Caste protests cut water to Indian capital

  • 08/19/2019

The rioting in Haryana by the Jats, a rural caste, is symptomatic of increasingly fierce competition for government jobs and educational openings in India, whose growing population is set to overtake China’s within a decade.


Rapid urbanisation is putting pressure on water supplies after two years of drought, with the capital relying on Haryana to meet much of its needs.

“No water available now. Still no hope to get it,” Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said in a tweet on Sunday morning.

The city government ordered schools to shut on Monday and rationed provision to residents to ensure that hospitals and emergency services have enough.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh was expected later on Sunday to meet leaders of the Jat community – which makes up a quarter of the population in Haryana and numbers more than 80 million in northern Indian – in a bid to defuse the crisis.

The central government also sent the army and paramilitary forces to sensitive areas, where mobile Internet services were jammed, a curfew imposed in several districts and roads blocked.

“The situation is much more in control than before,” spokesman Amit Arya, a spokesman for the chief minister of Haryana, said by telephone. He said the death toll from the protests now stood at seven, with 70 more injured.

Water stations attacked

Protesters have attacked the homes of regional ministers, torched railway stations and staged sit-ins on tracks, blocking hundreds of trains. They sabotaged pumping equipment at a water treatment plant that provides most of Delhi’s water.

Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, India’s biggest carmaker by sales, suspended operations at its plants in the state after the protests disrupted the supply of some components.

The unrest poses a threat to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise of jobs and growth for the aspirational Indians who elected him in 2014 with the largest majority in three decades.

Modi wants to attract foreign investment to back his ‘Make in India’ drive to create 100 million manufacturing jobs by 2022. At the current rate India may only create 8 million jobs in that period, by one independent estimate.

The Jat protests echo a similar movement last year in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, where the Patel community demanded a greater share of scarce government jobs and college places that are now reserved for people from lower castes.

Hardik Patel, the 22-year-old leader of the Gujarat unrest, became a national sensation after drawing half a million people to one rally. The authorities cracked down on Patel, who was charged with sedition in October.


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