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A 36-member Gujjar team began another round of talks Wednesday with the Rajasthan government even as the community continued to block rail tracks for the 17th day demanding job quotas.

The delegation, led by retired army colonel K.S. Bainsla, opened negotiations with a three-member ministerial committee in a bid to end a dragging row over reservation in government jobs.

‘We are confident we will reach an amicable agreement with the Gujjars,’ a senior home department official said.

The community’s campaign for five percent reservation in government jobs entered its 17th day amid continued disruption of train services in the sprawling state.

Large groups of Gujjars squatted on rail tracks near Bayana in Bharatpur district — a community stronghold — and blocked trains.

Official sources said the government had conveyed its difficulty in providing job reservations, at least for now, in the light of a high court judgment against job quotas.

‘The government has assured the Gujjars that it will strongly put forward their case in the high court,’ an official source said.Bainsla said he was hopeful.

‘I am hopeful that an agreement would be reached today (Wednesday). I want a permanent solution to this issue,’ said the man who has become the face of the Gujjar protests.

The Tuesday evening meeting between Bainsla and Rajasthan government officials again remained inconclusive.

Soon after arriving in Jaipur Tuesday evening, Bainsla met Energy Minister Jitendra Singh, himself a Gujjar.

Singh, along with senior officials, talked with Bainsla and his associates for over two hours. He said the meeting ended on a positive note.

The minister said the government was ready to accept nine of the Gujjar community’s 11 demands and discussions were on over the remaining two.

But Gujjar leader Himmat Singh said the government was still not clear on their reservation demand.

Talks between the Gujjars and the Rajasthan government broke down Monday with the community leaders blaming the government for not accepting three major demands.

Himmat Singh said: ‘They did not accept our demand to stop the government recruitment process till an amicable solution is found to our reservation demand. The government failed to say how and when five percent reservation would be provided to us.’

The government maintains the talks were fruitful.

Home Minister Shanti Dhariwal, one of those negotiating with the Gujjars, said: ‘These talks have helped us to move forward towards an amicable solution.’

Besides Dhariwal, the committee comprises Jitendra Singh and Transport Minister B.K. Sharma.

The Rajasthan government in 2009 announced five percent reservation for Gujjars and 14 percent for the economically backward classes, taking the total reservation in the state to 68 percent – more than the 50 percent cap set by the Supreme Court.

In a ruling Dec 22, 2010, the high court struck down the job quota for Gujjars.

The Gujjars had staged violent protests between 2006 and 2008 in which many lives were lost.


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