The Rajasthan Assembly might have passed a bill granting five per cent reservation to Gujjars in educational institutions and government jobs but the community’s leaders are highly sceptical of this clearing judicial scrutiny as it has been shot down on two previous occasions in 2009 and 2015 when a similar quota was granted.
The reason? The Rajasthan High Court held on both occasions that the five per cent quota exceeded the 50 per cent limit laid down by the Supreme Court. Thereafter, a bill to grant 1 per cent reservation was also shot down in 2010 on the ground that the matter was taken up without conducting a proper survey.
Experts say the five per cent quota would require a constitutional amendment to raise the limit.
The community currently enjoys a 1 per cent reservation in educational institutions and government jobs after a fourth bill was introduced on this in 2017. Demanding that this be raised to 5 per cent, the Gujjar Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti had resumed its agitation on February 8, blocking rail tracks and roads in many areas of the state and bringing transportation to a grinding halt.
On Wednesday, the state Assembly passed a bill granting the Gujjars five per cent reservations. Governor Kalyan Singh signed the bill on the same night.
But the Gujjars refused to give up their stir, which entered its seventh day on Thursday.
“We have shown the bill to legal experts and after studying the bill, our community is dissatisfied with it. This can again get stuck in court. Hence, the government should give it to us in writing assuring reservations for us,” Gujjar Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti patron Col. Kirori Singh Bainsla told IANS.
“We are well aware of inconvenience to the people. But what surprises us is why the government is not aware of the inconvenience being caused to our people,” he said.
The agitators have not slept since the stir resumed, staying awake through the night, sitting on the railway tracks under the open sky in the chilly weather.
“The political parties have been promising us this reservation since many years. Even this time, we were promised reservation in the Congress manifesto. In fact, the Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Sachin Pilot, represents our community and he promised us our right.
“However, after forming the government, the Congress forgot this promise. We warned them of this agitation on January 20, however, no one took us seriously. Not even a single official came to us to open talks and hold discussions,” said Vijay Bainsla, another Gujjar leader.
“Now, when we started this stir, the entire mechanism of passing the bill was finished in six days – that’s it! Doesn’t this show that the political leaders are not ready to work till they face protests and agitations,” Bainsla said.
In the 13 years since 2006, the Gujjars have staged six agitations on the railway tracks, blocking the crucial Mumbai-Delhi route. Four of the agitations were staged under BJP rule and twice when the Congress was in power.
Each time, the railways incurred losses of crores of rupees and passengers faced the blues as and when trains were diverted. This time around, the railways say losses of over Rs 350 crore have been incurred.