Sunday , 15 September 2019
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Placating Jats In Haryana

The BJP is ruling in Haryana and at the Centre, and quite naturally the Jat agitation in the state for reservation in education and employment threatens to hurt it the most politically. As the violence by Jat mobs mounted, the central and state governments agreed to give them reservations and assure them that a bill will be brought in the next session of the Haryana Assembly in this regard. The decision was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh with the Jat leaders. Hopefully, the announcement will calm down the Jats who have been in a violent temper for the past few weeks. They have set on fire a railway station, a mall, several police and civilian vehicles and a minister’s house; they have uprooted rail tracks, dug up highways and looted an armoury. The Jat quota agitation has crippled Haryana for the second time in less than a year, this time more violent.
Have the Modi and Khattar governments found a way out? Reservation for Jats is a complicated issue. It is not the first time the Haryana government is going to take a decision favouring a quota for Jats. The Jats have been agitating for inclusion in the Other Backward Classes since the 1980s. Their demand got a push with a commission set up by the state government in 1991 including Jats in the Backward Classes category. A notification was issued accordingly. However, two Backward Classes Commissions set up subsequently in their reports submitted in 1995 and 2011 did not include Jats in the Backward Classes. However, the agitation by Jats had been going on. During the Assembly elections of 2004, the Congress party in the state included giving Jats reservations in their manifesto. However, the UPA government did not accept the recommendations of the Congress state government, forcing it to set up a commission to examine the case of inclusion of Jats in the Backward Classes category. The commission recommended the inclusion of Jats in Special Backward Classes (SBCs). The Congress state government accepted the report and granted 10 per cent reservations to Jats.
But the Haryana government’s decision was challenged in the Punjab and Haryana High Court and later in the Supreme Court and both of them set it aside. The Supreme Court decision annulled the decisions of eight states — Gujarat, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand – other than Haryana that had approved reservations for Jats. The Supreme Court said the Jats were not a backward community. Caste alone, said the apex court, cannot be made the ground for granting reservations in education and employment to a community. In determining backwardness of a community, social backwardness should be the prime concern. Besides, the Supreme Court has capped caste-based reservation up to 50 per cent. The Jats or any other community cannot be given caste-based reservation, because it would go beyond the ceiling of 50 per cent placed by the apex court. Even the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) had rejected inclusion of Jats (a community existing in nine states) in the OBCs on the ground that they are not a “socially and educationally backward” community.
How can the Haryana government take and enforce a decision to grant reservations for Jats when the Supreme Court has rejected it? The Supreme Court quashed the UPA government’s decision to extend the OBC quota in central government jobs to Jats in March 2015. In April 2015, the NDA government filed a review petition in the Supreme Court against the verdict. A decision on it is pending. Can the NDA government fulfill the assurance to bring up a bill in favour of reservations for Jats in the Assembly when its review petition is pending and hence no decision can be taken?
The NDA governments’ promise amounts no more than firefighting. The Jats are on the rampage in the state, and some placebo announcement was perhaps thought necessary to pacify them. Besides, politically the Jats are very significant. They are primarily an agricultural caste, a community of small landholders. Jats make up 27 per cent of the total electorate in Haryana and are dominant section in about 25-30 Assembly constituencies. If they are not placated, NDA can lose their support. Haryana has had ten chief ministers since its formation in 1966 and seven of them were Jats. Caught between the politically decisive Jats and the no-nonsensical Supreme Court, the best the NDA governments in the state and at the Centre could have done is to give the Jats some hope and win some more time to think the issue over once again.

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