Incorporation Of “backward Villages” Sparks Row In J&K

Incorporation Of “backward Villages” Sparks Row In J&K

16 December 2013
The Hindu
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

Srinagar: In the latest incorporation of the ‘backward’ villages in Jammu and Kashmir, the proverbial lion’s share has gone to none other than the Ministers in-charge of the Social Welfare Department: 17 of the 23 villages declared as ‘backward’ by the Omar Abdullah Cabinet in Kashmir division on December 9 are situated in the Minister in-charge Sakeena Itoo’s home district of Kulgam. Almost all the 22 villages picked up in Jammu division are either from the Minister of State for Social Welfare Weqar Rasool Wani’s home district of Ramban or from the adjoining Doda district - a Congress bastion. Candidates from the “backward villages” get a reserved quota in government jobs, scholarships and professional training admissions. Identification of such villages is the responsibility of the autonomous Jammu and Kashmir State Commission for Backward Classes [SCBC] which practically functions under the administrative control of the Social Welfare Department. The task of incorporating in the list the last uncovered village of Ms. Itoo’s Assembly constituency of Noorabad has now been accomplished. In a conversation with The Hindu, Ms. Itoo admitted that the village picked up from Noorabad was the last uncovered hamlet of her constituency. “Entire Noorabad constituency stands declared as backward since the time of my father (former MLA and Assembly’s Speaker Wali Mohammad Itoo).” She confirmed that eight villages each had been picked up from her junior Ministerial colleague Mr Wani’s Banihal-Ramban belt. Among two of the State’s most backward districts, two villages have been enlisted in Kupwara and none in Budgam. Ms. Itoo, however, sought to dispel the impression that she and Mr. Wani had influenced the selection. “SCBC is a fully autonomous body. It conducts the whole exercise independently according to 53 socio-economic indicators. It recommends the identified villages to the Cabinet through my department, but we don’t make any additions or alterations”, she asserted. Some of the well-placed officials nevertheless insisted that the Minister had influenced the selection and got 17 of her district’s villages incorporated through the District Development Commissioner. “That’s not true. It’s just the beginning of a continuous process as the SCBC was not operational for over two years. We have just revived the commission. It will soon extend to other districts,” Ms Itoo said.