UPA's pre-poll sop for Jats: Badal preferred missing the bus
The pre-poll bonanza for Jats has eluded Punjab owing to the Centre-state credit war. Soon after the union ministry of social justice and empowerment brought the proposal before the cabinet on December 19, 2013, former Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh, as president of the All-India Jat Mahasabha, wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi demanding inclusion of Jats of other states too, including Punjab, in the central OBC list.
To take the wind out of Amarinder's sails, the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal lost no time in passing a resolution at its core committee meeting endorsing reservation for Jats of Punjab. After the meeting, SAD president Sukhbir Badal said his party would raise the issue at the highest level in the union government and fight to get the injustice of the exclusion of Jat Sikhs from the OBC category undone. SAD patron and Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, too, described Jat Sikhs as a backward community that had paid "the greatest price for freeing the country of hunger and food shortage".
CM Badal later called up then union minister of social justice and empowerment Kumari Selja pleading Punjab's case for reservation. Selja told Badal that as a prerequisite, Punjab would have to first allow Jats reservation in the state list, as all nine states whose cases were under consideration of the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) had already done so. The Badal government, however, did not bring any such proposal before the state cabinet to give "socially backward" Jats their due.
"Till our last meeting a few days back, the Punjab government had not sent any commitment to allow reservation to Jats in the state, nor had it sent any survey report to push their case," said a member of the NCBC, requesting anonymity.
All-India Jat Mahasabha general secretary Yudhvir Singh said the Centre had left the ball in the court of the states. "Punjab cannot ask the Centre to allow Jats of Punjab reservation in central jobs and educational institutes when it is not willing to allow them reservation in state jobs and educational institutes. Most Jats in Punjab have no job avenues, education and no landholdings. It would have helped jobless Punjab youth many of whom apply for paramilitary forces as there are 35,000 jobs in paramilitary forces every year. In all, nearly 1.5 lakh central jobs in railways, banks, paramilitary forces, income tax, revenue and other central government departments open up every year. Punjab missed the bus deliberately to prevent the UPA from walking away with the credit doing its own people a major disservice," Yudhvir Singh said.
Inderjit Singh Jaijee, who has made a documentary on farmer suicides in Punjab, said, "Of late, both the chief minister and his deputy have been trying to show their pro-farmer face. With friends like these, who needs enemies? We agree Jats in the Badal league do not need any government help but the overwhelming majority of Jats in the state are farmers with holdings of less than five acres. Less than 2% of the children of such farmers attend universities in the state. The earlier occasion when they were left behind was when the union government provided relief to families of farmer suicide victims. The Centre extended help to victims in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala but not in Punjab. When asked why Punjab was ignored, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the Punjab government never told the Centre that there were any rural suicides in the state."