If the Jats secure the reservations that they seek, others will be encouraged to follow suit.
Buckling under pressure of the sort that the Jats have put on the government leaves the door open for other communities to engage in similar tactics. The violence has stretched for close to two weeks, has taken 15 lives, caused a loss of Rs 20,000 crore, the cancellation of 736 trains, the blocking of entry points to Delhi and damage to public and private property. Delhi is facing a water shortage as the link canal has been damaged.
It is no one’s case that a community cannot demand certain rights, howsoever unjustified they may seem. In the case of the Jats, there is very little to suggest that they are deserving of OBC status and the National Commission for Backward Classes had said as much in the past. But as always politics came in the way and the UPA in 2014 went ahead with the ruinous proposal of giving Jats a special provision over and above the quota reserved for OBCs in government jobs and higher education. However, on the premise that caste cannot be the sole criterion for socio-economic backwardness, the Supreme Court reversed this. But given that the NDA was also not against the 2014 plan, the Jats have renewed their agitation with fresh vigour. There are several reasons why the Jat demand should not feature high on the government agenda. For a start, demands cannot be made using the kind of violence that the Jats have indulged in. If they secure the reservations they seek, this will encourage others to follow suit. Reservations were meant as a form of affirmative action to uplift the marginalised and socio-economically backward sections. The Jats do not qualify on either count as they are relatively prosperous and politically powerful.
The Jats, as many other communities, have suffered due to the agrarian crisis, but that is a matter for the government to address through different means and not reservations. The idea of increasing the ambit of quotas in higher education and government jobs goes against the grain of the merit argument. This is no way to make the system of governance more effective. The government must take another look at the castes which qualify as OBCs. The aim should be to narrow the ambit rather than widen it. Reservations were never meant to be in perpetuity, but to be give to those in need for a limited period. Today, it seems to have become an entitlement for different castes, ably aided and abetted by a section of the political establishment.