The National Commission for Scheduled Castes' 'directive' to the Punjab government to fill 40,000 backlog vacancies for scheduled castes (SCs) by July-end, has acquired political overtones.
Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Sunday said that the commission had no 'authority' to direct the state government on filling such posts.
"The commission has no authority to direct the state government on filling backlog vacancies. The state government will assess its administrative requirements and fill such posts accordingly," Sukhbir said.
Political observers said that Sukhbir's stance was an indicator of state's reluctance to fill these posts and the opposition was likely to raise the issue in the Lok Sabha polls to discredit the SAD-BJP alliance.
"I have not challenged the state's authority. The state stands exposed with Sukhbir's denial to fill these vacant posts. Just regularising safai sewaks in civic bodies does not mean that state is providing government jobs to Dalits. Punjab is the only state in India that does not have its own pro-Dalit welfare scheme," commission vice-chairman Raj Kumar Verka, who is also a Congress MLA, alleged.
He claimed that soon the commission will publicize data related to the review of the state's performance on the implementation of Dalit welfare schemes, as perhaps a move to regain lost ground among the community/
"The Congress has been regularly raising Dalits' issues in the media, while holding protests against discrimination. The alliance may find it difficult to ignore interests of Dalits, who constitutes 33% of Punjab's population while government's fiscal health may not allow it to fill 40,000 backlog posts," Congress insiders said.
Punjab BSP president Parkash Singh Jandali welcomed the commission's intervention. "The move is not likely to benefit the Congressmen only. All will benefit. The government must fill these backlog posts immediately. It is our right," he added.
Interestingly, Dalit ministers and MLAs of the ruling combine have preferred to keep a low-profile on the issue and have issue no statement.
Verka's another statement, on implementing the 85th Constitutional amendment with regard to promotion of SC employees from 1998 onwards, is also being viewed as an attempt to woo educated Dalits to the Congress. Punjab had implemented the scheme in 2006.