Reservation for a certain section of society in India has always been a major issue of debate. After India became free from the British rule, our constitution-makers made these reservations for those sections of society which were long neglected and disparaged. These reservations were meant to enable the downtrodden and improve their status. This was done so with the expectation of one single generation turning out in fifteen years would be on par with the others who are comparatively privileged. However, the current situation of this naïve optimism is before our eyes. Reservation system has been abused by almost everyone for their personal gain with absolute disregard for the national interest and the principle of equality before law. The Jats are no different. They are currently out on the streets across Haryana demanding reservations in government jobs and educational institutes under the Other Backward Class (OBC) category.
About the Jats:
The Jats are in the truest sense what the eminent anthropologist M.N.Srinivas calls a ‘dominant caste’. The above term is used to refer to any community that is both numerically strong in a village or a local area, and wields power through control over land. The Jats make up approximately a quarter of Haryana’s total population and own almost three-fourths of agricultural land in Haryana. They are primarily an agricultural group hailing from Haryana and seven other states in north India particularly UP, Rajasthan and Gujarat. The intriguing fact about the Jats is that, besides being an agrarian community, they are also the sole proprietors of the land they cultivate.
The Jats demanding reservation in government jobs and educational institutes is rather unwarranted for the Jats being land holders are conspicuously financially well off and are the prevalent caste. After the creation of the state of Haryana in 1966, the community became politically dominant as well. So why has the community raised a clamor to be included in the OBC list? More importantly, why have they not asked for it in the previous years?
The reason for this demand is primarily due to the feeling of indignation among the Jat youth because of the advancements made by communities lower in stature than them became too evident (the Kammas of Tamil Nadu and the Patidars of Gujarat). Moreover, since the Jats were land holders in administratively vital areas, many of them had become wealthy due to land acquisitions by the state government. The wealth they acquired during the process is depleting at an alarming rate owing to their expensive indulgences due to which the future generations find themselves in a fix. It is only now that the Jat youth are realizing the importance of formal education and government jobs.[i]
Over a decade ago, some sections of the Jats were not ready to accept the status of “backward class” because at the time land was not fragmented, and most Jat landholdings were large. With changing times and dividing families, holdings began to shrink thus directly affecting the community.
The Jats’ primary occupation remains farming. The average landholding is 2-3 acres. There is a sizeable population of the Jat youth who want government jobs instead of pursuing farming because farming is not as lucrative as it used to be. More importantly, they want to have a sense of job security. A huge number of agitated youth that remains unemployed in spite of being educated have failed to find a job appropriate to their ambitions and eligibility.
Because of the lack of incentives provided by the oblivious state government the youth find themselves either breaking their backs to find an unskilled job which is equally underpaid or remain unemployed.
The commission appointed:
The Jats were disgruntled post-1991 Gurnam Singh Commission report that included them in the backward classes’ category along with seven other groups. Similar dissatisfaction emerged among the community after the Bhajan Lal government had withdrawn the notification issued for this inclusion. Following which two more backward classes commissions were set up in 1995 but the Jats failed to pass muster yet again. After the agitation in April 2011, the government set up the K.C.Gupta commission to appraise the situation of the Jats; in 2012, the commission recommended the inclusion of the Jats along with four other castes: Jat Sikhs, Ror, Tyagi and Bishnoi in the category special backward classes (SBC). The Hooda government accepted the report and a 10% quota was granted, but this was later set aside by the Supreme Court. On March 17, 2015, the Supreme Court quashed the UPA government’s decision to extend the OBC quota in central government jobs to Jats, refusing to accept that Jats were a backward community. Consequently, the reservation introduced for Jats in Haryana and eight other states — Gujarat, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand —were set aside.[ii]
The complexities of Jat agitation:
After being consistently denied reservations over the course of many decades the rage of the Jats has had a snowball effect and they’re hardly making an effort to conceal it. There have been losses of around Rs 20,000 crores owing to unconstitutional activities such as burning and destroying public and private property. This has been caused by the ongoing stir by halting industry, transport, trade, and small businesses. Since Haryana is the hub for many national highways and railway lines, the collateral damage would be more. “The ancillary damage to the economic activities to other states in terms of loss of production, transport and movement of people would add a few thousand crores more to the overall loss to the national economy.”[iii] Business hubs like Gurgaon which houses top multinational companies have been affected.
The Jat agitation has been an annual affair around this time of the year since 2012 but this year’s violence could have something to do with a non-Jat chief minister (M.L.Khattar) heading the government who is perceived to have turned a deaf ear to the woes of the Jats.
An IndiaSpend analysis of data related to employment and its evaluation about the young Jats reveals how the protests are instantiations of the country’s incompetent job creation and a deficient system of education. 500,000 jobs were offered by the organization industry in 2014; India, however, need a million every year. Over 30 years, India has generated less than seven million jobs annually with only some jobs Jat youth desiring. "What India needs annually is not just 23 or 24 million jobs but livelihoods," said economist Ajit Ranade. Job opportunities would come only with new investments and enterprises.”If we need to create two million jobs every month then we need to create 20,000 to 50,000 new enterprises every month” he said.[iv]
What can be done?
But is it possible that the inclusion in the OBC category fulfills all their goals? This is improbable if we consider the speed of growth of government jobs in the country. A study based on National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) demonstrates that the provisions of quota apply to mere 18 % of the total jobs in the country. That comes to just 15.4 million jobs. It includes both in centre and state governments. While the number of permanent government jobs has remained steady in the last 10 years, the growth has happened only in the private sector and temporary jobs in government. This means that all the discussion of quota by the legion of social groups is to have a share in just 18 % of all jobs. What community leaders, therefore, should focus instead on is equipping members with skills. This will allow them to have bigger share of 82 per cent jobs.[v]
The protests and less-than-concerned government are the two sides of the same coin. The Jats haven’t exactly been peaceful in their demonstrations. Neither has the Khattar government done anything substantial to look after the interests of one of most in influential communities Haryana. Even though the agitation has been called off for a period of fifteen days, the non-Jat chief minister should make every attempt to reach an amicable settlement with the Jats. This can be achieved by attracting new investments and small/medium enterprises to create jobs for the Haryana youth as whole and other job-creating techniques. The reservation system needs to be thoroughly refurbished and only the truly deserving should be given reservation. However, the Haryana government should explore all options judiciously before granting reservations to the Jats. Else it would only trigger reservation frenzy among other sects of society.
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