It is a clear case of political compulsions steering a situation. For the past two years Haryana has gone through a turbulent phase with Jats, who enjoy about 20-22% presence in the state pressing hard for reservation in jobs in the backward classes category.
Blockades on rail tracks and roads, arson and turmoil have marked a feverish Jat stir every few months in parts of Haryana in the last two years.
On his part, chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda had forwarded a representation of the Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti seeking inclusion of Jats in the central list of other backward classes (OBC) for favourable consideration by the central government.
Hooda has also re-constituted Haryana Backward Classes Commission (HBCC) for including or excluding castes in the backward classes list. The representation sent to the Centre has also been referred to the National Commission for Backward Classes.
However, all these assurances have failed to impress the Jats. This was evident from Monday’s developments when community leaders suspended the three-week agitation for another six months (till September 13).
Since 1966 when Haryana was born, the Jat community having a 20-22% presence in the state have always enjoyed the biggest bite in the power pie, including jobs. Analysts feel the more dominant a caste, the higher its share in power.
Says Prof Raghuvendra Tanwar, who teaches modern history at Kurukshetra University, “If a survey is conducted, I would not rule out the possibility of Jats having cornered more than 60% share in government jobs. This is a modest estimate.”
A former professor of political science at Kurukshetra University, Ranbir Singh, however, has a different viewpoint: “The agitation by Jats has to be seen as a logical result of the paradox of political dominance of Jat elite and pauperisation of Jat peasantry on account of unviable land holdings. If Ahirs, Gujjars, Sainis deserve a share in reservation, then Jats and Rajputs also do.”
Neera Verma, chairperson of department of economics at KU says Jats in Haryana are powerful and prosperous.
“Reservation on caste basis is flawed. Things have changed in 60 years. In fact, a lot of castes have become heterogeneous. There is a need to review the reservation policy. Economic criteria should be the only criteria for reservation,” says Verma.
The present government has been often accused of concentrating the fruits of power in the hands of Jats. In fact, non-Jat leaders across party lines have been critical of the pampering of the Jats by the present guard.
“The Jats get a major share in jobs. Imagine a situation where they get a cut in the 27% backward class reservation. Owing to their clout, they will command almost all of the 27%, leaving other castes with nothing,” said an analyst not willing to be quoted.
And here lies the government’s dilemma. Once this happens, the government is sure to face a backlash from other communities. The issue may also prove to be a bonding factor for all non-Jat communities of Haryana since any reservation for Jats in the backward classes will mean eating into their share.
“The government knows this and will not like the other communities to get consolidated against them. On the other hand, it would also not like to upset the Jats who form the core of its votebank,” said another analyst. “The agitation by Jats will prove suicidal as it will alienate other communities from them,” says Prof Ranbir Singh.
The demand for reservation in jobs by Jats has also opened floodgates for other communities, with the Rors, Bishnois, Brahmins, Rajputs, Punjabis and Banias also making representations for their inclusion in the backward classes category.
Prof PD Sharma, who teaches political science at Kurukshetra University, says that caste-based reservation is not good. “In case, the government wants to give reservation, it should pick up the below poverty line (BPL) list and accord reservation irrespective of the caste or community.”
Says Prof Tanwar, “A job is a means of livelihood and is essentially an economic or financial requirement. It has nothing to do with sociological aspects, caste or upbringing. I am sure there must be political compulsions why the government can’t make a fresh commitment with regard to reservation in jobs. Also, it will not be a reasonable approach in a small state like Haryana where job options are limited.”