Section of Jharkhand Congress threatens to protest against domicile policy
Jharkhand Congress working president and Singhbhum Lok Sabha MP Geeta Kora on Thursday asked the state government to reconsider the decision.
Ranchi: A day after the Jharkhand Cabinet approved a Bill that fixed land records of 1932 as the basis for domicile in the state, a section of the Congress objected to the move on Thursday and threatened to launch an agitation if the government does not reconsider the decision.
In a politically crucial move, the Jharkhand cabinet headed by chief minister Hemant Soren on Wednesday approved the ‘Jharkhand definition of local persons and for extending the consequential, social, cultural and other benefits to such local persons Bill, 2022’.
As per the bill, people who have their names or their ancestors’ name in the khatiyan (land records) of 1932 or before will be considered as a local inhabitant of Jharkhand. For those who are landless or do not have their or their families’ names in the 1932 khatiyan, respective gram sabha would have the power to certify them based on their language, customary traditions, Jharkhand cabinet secretary Vandana Dadel had said shortly after the cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
State Congress working president and Singhbhum Lok Sabha MP Geeta Kora on Thursday asked the state government to reconsider the decision.
“I have gone through the draft of the bill. I could not find any provision about those living in Kolhan region, comprising East Singhbhum, West Singhbhum and Saraikela districts, where land survey settlement was done in 1964-65,” said Kora.
With 18 legislators in the 81-member state assembly, Congress is the second largest constituent of the ruling alliance in Jharkhand led by chief minister Soren’s Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), which has 30 MLAs. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has 26 legislators.
“Will we have to go before the gram sabha and prove we are not migrants in our place of birth?” asked Kora. “We urge the government to reconsider the decision or else we would launch an agitation. I am with this government, but not on this issue.”
The Congress MP was backed by her husband and former chief minister Madhu Koda, who said that the decision would affect at least four million people in Kolhan region.
“…Our suggestion would be that the last survey settlement in respective regions be made the basis for determining domicile status,” said Koda, who has the unique distinction of serving as the state’s chief minister while being an Independent legislator. “Our people are paramount for us. We would hit the streets if our demands are not met.”
While some Congress leaders openly voiced their objections to the cabinet decision, officials familiar with the matter said state’s health minister Banna Gupta, the party MLA from Jamshedpur West, registered his protest against the move in the cabinet meeting itself.
“I won’t like to comment on the cabinet meeting details as they are confidential. Either the Congress legislature party leader or the state unit president would officially comment on the issue,” Gupta told reporters on Thursday. “I would like to assure that all persons living in the state are Jharkhandi and this government would do everything to protect interest of all.”
Jharkhand Congress chief Rajesh Thakur, however, defended the government’s decision, saying it was taken in the interest of the sentiments of the population at large.
“We welcome the voices of concern being raised by our party leaders. We can always accommodate the concerns,” said Thakur. “The bill would be brought in the assembly for ratification. It can be discussed there. It will be passed only as per the will of the House.”
The current domicile policy, required for claiming different government benefits, passed by the previous BJP government led by Raghubar Das had fixed 1985 as the base year to determine who could hold domicile of Jharkhand, which was carved out of Bihar on November 15, 2000.
However, tribal communities that constitute 26.5% of Jharkhand’s population, have been demanding that the last land survey conducted by the British government in 1932 be used as the basis for defining locals, which became part of the JMM’s promise ahead of the 2019 state assembly polls.
Another bill that proposes to increase reservation for socially and economically weaker sections in state government jobs from current 60% to 77% was also cleared by the Jharkhand cabinet.