With only a few days left in the ongoing Budget Session of Haryana Vidhan Sabha, there is still no word on the Bill that the Khattar government promised to bring in this session to address the Jat demands for reservation.
In view of Bhagat Singh’s birth anniversary, followed by Holi on March 24, Good Friday and the weekend, the House was on Tuesday adjourned till March 28 even as there was a four-hour heated debate on the violence during the Jat agitation. The discussion on Budget also began on Tuesday and is likely to continue into next week. The session is expected to draw to a close on March 30 or 31.
Haryana Advocate General B R Mahajan told The Indian Express that he had not got any draft of the Bill so far. “There is a team of senior government officers who are working on the draft. An Additional Advocate General is also part of that team for legal assistance. Once the draft is prepared by the government, it will come to me. So far, it has not come to me,” he said.
Government sources said despite their best efforts, Chief Minister Khattar and his confidantes in the government have not been able to convince their own partymen about the bill. “Even among the Cabinet, there is not a consensus on a draft of the Bill. If the government tampers with the existing 27 per cent OBC quota, there will be a civil war in the state as OBCs will never allow it,” a senior minister told The Indian Express.
On the other hand, leaders of the Jat community say they will not accept a Bill that gives them reservations under a special category outside the exisiting provisions. “We want to be included in Haryana’s list of Backward Classes, not in the “special backward classes”, and at the Centre, under the OBS category,” said Yashpal Malik, head of the All India Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti, an umbrella group of Jat organisations.
“We have already announced and urged all the Jat community members not to indulge in protest or agitation till March 31. We shall wait for the government’s move till the session concludes and then decide on the further course of action,” Malik said.
Last week, Haryana Chief Secretary D S Dhesi had chaired a meeting with representatives of Jat organisations but there was no consensus. Finally, sources said, the Jat leaders were asked to consult legal experts and give suggestions.
In the last few cabinet meetings too, sources said, there has been criticism of the government’s announcements of bringing in the reservation bill in the ongoing session. “The government offered to include Jats under the category of Special Other Backward Castes. There is already a category A and B in OBC. The government proposed to create another Category C under OBC and name it as SOBC. Jat leaders, however, trashed the government’s proposal then and there only,” a senior Haryana Minister told Indian Express.
“There is already 47 per cent reservation in Haryana. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and various other union BJP ministers had already announced that there shall be no tampering with the existing OBC quota. That leaves the government with no option to grant any more reservation,” a legal expert said on the condition of anonymity.
“Even if the Bill is presented in the House on the last day of the session, be it March 30 or 31, there will not be much discussion on it. Since the Chief Minister has promised to bring in the reservation bill, they will, but I don’t know whether it will be fool-proof bill,” the minister added.
The opposition Congress has meanwhile hit out at the proposed bill. “What bill is the BJP talking of? They are merely misleading people of the state. In the last 50 years, the state’s debt has reached Rs 70,000 crore. In the last one and half year, the debt has doubled. I don’t know what kind of a Bill they are going to bring in the Session, if at all they do so. I fail to understand where this government is taking the state,” former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said.
Jat leader Malik though said that despite the differences, he was confident that the government would address the issue. “We are positive that government will introduce the reservation bill in this session only. We have called a meeting in New Delhi on April 3. Representatives of various Jat organisations from 13 districts shall assemble there. We understand that the Bill takes time to be drafted. If the Bill is legally strong and the government’s experts draft it, we are sure that it will be passed unanimously in this session only,” he said.
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