Karnataka: Why govt has brought in a Bill giving job quotas to locals, promoting use of Kannada – The Indian Express

Bowing to demands from activists and Kannada language groups, the Karnataka government recently tabled The Kannada Language Comprehensive Development Bill. The proposed legislation gives preference to Kannadigas in government jobs and also provides for reservation to locals in private jobs generated in the state.
What are the Bill’s provisions and why was its need felt? We explain.
Is this the first time Karnataka is trying to effect such a move?
No. As far back as 1984, the Sarojini Mahishi Committee had made 58 recommendations to ensure more jobs for Kannadigas in Karnataka. However, the suggestions were stringent and were never implemented.
Among them was 100 per cent reservation for Kannadigas in all public sector units, 100 per cent reservation for Kannadigas in Group ‘C’ and ‘D’ jobs in Central government departments and PSUs in Karnataka, a minimum of 80 per cent and 65 per cent reservation in Group ‘B’ and ‘A’ jobs respectively in the said departments and PSUs, appointment of locals on priority in industries, etc.
Why has the government proposed a new Bill rather than implementing the Sarojini Mahishi report?
Though implementation of the recommendations were part of hundreds of petitions submitted by Kannada groups, the state government was of the view that doing this would lead to several constitutional challenges, including violations of rights.
Why push for the legislation now
One of the prime reasons is the hue and cry by activists over the past few years, in the form of sustained social media campaigns claiming Kannada is being “sidelined”. The ‘Hindi imposition’ debate has aggravated the situation, resulting in criticism of the BJP government at the Centre. The BJP state government was seen as dancing to the Centre’s tunes on this, resulting in a backlash from Kannada groups. There were also fears within BJP ranks that such campaigns could have electoral ramifications.
Recently, the influx of staff who don’t speak Kannada—especially those from the Hindi heartland—in public sector banks has led to tensions in parts of the state, with altercations reported between customers and officials over the use of Hindi.
Moreover, lists of new employees hired in other PSUs operating from the state have featured only a few locals, causing the anger to simmer.
What does the legislation envisage?
Apart from ensuring job guarantee to Kannada speakers, the Bill pushes for the use of Kannada in institutes of higher learning and for sops to industries that employ locals.
Features highlighted in the Bill include reservation in higher, technical and professional education to those who studied in Kannada medium schools, “introduction of Kannada as essential language for seeking employment in the state government, local authorities, statutory and non-statutory bodies, co-operatives societies and other societies”.
Also, industries will be entitled to concessions, tax rebates and deferement of taxes if they provide reservation for Kannadigas, as per the state’s industrial policy.
Kannada language, as per the Act, shall be used for all official and administrative correspondences in the state and by local authorities. It can be noted that the state had faced some flak for using only English in some of its correspondences.
The legislation also imposes a penalty for violation in implementation.
When will the Bill be enacted?
The Bill was tabled in the Legislative Assembly last week during the monsoon session. Discussions will be held both in the Assembly and the Legislative Council before it is sent to the Governor for assent. However, with both the Houses adjourned, the Bill will likely be taken up during the winter session of the Legislature for passage.
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