Implement 1999 Singhal Committee Report to dispense justice to Jammu youth

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Prof Hari Om

In his hard hitting article ‘The Dogras shall prevail’ (State Times, Jan 21, 2021), former J&K DGP M M Khajooria tore into the powers-that-be at the centre and J&K and bemoaned that they never dispensed justice to the Dogras of Jammu, ‘the ancient people with a rich heritage’. He, inter-alia, asserted, and rightly said, that “the Dogras have been patiently suffering denial of their rights in what has been sold to them as National Interest” and that “their patience is…wearing thin”. He also asserted that “the time has come to openly and categorically state that no one has the irrevocable power of attorney from us (Dogras) to determine the national interest on our behalf in whose name the Dogras have suffered and sacrificed since the dawn of independence”. He has also put forth two concrete demands. “We, as Hill people of tribal character demand at least sixty percent reservation in jobs under the UT Government as well as 100 percent reservation in institutions of higher education located in Jammu region”.
The suggestions of M M Khajooria are not based on heresy; these are based on hard facts and hence, can’t be brushed aside. For example, the rate of unemployment in Jammu division, according to official statistics, is more than 69 per cent, as against less than 30 per cent in Kashmir province. Similarly, the proportion of Kashmir and Jammu in the official service sector is approximately 80:20. There are 5 lakh employees working in the government and semi-government establishments in the UT, but the number of employees from Jammu province is not more than one lakh. This, despite the fact that the population of Jammu province is equal to that of Kashmir, if not more, and that Jammu contributes almost 75 per cent revenue annually to the State exchequer. The authorities in the Union Home Ministry and J&K Raj Bhavan would do well to appreciate these stark realities and reserve at least 60 percent jobs for the neglected Dogras under the UT government.
Likewise, the authorities would do well to implement January 13, 1999 Singhal Committee report to dispense justice to the ignored Jammu youth. The complaint of Jammu youth that their share in the government-run and aided technical and professional institutions such as medical colleges is negligible, is also as genuine as it deserves immediate consideration and redressal. They have been saying that while Kashmir-based technical and professional institutions and Agriculture University have become the sole preserve of Valley youth, they also get disproportionate share in the Jammu-based similar institutions.
The RP Singhal-headed three-member committee had candidly acknowledged that Jammu youth hardly got their due share in such institutions. The two other members of the committee were Prof D K Rampal of Jammu University and Prof A R Kidwai of Aligarh Muslim University. The Committee, which was set up vide Government Order No. 442-GAD of 1998, dated April 7, 1998, after a careful scrutiny of the MBBS/BDS selection lists of past eight years, had said that the Jammu’s share in the Medical Colleges dwindled from 60 per cent in 1990 and 52 per cent in 1991 and 1993 to 38 per cent in 1994, 41 per cent in 1995, 36 per cent in 1996, 20 per cent in 1997 and a paltry 17 per cent in 1998 (Review and Reform of Entrance Test for Medical and Technical Courses in Jammu & Kashmir, p.4). Things by and large remain the same even today with Jammu youth crying for justice and fair play.
The Committee found out a way to meet the demand of the Jammu youth without harming the interests of the Valley youth. It recommended that the only way to maintain regional balance as far as admissions to the technical and professional institutions was concerned was to adopt admission rules as were in vogue in the University of Jammu and University of Kashmir under the Jammu & Kashmir Universities Act of 1969. Its recommendation read, “As is the existing practice for admissions to Polytechnic courses where one Common Entrance Test is held, but the selection list is declared separately for two divisions, the Competent Authority may hold one Common entrance Test for the two divisions for Medical and Engineering Courses, but the selection lists may be separately issued for the two divisions. The admissions in these colleges (Government as well as Private) should be made by the respective Universities in accordance with the prevalent admission rules under their Acts. The seats in Jammu Colleges (Medical as well as Engineering) should be earmarked for candidates belonging to Jammu region and those in Kashmir Colleges be earmarked for candidates belonging to Kashmir region. A certain number of seats may be reserved in each of University for Ladakh region in proportion to its population”.
The report, which was commended by the people of Jammu division in general and Jammu youth in particular, continues to gather dust in the Kashmiri-dominated Civil Secretariat. In between, the National Conference (NC) ruled the State for four years, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-Congress coalition Government for six years, the NC-Congress coalition Government also for six years and the PDP-BJP coalition between March 1, 2015 and June 18, 2018. But none of these Governments thought it prudent to implement the Singhal Committee Report to dispense justice to the aggrieved and rigorously excluded Jammu youth. It would be only proper to refer to the circumstances under which the then Farooq Abdullah Government had to set up the 3-member Committee to look into the oft-repeated complaint of the people of Jammu province that it all along got crumbs. The entire Jammu province was up in arms after the publication of what the people of this ignored region condemned as a ‘highly biased’ 1998 MBBS/ BDS selection lists. All the business establishments remained closed in Jammu for 17 days. Schools, colleges and University of Jammu remained closed for almost two months between February and May 1998. Jammu witnessed a number of clashes with the police. Many students were injured and arrested.
The fact of the matter is that the erstwhile State Government used all means, including excessive force, to bring the situation under control, but with no result, as nothing deterred the determined and agitating people. Such was the nature of the movement in Jammu against the State Government that Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah had no other option but to kneel and set-up a Committee. Had he not done so, his Government would have collapsed.
Now that J&K is directly administered by the Union Home Ministry, it is time for it to implement the Singhal Committee report in its entirety to conciliate the angry Jammu youth. It has everything to gain and nothing to lose by following a courageous policy.

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