Jharkhand Preps Two Huge Reforms As Agency Homes In On Chief Minister

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Jharkhand Preps Two Huge Reforms As Agency Homes In On Chief Minister

Hemant Soren has been summoned by the Enforcement Directorate.

Patna:

As Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren finds himself in the crosshairs of the Enforcement Directorate, his party is arming a political fightback with the execution of two of its main promises made during the 2019 state election.

In a special session on Friday, the Jharkhand Assembly is expected to clear two landmark bills – one to use land records from 1932 to determine those who are local inhabitants and another to increase the reservation in jobs and education for Other Backward Classes or OBC from 14 to 27 per cent.

The laws are seen to be so politically sensitive and popular that a cautious opposition is unlikely to oppose the bills, even though changes could be made to the policy of domicile records.

To further corner the BJP, which has been accused of using central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate to target opponents, the state government has already made it official that, once cleared by the governor, it will be up to a move by the centre to ensure the new quota system is not struck down by courts.

Under the new reservation policy, not only will the OBC quota be hiked to 27 per cent from 14, but the quota for Scheduled Tribes will be increased to 28 per cent from 26 and that for Scheduled Castes will be raised to 12 per cent from 10.

Added to the 10 per cent reservation for a section of the so-called “upper castes” deemed as the Economically Weaker Section (EWS), which was upheld by the Supreme Court this week, the total reservation will rise to 77 per cent – among the highest in the country.

The domicile records policy, on the other hand, has been a key demand of the state’s tribal population – who say that the last land survey conducted by the British government in 1932 be used as the basis for defining locals – and was cleared by the Jharkhand government in September.

Once the bill becomes law, people whose ancestors were living in the state before 1932 and whose names were included in that year’s land records will be considered local residents of Jharkhand.

In the case of landless persons or people whose names were not recorded in the 1932 land survey, the Gram Sabha will be empowered to take a call on it.

The domicile policy has remained controversial ever since Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar on November 15, 2000. The previous BJP government in the state had, in 2016, declared 1985 as the cut-off year for defining locals.

But after the JMM-led alliance came to power in the state in 2019, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief Shibu Soren announced that the 1932 land records should be made the basis to formulate the domicile policy.

The two bills come amid summons by the Enforcement Directorate to Chief Minister Hemant Soren in a case linked to alleged money laundering.

Mr Soren also faces the risk of disqualification as an MLA on the BJP’s complaint for granting himself a mining lease while holding office in 2021.

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