmir will have absolutely no impact on the current level of reservations available to the existing Scheduled Tribe communities such as Gujjars and Bakarwals. “They will continue to get reservations like before,” a statement from the government said.

However, the reservation has raised apprehensions among individuals in the open merit category within the union territory, who argue that their opportunities for securing a government job are diminished due to the reservation policy.

The decision has incited widespread anger in the valley, with students expressing their dissent on social media platforms regarding the reservation policy.

“The injustices faced by the general category due to reservation policies are deeply concerning. It’s disheartening to see deserving individuals being overlooked simply because of their backgrounds,” posted Mir Ruksar on X/twitter.

Jasib Shabir, another user, argued that an open merit system is crucial for fairness and merit. “It means people get chances based on skills, not advantages. Let’s push for a level field where everyone can succeed based on what they can do, not where they come from.”

The aspirants said the policy has greatly disrupted the open merit system by allotting only 40% reservation to open merit candidates, while allocating 60% to different categories.

“The share of General Category has been slashed from 50% to 40%. This 10% has been snatched from Open Merit and added to ST’s(Gujjars, Bakarwals, Pahadi’) and OBC Quota. Even out of 40% ,the 10% is earmarked for Horizantal Reservation. So, effectively the Unreserved category is left with only 30%. These 30% of seats are open for everybody, no matter if he/she belongs to Open Merit or any other Reserved Category,” one of the aspirants said.

“This is sheer injustice. The population of people belonging to the general category in J&K is 69% as per 2011 census. So how is 30% share in jobs and admissions for 69% population justified?” he asked.

Vinkal Sharma, a job aspirant from Jammu, told that reducing the open merit to only 30% feels like a betrayal to the remaining 70%. “The share is less in government jobs and other opportunities. The government needs to rethink this policy,” Sharma said.

Arshad Hussain, a student from south Kashmir’s Shopian feels that open merit candidates are like an “endangered species” with continuous narrowing of opportunities in government sectors.

“The political parties use the so-called reservation issue for their own interests but this all is being done at the cost of open merit candidates,” he said, adding, “..these are politically motivated decisions and have added to the desperation of open merit category holders,” Hussain said.

Sheetal Nanda , Commissioner Secretary to Government, told that the policy has been framed according to the constitution.

However for students like Ubair and others who aspire to secure a job in the government sector or in an educational institution, the current reservation policies pose significant challenges and hurdles to their ambitions.

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