Shillong: To put pressure on the Meghalaya government to review the 1972 reservation policy, opposition Voice of the People’s Party (VPP) chief Ardent Basaiawmoit started an indefinite hunger strike on Tuesday, claiming that it is “unfair and outdated”.

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.

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The VPP, with four MLAs in the 60-member assembly in the state, 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.

“I am holding a hunger strike demanding that the state government review the 1972 job reservation policy for the tribals in the state. I am firm with my decision to fast indefinitely,” Basaiawmoit, a three-time MLA, told PTI.

He is holding the fast at a place opposite the state secretariat here.

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So, this policy is “unfair and outdated”, the VPP president said.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

Hundreds of supporters, many of them women, are at the protest site to express solidarity with the VPP president. Other three party MLAs are also present there but are not observing fast.

Security has been beefed up at the site to prevent people from gathering there as that would affect the normal flow of traffic.

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

He said a team of health professionals were deputed to keep a check on the health condition of the MLA.

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

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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.

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