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Lok Sabha passes Bill to grant ST status to Paharis, others in J&K

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Bill for OBC quota in J&K’s local bodies also passed

Srinagar: In a significant development, the Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill, 2023 to grant scheduled tribe status to Paharis Ethnic Group and other communities in Jammu & Kashmir.

A statement issued by the Press Information Bureau (PIB) said that Lok Sabha today passed the Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill, 2024. The historic Bill aims at empowering (i) the Pahari Ethnic Group (ii) Padari Tribes (iii) Koli and (iv) Gadda Brahmin by providing Scheduled Tribe status.

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

The Bills will now be taken up in the Rajya Sabha for consideration and passage. These Bills were passed nearly seven months after they were introduced in the Lok Sabha. The Bills were introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 26 last year.

The announcement to grant ST status to Pahari Ethnic Group was made by Union Home Minister Amit Shah during public rallies in Baramulla and Rajouri in October 2022.

The statement said that the reservation to the newly listed Scheduled Tribes will be provided in such a manner that it does not impact the communities which are already listed as Scheduled Tribes. After the Bill is passed by the Parliament, the Government of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will issue necessary notifications on reservation, which will ensure that the people included in the existing list of Scheduled Tribes continue to get the same level of reservation.

Meanwhile, the Lok Sabha passed one more bill to provide reservation to Other Backward Classes in local bodies in Jammu and Kashmir, with the government asserting that important changes have taken place in the Union territory since the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019.

Replying to a brief debate on the Jammu and Kashmir Local Bodies Laws (Amendment) Bill-2024, Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said the people of Jammu and Kashmir have started enjoying the fruits of development ushered in by the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Currently, there is no provision for reservation of seats for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in panchayats and municipalities in Jammu and Kashmir.

The bill seeks to provide reservation to Other Backward Classes in panchayats and municipalities in Jammu and Kashmir and bring consistency in the local body laws of the Union territory with the provisions of the Constitution.

“With this, justice will be ensured to the citizens of Other Backward Classes of Jammu and Kashmir for the first time after 75 years of independence,” according to the statement of objects and reasons of the bill.

In his reply to the discussion on the bill in the Lok Sabha, Rai said he made no reference to the opposition demand for the government to spell out a time frame for holding of elections in Jammu and Kashmir and the restoration of statehood.

Rai said the opposition members, participating in the debate, were resorting to a drama of supporting the bill granting reservation to OBCs in panchayats and municipalities in Jammu and Kashmir and were raising other issues.

“I wish to make one thing clear, no matter how much you go around in circles, but in Jammu and Kashmir wherever you go you will only hear ‘Modi, Modi’ and the development ushered in by Modi,” the minister said.

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