Indigenous Nationalities Commission slammed for proposing revisions to existing reservation systemCommission officials seem to have fallen into a trap set by anti-reservation groups who want to scrap the inclusive system, say marginalised group activists.
Tika R Pradhan
The proposal of the Indigenous Nationalities Commission to revise the existing reservation system in state agencies has been criticised by representatives of the ethnic communities. The commission in its latest report has suggested revision in the system saying that the same individuals and groups have been benefitting since the system was first introduced in 2007.
The representatives from the communities and experts closely studying the matter termed the commission’s report as similar to the report presented earlier by the National Inclusion Commission that was widely criticised and the commission was then forced to issue a statement to clarify the matter.
Local activists of the marginalised groups and experts said the office bearers of the Indigenous Nationalities Commission had fallen into the trap set by the anti-reservation groups who want to get the provision of reservation scrapped.
“The latest proposal of the Indigenous Nationalities Commission alarms us and makes us think that the office bearers may have been trapped in the conspiracy hatched by groups who are against the system of inclusion,” said advocate Shankar Limbu, a researcher on marginalised groups. “Actually, they have not properly understood the spirit of reservation.”
In its third annual report presented to the President Bidya Devi Bhandari on Monday, the Indigenous Nationalities Commission has suggested that the existing reservation and inclusiveness policy should be reviewed.
“At a time when the opportunities of inclusiveness or reservation have only been enjoyed by those who have had access to it, certain classes, gender, ethnic groups and communities have not benefited from it as much as they should have,” the report said.
The point number 9 of the suggestions section of the annual report said that in order to make the reservations effective, the existing policy of inclusiveness and reservation should be reviewed.
“Ending a situation where the same individuals get the opportunities repeatedly, a situation where women get dual opportunities, on the basis of birth and marriage, should also end,” it added.
After presenting the report to the President’s Office, the commission had organised a press meet on Wednesday to inform the media about the report during which its chair, Ram Bahadur Thapa Magar, clarified the suggestions made by the commission.
The Thapa Magar-led commission includes Mira Rana, Sharan Rai and Surya Bahadur Gurung as members.
Earlier, when the National Inclusive Commission had presented its study report recommending that the government gradually scrap the reservation policy, it had invited severe controversy and was heavily criticised by the marginalised groups.
Owing to the backlash, the commission had to clarify that it was not their intention to scrap the reservations system altogether.
Later, the commission studied the ethnic groups who have not been able to make it to parliament so far, despite the adoption of the Proportional Representation election system prevailing for the last one-and–half decades.
According to the report which is yet to be published, about half the ethnic groups among a total of 128 are yet to be represented in the parliament.
Leaders from the marginalised groups often slam the political leadership for failing to ensure the representation of the groups which were in the lower strata of the society as the top leaders often prefer picking candidates from well-off families based on their personal preferences.
Chairman of the Indigenous Nationalities Commission Magar first denied that the report of the commission had talked about reviewing the reservations policy. Later, he explained that the commission had in fact wanted to make the political parties responsible to ensure there’s representation from all the indigenous groups of the country.
“Our main focus was on ensuring the representation of all the disadvantaged, highly marginalised and endangered groups,” Magar told the Post.
Among the country’s 59 indigenous nationalities, National Foundation for the Development of Indigenous Nationalities (NFDIN) has listed 10 groups—Kusunda, Bankariya, Raute, Surel, Hayu, Raji, Kissan, Lepcha, Meche and Kusbadiya—as endangered.
Another twelve groups that are listed by NFDIN as highly-marginalised are Majhi, Siyar, Lhomi (Singsawa), Thudam, Dhanuk, Chepang, Satar/Santhal, Thami, Jhangad (Urao), Bote, Danuwar and Baram.
Twenty groups are listed in the marginalised section, 15 others under disadvantaged groups and two—Newar and Thakali—are listed as “advanced communities.”
“Since the existing leadership of the commissions, including Indigenous Nationalities Commission, were appointed by an anti-democratic leader, we cannot expect good work by them,” said Malla K. Sundar, a leader of the indigenous nationalities, alluding to former prime minister KP Oli’s term.
“These people are trying to scrap all the political achievements of the 2006 movement, systematically,” Sundar said.
He said the move of the Indigenous Nationalities Commission demanding a review of the reservation policy in barely one and a half decades of its existence reeks of a conspiracy.
“The commission’s suggestion is a regressive move and is against the spirit of the reservations policy,” said Kailash Rai, a researcher on indigenous and gender issues. “We should not encourage such activities as it could lead towards curtailment of the existing provisions for the disadvantaged groups.”
Indu Chaudhary, a researcher on social issues, said the ongoing debate over allowing a person to participate in the reservations policy only once was not a fair one.
“If an underprivileged person gets only one chance, that person cannot make anything out of it,” Chaudhary told the Post over the phone from Kailali. “Therefore, at this stage, the ongoing debate over reviewing the reservations policy is actually irrelevant.”