Why Are Some Developed Areas Still Getting RBA Benefits in J&K? 

RUPORA and Yarikalan villages are located merely 2 kms from Chadoora town and 17 kms from Srinagar city. Most who live here are Govt employees who are well off. 30 to 40 years back, the area was indeed socially and educationally backward. However, after getting the benefit of the RBA, the situation changed. From 2005 onwards, the area didn’t deserve to be deemed backward (RBA). Government employees or even gazetted officers from these twin villages whose children have studied in prestigious schools of Srinagar have taken the benefit of RBA and are now into Govt jobs as well. This is complete injustice.

When the erstwhile state of J&K was put under Governor’s rule, the then State Administrative Council (SAC), headed by Governor Satya Pal Malik accorded an approval for notifying 66 villages in J&K as Backward Areas. These villages were thus brought under the ambit of the category called Reserve Backward Areas (RBA). Many villages  which are located just in the city outskirts have also been notified as backward areas (RBA). After every three or four years, a dozen or more villages are notified as RBA but no village has ever been de-notified till date since the RBA category was introduced in Jammu & Kashmir more than 40 years back.

In Spite of the fact that there is a provision for carrying out de-notification of villages after 10 years under the periodic review programme, till date, no village stands de-notified in any part of Jammu & Kashmir. There are many RBA villages which have facilities like degree colleges, English medium schools, technical institutions, better road connectivity, municipal committees but they are still enjoying reservation under RBA.

Many so-called “backward” (RBA) villages have developed into towns where one can find financial institutions like banks , better health institutions , better road connectivity and transport facilities but the residents of these areas continue to enjoy the benefits of the RBA category. Some villages are now tehsil headquarters and there are even RBA areas which have now become subdivisions with Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM). Even then, they still want to be RBAs to grab Government jobs and admissions in Government run Medical Colleges, Engineering Colleges and other professional institutions. The ultimate sufferers in this vicious cycle are the youth who inspite of being meritorious and belonging to lower economic strata do not get the benefit of RBA.

Infact, after abrogation of article 370, the RBA quota has been reduced to 10% and even as the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) quota has been increased by 10%, it is very difficult to get these certificates. The process to get the EWS entitlement involves a lot of corruption as well.

The RBA areas which are now developed towns and commercial hubs are unfairly gatekeeping benefits of reservations for actual backward villages of their tehsils or districts, as youth from these far flung places are pitted against their counterparts in fairly developed areas nearby who do enjoy the benefits of RBA unlike them.

Periodic Revision after 10 years 

Section 11 of Jammu and Kashmir State Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1997 calls for Periodic revision of lists by the Government. Section 11 reads as:

“The Government may at any time, and shall, at the expiration of ten years from the coming into force of this Act and every succeeding period of ten years thereafter, undertake revision of the lists with a view to excluding from such lists those classes who have ceased to be backward classes or for including in such lists new backward classes. The Government shall, while undertaking any revision referred to in sub-section (1), consult the Commission “

Case studies 

Similar to Rupora and Yarikalan, Chandilora village which is located mere 2 kms from Tangmarg town of Baramulla district was declared RBA many decades back. However, as on date, it is no longer a backward village and has infact developed into a town with a lot of hustle and bustle. Being located on busy Srinagar – Gulmarg road,this  town has flourished a lot due to a huge tourist inflow. Offices of SDM and Tehsildar Tangmarg are located in this area plus there is a Degree college as well.

Yet another “village”, Ferozpora  is located only half a kilometre away from Tangmarg town and has one of the best English medium schools (Tyndale Biscoe school Tangmarg) in the valley. This place also has good road connectivity. Why is it then still categorized as an RBA village?

In Anantnag, Kamad village is an RBA village located on Khanabal – Dooru road. The village is located 7 kms from Anantnag town having best road connectivity and all other facilities. In comparison, Gopalpora Kalan, located on a Karewa in Shangus constituency is not enlisted as RBA. What explains this lapse?

In Kulgam, district Damhal Hanjipora was indeed a backward area until 10 years back but right now Damhal is a town having SDM Office, a Degree College, a Tehsil office, a branch of J&K Bank and higher secondary schools as well. On the other hand, Gasirena village in the Pahloo block of the same area is not enlisted as a backward area.

In Chadoora sub division, there are many more villages like Panzan, Hushroo, Badipora, Rangar, Namthal which are located only 15 to 20 kms from Srinagar city but they continue to be backward areas (RBAs). Renowned schools of Srinagar and Budgam ply their school buses in these areas. Now, the students have access to better education as well. On the other end, students and job aspirants from villages in upper Chadoora and Chararsharief like Yusmarg,Pakherpora, Jabbad, Neegu, Kutbal,Bonen,Branwar, Darwan, Nagbal, Chalyan and Choontnad etc which are also enlisted as RBAs are not able to compete with the students and job aspirants in RBA villages located around Chadoora town. The literacy rate in these villages is still less than 40 % and getting Govt jobs is a dream for most of the young men and women of these areas.

Had the Government conducted periodic review as mandated under law, the villages located near Chadoora town would have been deleted from RBA list and justice would have been done with people living in upper reaches. The irony with students from upper reaches especially Kashmiri speaking students is that their Gujjar classmates are STs but they are asked to compete with RBA students living near Srinagar or Chadoora town.

Political parties have used RBA as a vote bank and that is the reason they keep on adding more and more areas into this list. I appeal to LG Manoj Sinha and Chief Secretary Dr AK Mehta to take this issue seriously. There are many areas which are really backward but have not been included as RBA villages and people living in such areas need to be given justice. Let us ensure social equality and social justice by holding periodic reviews for RBA villages.

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

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Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow and Chairman Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement. Feedback [email protected]

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