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Fumbling its way out of Jat quota mess, BJP forms Naidu committee

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:45 IST
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The agitation

  • Violence has abated across Haryana but the Jat quota issue still remains unresolved
  • Modi govt has formed a committee under Venkaiah Naidu too look into the Jats\' demand

The obstacles

  • Supreme Court had struck down inclusion of Jats in the OBC list
  • Punjab and Haryana High Court had stayed 10% quota for Jats under Special Backward Castes category

More in the story

  • In which areas does the violence still persist?
  • What are the options before the govt?
  • Is a Jat quota workable?

The violence might have abated but Haryana continues to be on tenterhooks.

The Union government has announced a committee under Union minister Venkaiah Naidu to look into the Jats' demand for reservation under Other Backward Castes (OBC) category in educational institutions and government jobs. The Haryana government has promised to bring a Bill in the forthcoming session of the state assembly on the issue.

However, agitators in several parts of the state continued indulging in arson and refused to end the blockades on the roads.

Even as there are reports of the protests spreading out to parts of western Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, 2 more people were killed in Sonepat as security forces tried to contain a violent mob. Till now 14 people have lost their lives across the state in firing by the security forces while while more than 150 have sustained injuries.

Also read: Jat agitation intensifies: Delhi's water supply cut, highways blocked

While blockades were lifted in several parts of the state after the centre's assurance, traffic flow could not resume on the Delhi-Ambala highway and Delhi-Rohtak highway. Rail services remained suspended as railway tracks have been uprooted at several points in the state. The road to Hissar and Jind was also blocked.
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Photo: Manoj Dhaka/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

There were reports of violence continuing in Rohtak and Sonepat that have been nerve centres of the protests. A judge's car was reportedly torched in Rohtak despite there being a curfew. A curfew is still in place in Bhiwani, Jhajjar and Sonepat. However curfew was lifted from Kaithal, Hissar, Barwala and Hansi. But incidents of violence were again reported from Hansi.

Modi govt has formed a committee under Venkaiah Naidu to look into the Jat demand for reservation

Meanwhile, there were reports of the army having taken over the Munak canal that supplies water to the national capital. Officials said the situation is expected to improve in other parts of the state soon.

Is a Jat quota workable?

The question being asked is how would the government grant reservation to the Jats particularly when the Supreme Court had struck down their inclusion in the OBC list last year. Even if the government brings a Bill or an ordinance, would it stand the legal test ? Or would the government accommodate them in some other category ? Also, would the government opt for a quota within a quota?

Besides the Supreme Court decision, in July 2015 the Punjab and Haryana High court stayed the decision of the previous Congress government in Haryana to grant 10% reservation to Jats, Jat Sikhs, Bishnois, Rors and Tyagis under the Special Backward Castes (SBC) category. This was done on the ground that the Supreme Court had not accepted the report of Haryana Backward Castes Commission under Justice KC Gupta (Retired).

Also read: #JatQuotaStir: how Haryana CM Khattar dug himself into a hole

The announcement made by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on enhancement of reservation quota for Economically Backward Classes (EBC) in the general class category which also includes Jats and 4 other castes from 10% to 20% has been rejected by the Jats. He has also raised the annual income ceiling from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 6 lakh under the category besides setting up a committee under the chairmanship of chief secretary to study all aspects of the reservations for SBC and to suggest the best way forward.

Under the present set up there is 22% reservation for SCs and 27% for OBCs while the 10% given under SBC category was stayed by the court. The previous regime under Bhupinder Singh Hooda also gave 10% reservation to Economically Backward Persons (EBP) of general castes, thus taking the reservation quantum in the state to 67%. Legal observers feel this would not stand judicial scrutiny as the Supreme Court had capped reservations at not more than 50% cent in the Indira Sawhney case in 1992.

"There are too many ifs and buts on this issue which the government would have to clarify. What would be the proposed Bill or an ordinance like remains to bee seen. The Jats have tasted the fruits of being included under the OBC as several of their youth managed to get admissions in good institutions and also government jobs till the time it was struck down by the Supreme Court," said Dr. Gurmeet Singh, a political commentator.

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Commercial buildings gutted in fire near bypass as Jat community protests for reservation in government services, on 21 February, 2016 in Rohtak, India. Photo: Manoj Dhaka/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

However, Dr Pramod Kumar of Institute of Development and Communication (IDC) at Chandigarh said the problem is that the path of development adopted by the political leadership is flawed. "The government has failed to multiply jobs. The economy is not doing well and the manufacturing sector has slowed down. Since there is no quality education, the educated youth are trying to get jobs through reservations." He said the number of such agitations will increase in days to come.

Also read: #JatQuotaStir: Rohtak protestor's killing adds fuel to the fire

In the context of Haryana, political commentator Balwant Takshak feels that the agitation will now fizzle out gradually as it had reached its boiling point over the last 2 days. "After 10 days people either tire out or the movement is hijacked by anti-social elements."

"One thing is for sure, the government is facing a crisis of credibility otherwise the agitators would have believed Khattar's promise of bringing a Bill in the Assembly. His announcement on enhancing the EBC quota was also rejected."

Govt has failed to multiply jobs. The economy is not doing well and manufacturing has slowed down

The stalemate is likely to continue as there is also a strong lobby that opposes reservation for Jats and feels that the government is succumbing to muscle power.

Dr Prem Kumar, a sociologist at Kurukshetra University, said, "The situation is extremely delicate at the moment. All I can say is that instead of being a tool for upliftment of the oppressed, reservations have become a tool in the hands of opportunists."

More in Catch:

Khattar is firefighting, but could #JatQuotaStir cost the BJP in UP?

Respite for water-starved Delhi as military takes control of Munak Canal

First published: 23 February 2016, 1:11 IST
 
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