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Meghalaya oppn party chief’s hunger strike enters 3rd day

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SHILLONG, May 25 (PTI): The indefinite hunger strike launched by opposition Voice of the People’s Party (VPP) chief Ardent Basaiawmoit demanding a review of the 1972 “unfair and outdated” reservation policy in Meghalaya, entered its third day on Thursday.

The VPP leader said he would continue with the protest till the state government agreed to review the policy.

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Supporters of the VPP, which has four MLAs in the 60-member Assembly, and political leaders came to the parking lot of the additional secretariat, where Basaiawmoit is holding the fast, to express solidarity with him.

United Democratic Party (UDP) general secretary Jemino Mawthoh was among those who visited the VPP chief.

Mawthoh said his party, which is part of the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance 2.0 government, will take the lead to impress upon the government to review the policy.

“Our party leaders will be meeting (soon) and the demand to review the job reservation policy will be discussed at the meeting,” he told PTI.

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A team of doctors, monitoring the health condition of the MLA who started the indefinite hunger strike at 9.30 am on Tuesday, said he is weak but stable.

“I am feeling ok. I have mentally prepared myself for this and God is with me. I will continue to fast till the government agrees to review the policy,” the VPP chief said.

Since 1972, 40 per cent of the state government jobs are reserved for the Garo and Khasi communities each. Another five per cent is reserved for other tribes residing in the state while the remaining 15 per cent are for the general category.

The VPP has been seeking a review of the policy asserting that it is unfair to the Khasi tribe, the population of which has outnumbered that of the Garos over the years.

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The present policy needs a relook as the population of Khasis consisting of subtribes – Jaintias, Wars, Bhois and Lyngngams – is higher than the Garo people, it said.

According to the 2011 census, over 14.1 lakh Khasis live in Meghalaya while the number of Garo people is a little over 8.21 lakh.

So, this policy is “unfair and outdated”, the VPP president said.

Basaiawmoit, however, said he is not against the rights of the Garos to government jobs and he is only demanding an impartial job reservation policy.

The Meghalaya government on Friday constituted a committee to address concerns over the roster of the job reservation policy in the state.

It was also decided to put on hold government job recruitments until the panel headed by Health Minister Ampareen Lyngdoh submits its report on the roster, chief minister Conrad K Sangma said after an all-party meeting on the issue on Friday.

A roster is an application to determine the reservation of posts in a cadre for different categories with reference to the applicable percentage of reservations.

Security has been beefed up in and around the protest site to prevent people from gathering there as it would affect the normal flow of traffic.

“We are keeping a close watch to ensure that there is no untoward incident,” a senior official said.

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