Indian protesters win deal for more jobs

  • 23/02/2016
Protesters in Haryana (Reuters)
Protesters in Haryana (Reuters)

Leaders of a rural Indian caste have secured a deal to end protests that paralysed a northern state and cut water supplies to Delhi's 20 million residents, after winning a pledge of more government jobs.

Days of rioting and looting across Haryana by the Jat community had challenged Prime Minister Narendra Modi's promise of better days for Indians who elected him in 2014 with the largest majority in three decades.

A Jat leader said protesters had reached a deal with state and federal leaders late on Monday to end their mobilisation, in which 16 people have been killed and more than 150 injured.

"The government has promised to meet our demands and we have promised our full cooperation," Ramesh Dalal, convener of the Jat Reservation Movement, told Reuters.

Thousands of troops were deployed to quell the protests, which had flared again on Monday near Sonipat when a freight train was torched.

In neighbouring Rajasthan, Jats attacked and burned buses.

Disruption has been huge, with 850 trains cancelled, 500 factories closed and business losses estimated at as much as US$5 billion by one regional lobby group.

Dalal appealed to the entire Jat community, which makes up a quarter of the population of Haryana, to return home.

Delhi's chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, said the army had reopened the sluice gates of the Munak canal, which supplies three-fifths of the capital's water.

Water was expected to reach the metropolis by early Tuesday.

Many Jats, who number more than 80 million across north India, are farmers whose livelihoods have suffered as families divide farms among their children.

Two years of drought have harmed crops, and they are also missing out on urban jobs.

Their demands for government jobs and student places are based on affirmative action policies that are typically reserved for deprived groups.

The Supreme Court has previously struck down an attempt to classify the Jats as an Other Backward Caste, which would formally entitle them to a quota of jobs and student places.

The Jats predominantly voted for Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2014 general election, when he won the biggest parliamentary majority in three decades.