Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Anumeha Yadav - In Haryana, Jat rage over reservations is spreading like wildfire // Himadri Ghosh & Nikhil Babu - Ignited hopes and no jobs: Why Jats have revolted

Ignited hopes and no jobs: Why Jats have revolted
Traditional landowners, the Jats are a powerful Hindu caste now demanding classification as a “backward” caste – a contention rejected last year by the Supreme Court – so that government jobs can be reserved for them. However, an IndiaSpend analysis of employment data and evaluation of aspirations of young Jats revealed that the protests are manifestations of India’s slow, inadequate job-creation and a failing education system creating thousands of “unemployable” graduates.

This disconnect between education, aspirations and jobs explains similar demands to be classified as “backward” and “other-backward-caste (OBC)” by socially powerful caste groups – Gujjars (Rajasthan), Marathas (Maharashtra), Patels (Gujarat) and Kapus (Andhra Pradesh), among others – struggling to find satisfactory employment.

Labourers, guards and maids form the majority of the jobs available to more than a million Indians – some estimate it is nearly two million – who join the workforce every month, as IndiaSpendreported. As we explain later, over 30 years, India generated no more than seven million jobs every year, with only a fraction being the kinds of jobs the young Jats desire. This is why protestors across India demand secure government jobs; it is why engineers and doctors throng job openings for peons, clerks and constables (as they did in Uttar Pradesh last year, when 2.3 million applied for 368 positions of peons).

As we also reported, new employment data indicate two disquieting trends. One, a slowdown in employment in the formal, organised sector (which in any case employs only 12% of India’s labour force), the prime staging ground of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make-in-India programme. In Indian factories, more than 400,000 people lost their jobs during the financial year 2012-13, according to government data.

Two, this slowdown hides a larger, long-term trend: India Inc is automating and squeezing more output from its workers and so needs fewer of them. In isolation, the latest government data show that organised industry added nearly 500,000 jobs in 2013-14. Unemployment in India, according to labour ministry data, is less than 5%, but these datado not reflect under-, partial- or disguised-employment, such as Rangi’s. No more than 17% of all Indians were wage earners, as this 2013-14 labour ministry reportacknowledged, with no more than 60% of those above 15 years old who sought work over the year getting it (more than 46% in urban India did not find work)... read more:


In Haryana, Jat rage over reservations is spreading like wildfire
Protests by Jat agitators demanding reservations in public employment intensified and spread to more parts of Haryana as well as Delhi, enclosed by Haryana on three sides. A week into the agitation, protesters continued to block road and railways on Saturday. The army was deployed in eight districts, including in Rohtak where soldiers had to enter the affected areas using helicopters after protesters dug up several roads, news agencies reported. Angry protesters set fire to public buildings, including a railway station building in Jind and a petrol pump in Rohtak. Protesters threw stones at the house of agriculture minister OP Dhankar. A day earlier they had tried to break into the house of state finance minister Abhimanyu Sindhu. Both political leaders belong to the Jat community and agitators blame them for failing to bring legislation for Jats to be included in the other backward classes category.

Political rivalries : A few kilometres off Rohtak Road, in Bahadurgarh in Jhajjar district, Jats dismissed Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar's announcement that the government had accepted their demands calling it “a delaying tactic.” “We have heard similar vague promises so many times the past 18 months,” said Ravi Rathi, a young man leaning against a broken tree trunk being used by the group to block the entrance to Parnala village. “Successive governments have promised us the same, but taken no action after the announcements,” added a man standing next to him, also in his 20s. The young men, more than 30 in number, had occupied a narrow road over a nallah flowing on the village outskirts. Besides blocking the road with tree trunks, they had strewn thorny kikar branches on the road to allowing no vehicles on the road, except for medical emergencies.

The village mukhiya Rajesh Rathi who stood with the men said the government had left them with no option but to resort to intensifying their agitation. He blamed Bharatiya Janata Party's Member of Parliament from Kurukshetra Raj Kumar Saini for instigating the violence with his provocative speeches. Saini, a first-time member of parliament who also belongs to another backward class, has formed the “OBC Brigade”, a loose coalition of members of other backward class communities who maintain that including traditionally dominant communities like the Jats in this list will dilute the benefits of reservations for other communities. He has threatened to resign from his parliament seat over this issue.

“Saini has been abusing Jats at public functions,” claimed the village mukhiya (chief) Rathi. “In early February, our leaders raised the issue of how BJP had failed where Congress had tried to deliver on Jat reservations," Rathi said. "Saini had retorted with 'Jat atankwadi hain, Jat bawle hain (Jats are terrorists, Jats are insane). So now, the young boys have responded with a 'we will show you what terror means,'” Rathi concluded.

A little farther away, on Rohtak road which the protesters had blocked by lining it with construction material and blue billboards of the Delhi Metro, Yogesh Dalal, clad in a sports jersey tried to make his way to Tikri a border village, pushing his motorcycle on the blockaded, deserted road. Dalal a head constable in Delhi police and a Jat himself, said he supported the community's agitation. “Farming is finished, and there is high inflation. Jats struggle to get government jobs because they lack the benefit of reservations,” Dalal said. He too laid the blame on Saini for the protests turning violent, claiming that in some instances Saini men had led violent attacks for which Jats were detained.

Crises in villages: Besides political competition with other castes, older members of the community spoke of the economic desperation that had gripped most farm households in the area. In Bahadurgarh's Parnala village, for instance, of the over 800 households most had to sell their farmland at a pittance when the government acquired land for Bahadurgarh Modern Industrial Estate set up by the state government in the 1960s. The industrial estate, on the edge of the village, holds over 1,300 units now, including factories producing footwear, pharmaceuticals, steel sheets, glass. But since nearly all the factories prefer to employ migrants whom they view as more pliant than local workers, the Rs 3,000 crore business generated in the industrial estate per year offers hardly any livelihood opportunities for local residents.

In Parnala, villagers estimated that around 40% households are dependent on only farming, while others supplement their income by running shops for cycle repairs, groceries, or by working as truck drivers and helpers. The farmers lamented the crop losses due to successive droughts and weather disturbances of the last two years. Around the village, the standing carrot crop was going to waste in fields after the prices crashed this season... 
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