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Battle Cry By The Jats

Battle-Cry-By-The-JatsThe clamour for government jobs is rising across India—from Jats in Haryana to Patidars in Gujarat to Kapus in Telengana and Andhra Pradesh and Marathas in Maharashtra. The irony is that the number of government jobs have been shrinking over the years. It all started majorly with VP Singh’s populism and Mandal politics that opened a can of worms in the form of reservations. In Haryana, the Jat agitation turned violent last year. The Jats are again threatening to lay a siege on the National Capital with yet another agitation, seeking Backward Class status. The issue is examined in detail by Shubhabrata Bhattacharya, MK Shukla and Alam Srinivas

Agitation facing implosion

BJP and Congress support may not be sufficient for Jat job reservation agitators to get their demand met as is reflected in the March 2015 SC verdict. Whatever tricks agitation leaders like Yashpal Mallick and others may employ, they are sure to backfire. The State and central governments may not find it convenient any longer to brook and encourage any kind of violence by agitationtists.

Agitation-facing-implosionTHE Jats of Haryana, actively supported by their cousins across the Yamuna river in western UP, are once again up in arms, pressuring the State and central governments to grant them ‘backward status’. They had similarly agitated in February 2016 despite the Supreme Court nullifying on March 17, 2015, a notification for Jat reservation issued by the dying regime of UPA2. The Supreme Court order said, “We set aside the notification to implement the inclusion of Jats in the Central list of OBC.” The order added, “Caste, though a prominent factor, can’t be the sole factor to decide backwardness… Backwardness has to be social backwardness and not educational or economic backwardness.”

Behind the reservation demand of a progressive community like the Jats, who have earned laurels from all over the country and the world at large for producing some of the country’s finest warrior-soldiers, sports persons, scientists, writers, doctors, engineers, architects, business persons, politicians, etc., lies a heart-breaking story of mounting agrarian crisis that is fast turning farmers into peasants and landowners into wage workers. As per capita land holdings decrease among Jat farmers (and also among Gujjars, Patidars, Marathas, Kapus, etc.) and the negative rate of return on agricultural produce falls further, there is desperation for government jobs among the rural population. The general perception all over rural India, and Jats are no exception to that, is that a government job is as life-nourishing as ‘mother’s milk.’ What makes a government job doubly tempting is the clear prospect of getting kickbacks in almost every position.

The escalating agrarian crisis has sowed the seeds of fear among dominant rural castes, who do not see their future in agriculture any longer because of the better economic prospects in the city. The Economic Survey 2014-15 showed that the wages of rural India increased at a measly rate of 3.6 per cent versus the inflation rate of above 5 per cent. This is confirmed by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) which has put this figure at 3.5 per cent for the year 2012-13. In its situation assessment survey of farmers (SAS), conducted once every 10 years, the NSSO assesses major sources of income of an average Indian farmer. The latest information is available for agri-year 2012-13. The SAS 2002-03 results are also available, which we use for comparison purposes. The income of farming households is shown under four heads: cultivation of crops, farming animals, rural non-farm activities (RNF) and wages/salaries (WS).

Jat-Agitation-1

The SAS 2012-13 counts 9 crore agricultural households in India, with each earning on an average Rs. 77,112 per annum. This was more than three times of what the rural household earned in 2002-03, that is Rs. 25,380. In real terms (using the consumer price index of agri-labourer, or the CPI-AL, as the deflator with base 2004-05), however, the average agri- household’s income increased from Rs. 26,901 p.a. in 2002-03 to Rs. 38,096 p. a. in 2012-13. The 10-year compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of the respective incomes was 11.8 per cent in nominal terms and 3.5 per cent in real terms. This means that it took about six years for nominal incomes to double and it would take about 20 years for real incomes to double.

Clearly, this level of income generation has instilled the worst kind of fears in the hearts of farmers all over the country. Majority of Jats are occupied in farming and realise that there is little for their children in their traditional occupation. So Jats, like other farmers who have land next to big cities, are selling off their land to real estate developers and some have even become rentiers. But most Jat migrants who left their villages to try their luck in Delhi, Chandigarh, Jaipur and other cities, are disappointed by the job market. In contrast to the urban middle class, they have not received the kind of English-medium education that gives access to the service sector (especially IT) that offers opportunities. Many young Jats, who have run up debts to get some private, not-so-good education, have to fall back on unskilled jobs.

These jobs are seasonal and badly paid. In the private sector, the average daily wage of the worker was Rs. 249 in 2011-12, according to the Labour Bureau, and that of the employees at large was Rs. 388. By contrast, in the public sector, the figures were almost three times more at Rs. 679 and Rs. 945, respectively. Recently, the Seventh Pay Commission recommended an increase of the minimum monthly salary from Rs. 7,000 to Rs. 18,000.

CHRISTOPHE Jaffrelot, senior research fellow at CERI-Sciences Po/ CNRS, Paris, professor of Indian politics and sociology at King’s India Institute, London, and non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in the Indian Express on February 23, 2016 (in the aftermath of a bloody bout of Jat agitation): “Understandably, the young Jats, Patels, Kapus, and Marathas who do not find good jobs in the private sector fall back on the government. The search for government jobs among these castes is also influenced by their particularly skewed sex ratio. Parents of girls prefer grooms with stable income—those with government jobs are often their preferred choice. With fewer girls compared to boys in these castes, there is competition in the marriage market”.

Many young Jats have run up debtsHowever, government jobs have shrunk. There were 19.5 million jobs in the public sector in 1992-93 when the country’s population was 839 million. While there are 1.2 billion Indians now, the number of jobs in the public sector has shrunk to 17.6 million. In States that have aggressively implemented the liberalisation policy, government jobs have almost disappeared. For instance, the government’s share in employment in Gujarat is only 1.18 per cent whereas it is 16 per cent in Kerala. The decline in the number of public sector jobs does not mean that there is no government recruitment whatsoever. For instance, some vacancies are created when people retire every year and their numbers are replaced.

As per capita land holdings decrease among Jat farmers and the negative rate of return on agricultural produce falls further, there is desperation for government jobs among the rural population. The general perception all over rural India, and Jats are no exception to that, is that a government job is as life-nourishing as ‘mother’s milk.’

According to the Seventh Pay Commission report, there were 857,000 recruitments in various departments and ministries of the central government between 2006 and 2014. This gives us a figure of slightly more than 100,000 jobs being added every year. It should be noted these are only central government jobs. Assuming the same hiring rates for State governments—whose stock of jobs was 1.6 times that of the Centre’s—the total addition to overall government jobs would be less than 300,000 a year. And it’s these jobs that Jat agitation leaders are targeting.

Jat-Agitation-4However, even if the Jat community is given a share in this pie, only a few of them will succeed in the rat race for government jobs. The larger community may find itself exactly where it is now unless the community and its leaders invest in education. Once they set their heart on it, the Jats are competent enough to set up world class institutes of learning for their community members. Even in the current dire state, the community is strong and wise enough to donate land and mobilise resources for such ventures. Without better education, the Jats and other dominant farming communities are going nowhere.

LOOK at the reality: India is churning out graduates by the millions. Slowly but steadily, the number of persons with higher education entering India’s job market has been increasing.

According to the World Bank data, the share of workers with tertiary level education in India’s labour force doubled from 4.9 per cent to 9.8 per cent between 1994 and 2010. The rise in the share of graduates is evident across all caste groups as National Sample Survey (NSS) data shows. Consider this: In the two years to 2011-12, NSS data showed that the graduate population (including higher degrees) increased by around 10 million. Of this, around 50 percent, or 5 million people, were those who were classified as OBC.

Clearly, the country’s job market is extremely limited. The best educated will get the first preference in this market. In this situation, it’s too tempting not to press for a job quota, particularly when both UPA and BJP governments have shown their inclination to accommodate the Jats’ demand in this respect. In an apparent bid to accommodate the Jat community’s demand, the State enacted The Haryana Backward Classes (Reservation in Services and Admission in Educational Institutions) Act, 2016, providing reservation to members of the Jat, Ror, Bishnoi, Jat Sikh, Muila Jat/Muslim Jat and Tyagi communities in May 2016. The Act was challenged in the Punjab and Haryana High Court which stayed its implementation.

IN spite of its support to the Jat demand for reservation in government jobs, the ruling BJP has come to recognise that the movement has been hijacked by the regime’s opponents. On March 2, the CM told the assembly that agitating Jat leaders were raising new demands and shifting goalposts, thereby complicating the situation. “The State government was, therefore, facing difficulty in accepting their demands,” he added.

In contrast to the urban middle class, they have not received the kind of English-medium education that gives access to the service sector (especially IT) that offers opportunities. Many young Jats, who have run up debts to get some private, not-so-good education, have to fall back on unskilled jobs

“Earlier, the Jat agitators had raised only seven demands; now their demands have increased to 28. They are insisting they will not hold any dialogue on the earlier demands. They are changing goalposts and this attitude could make the situation even more complicated,” Khattar said while responding to an adjournment motion moved by some members.

Even as the Haryana government braces up to deal with the agitators who have threatened to block the highways connecting the whole of North India, Khattar can’t really blame anyone. That’s because the Sangh and the BJP have been putting their mind and heart into creating a new political reality all over India’s rural heartland by co-opting dominant rural communities along with less privileged OBCs. Their objective is to fuse the AJGAR (Ahir, Jat, Gujjar, and Rajputs) concept of late Choudhary Charan Singh with Dr Rammanohar Lohia’s concept of consolidation of OBCs. So in the big Sangh picture, Jats of Haryana and western UP are put in the category of Patidars of Gujarat, Marathas of Maharashtra, Gujjars and Jats of Rajasthan, and Kapus of Andhra Pradesh. It is calculated by Sangh and BJP ideologues that the inclusion of Jats, Gujjars, Patidars, and Marathas may pave the way for broadening its rural support base. Although there is some apprehension among the existing OBCs about the inclusion of Jats and others in the reserved categories, that is being taken care of by giving them better representation in Sangh and BJP hierarchies.

While the Sangh and the BJP have been working on a long-term strategic plan, a common refrain in Haryana (where Jats constitute 25 percent of the population) is that former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s Jat politics and his long-held ambition to wrest the leadership of the Jats from Om Prakash Chautala of the Indian National Lok Dal was responsible for the reservation agitation. Inderjeet Singh, State head of the CPI (M), told a newspaper: “After the 2009 Assembly election, when the Chautalas lost by a slender margin, Hooda began to woo the Jats in earnest.

Everyone in Haryana knows that the Jat reservation stir of 2010 and 2011 that led to the blockage of rail tracks was supported by his politics.” Hooda, who had the distinction of defeating Devi Lal thrice from the Rohtak parliamentary constituency, established his hold in the Sonepat, Jhajjar, and Rohtak belt. But in other parts of the State, the majority of the Jat voters are still with the Chautalas.

Will the Chautalas support the Congress-inspired Jat reservation stir this time? Or sabotage it to settle the old score with the Hoodas? Even the current Jat agitation appears confined to Hooda’s strongholds of Sonepat, Jhajjar, and Rohtak.

Even as political pundits engage themselves in answering the above-cited questions, the mood in the country is turning against Jat agitations in view of their violent record. In an editorial, The Hindu observed: “The recurrence of violent protests led by relatively well-off communities demanding reservation, be it Patidars in Gujarat last year or Jats in Haryana this year, is perplexing. The Jats are a relatively prosperous land-owning community in Haryana and are regarded as being high on the “social ladder” in the region. Their political and social might is even more evident in the influence they wield in rural areas and in the leadership of the dominant political parties in the State. The National Commission for Backward Classes had in the past come out with specific reasons against the inclusion of the Jats in Haryana in the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) list. This was overruled by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre through a notification in March 2014, promising a special quota for Jats over and beyond the 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in jobs and higher education. It was left to the Supreme Court in March 2015 to quash the decision of the UPA to include Jats in nine States among OBCs, stating that “caste” alone could not be the criterion for determining socio-economic backwardness. Clearly, even if the demands do not make any constitutional or legal sense, the bipartisan consensus over extending reservations has emboldened protesters among the Jat community. After all, the Bharatiya Janata Party in power too had voiced support for the implementation of the March 2014 notification.”

Even if the Jat community is given a share in this pie, only a few of them will succeed in the rat race for government jobs. The larger community may find itself exactly where it is now unless the community and its leaders invest in education

BUT BJP and Congress support may not be sufficient for Jat agitators to get their demand met as is reflected in the March 2015 SC verdict. Whatever tricks agitation leaders like Yashpal Mallick and others may employ, they are sure to backfire. The State and central governments may not find it convenient any longer to encourage any kind of violence by agitationtists. The blockade of highways, to which Jats have been resorting to since the days of India’s fight against foreign invaders like Mughals and the British, is a losing proposition in the new context.

Neither the State nor the central government represents alien interests. Both are creations of the social contract, under which the people of Haryana have ceded their sovereignty to State and central governments in exchange for liberty. And liberty must lead to fraternity and not dominance of one community over the other. The educated Jats are aware of this political philosophy that has gone into the making of the Indian State. So, one wouldn’t be surprised if the countervailing forces within the Jat community neutralise the impact of the ongoing agitation. It has already happened in the case of Gujarat’s Patidar agitation.

-M K Shukla

Long shadow of the past

With the Punjab & Haryana High Court setting aside the decision to grant backward class status to Jats in the State, the reservation demand has now snowballed. But the agitation lacks a tall Jat leader who can make the difference.

Long-shadow-of-the-pastGOVERNANCE in India continues to suffer the populism unleashed in 1980s by Vishwanath Pratap Singh in his bid to seize power. A junior politician till Sanjay Gandhi took fancy to him, VP Singh was pitchforked as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in 1980.

Singh’s tenure in UP was marked by encounters against dacoits; the phenomenon called Phoolan Devi (a Backward, Mallah by caste, who killed Rajputs) was the byproduct of Singh’s populism. Unfortunate slaying of Singh’s brother by dacoits put an end to the nightmare and he quit as the Chief Minister. As Union minister, thereafter, he flagged the Bofors issue. This unsolved CBI case cost Rajiv Gandhi power and Singh rode to power on his slogan, “Paisa khaya kaun dalal?” As the Prime Minister, identity of the “dalal” eluded him. His regime, backed by the Left and the Right political forces, was threatened when BJP unleashed the Ram Mandir agitation and LK Advani’s rath rolled from Somnath. The sadhus’ predominance in the Mandir movement earned it the epithet Kamandal. To counter this popular movement led by the cadre-based BJP, Singh relied on the Mandal Commission report which advocated reservations for the Backward Castes. Thus, Mandal was used to thwart Kamandal. Singh’s short-lived minority government fell by the weight of inherent contradictions. But, his legacy of Bofors still dogs government procurement, especially for the armed forces. Most officers prefer to retire honourably. They prefer not to take decisions which may make the CBI visit them post-retirement because allegations against procurement decisions became the norm after Bofors. And Mandal, implemented in haste, has left many sections dissatisfied and agitations continue.

In Haryana, where the present agitation has originated, the community is educationally below but socially and economically above the threshold. It is well represented in the State’s administration. Most CMs of the State have been Jats

The Jat agitation, originating from Haryana, which has been rocking the National Capital Region, is an offshoot of the hastily implemented Mandal decision. Jats have been seeking benefits of Affirmative Action accorded to Other Backward Castes (OBCs) since Mandal was implemented in 1991. Many studies have been conducted by the National Backward Castes Commission (NCBC), the Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA) and even by the Indian Council of Social Sciences Research (ICSSR). To get benefit of OBC status, a community has to meet three criteria: it must be socially, educationally and economically backward. Studies have shown that Jats meet the requirement of backwardness only partially.

In Haryana, where the present agitation has originated, the community is educationally below but socially and economically above the threshold. It is well represented in the State’s administration. Most CMs of the State have been Jats. Figures differ in UP, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi, the other States where there is Jat population. Benefits have been extended in these States. Following the 2016 agitation, which has been revived this year, a Bill had been passed by the Haryana Assembly in March 2016. This was set aside by the court in May.

To counter the popular Mandir movement led by the BJP, VP Singh relied on the Mandal Commission report which advocated reservations for the Backward Castes. Singh’s short-lived minority government though fell by the weight of inherent contradictions

BEGINNING from Sir Chhotu Ram (from Haryana region), who was the member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council in British Raj, and Ranbir Singh Hooda (also from Haryana), who was the member of the Constituent Assembly, there have been tall Jat leaders who enjoyed dominant position not only in their respective States but in national politics and administration as well—Chaudhary Charan Singh (UP); Devi Lal, Bansi Lal, OP Chautala, Bhupinder Singh Hooda (Haryana); Balram Jakhar, Nathuram Mirdha, Ram Niwas Mirdha, Natwar Singh (Rajasthan); Sahib Singh Verma, Sajjan Kumar (Delhi). Today, Ajit Singh, Sompal, Satyapal Malik and Jayant Chaudhary, apart from a sprinkling of members of the Chautala family, are the prominent faces from the community who occupy a political space but are not in any dominant position in a State or national politics. This vacuum of leadership is perhaps reflected in the agitation by Jats for reservations.

The Jantar Mantar show of Yashpal Malik and his associates in early March was no match to the rallies that Charan Singh, Devi Lal or Mahendra Singh Tikait held in the National Capital in the eighties and the nineties. Unable to satisfy the requirements of backwardness prescribed by NBCC, IIPA and ICSSR and fired by the legacy of populism ignited by VP Singh, the Jat agitation, bereft of credible leadership, once again threatens to jeopardise the governance and tranquility of Delhi.

– by Shubhabrata Bhattacharya

The author is a former editor of national publications who has served in the erstwhile Planning Commission as well as in the corporate sector.

Dynamics of Reservation

As happens with most things in India, the social structures penetrate into politics and make themselves visible in terms of economic demands. Reservations and quotas are the economic manifestations of this complex process

Dynamics-of-ReservationIT is indeed ironical. The job reservation policies, especially in the government and public sector jobs, has worked so well that the erstwhile powerful castes, including the upper ones and traditionally well-to-do ‘other backward classes’ that are not a part of the quota system, feel threatened. They have fear this would affect their jobs, incomes, lifestyles and future of their children. Apart from the deep economic impact, they have concerns about the slow, but sure, erosion of their political and social powers. The power cycle, which kept the lower and backward castes out of the system, stands disbanded and is in disarray.

This summarizes the contemporary beginnings of the Jat agitation in Haryana, and its continuance today. The Jats want ‘reserved’ State government jobs, a demand which was granted by the State government last year although the decision was stayed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Now, they also want a quota in the central government. In effect, they want a higher say in the government per se, and in governance, or more political power. Those who are opposed to it contend that the Jats already occupy “prestigious” and “prominent” posts in the State government. The result, a chakka jam, or a face-off.

economic-manifestationsFor decades, reservations in employment and education were debated in several nations, including India and the US. They were the attackers and defenders, vociferous supporters and aggressive status quoists. Economics and politics, social transformation and disorders, materialistic aspirations and ambitions, and prestige and honour entangled together to create a ‘quota chaos’. While demands were made to extend quotas to the private sector, critics said that the era of quotas was over as it had empowered several castes in the past seven decades.

Dynamics of ‘State’ jobs
There was a time, several decades ago, when government jobs were arduously desirable. Most families wanted their children, or at least some of them, to be in positions of power for the financial security, social standing, and political stature. You got into such a job, you stayed there until you retired, you commanded a handsome dowry, and you and your family reaped the allied benefits of housing, healthcare, pension and other subsidies. During the 1980s, the lure of the private sector struck the lower and middle classes.

In recent times, the government appeal is back. For several reasons! Job security has emerged as a concern, given the manner in which the private sector has sacked people en masse over the past 3-4 decades. Unlike the past, government salaries have gone up. Although they don’t match the private ones, a mid-level pensioner can earn Rs. 50,000 a month after retirement. There’s a growing breed of middle class, even those which had private sector experiences, who wish to make a difference, transform the nation, and participate in governance.

Several studies have proved that reservation has provided more jobs to the lower and backward classes and improved their presence in the government. But, this is not true for the scheduled tribes and the
effect on them is minimal or non-existent

There are other additional factors. Over the years, the private sector has paid well, but insisted on more working hours. This is restricted in the government only to a few senior people. So, there is less stress and fatigue in the latter. In the private sector, your days are not your days, neither are your nights. You can be called to the office anytime, even if you are on a holiday. This is rare in the government. So, there’s more peace and tranquility in the latter.

Dynamics of quotas
Several studies have proved that reservation has provided more jobs to the lower and backward classes and improved their presence in the government. A recent study on public sector jobs found that “employment quotas are causing SCs (scheduled castes) to get better (salaried) jobs”. The same study concluded that “a 1-percentage point increase in SC employment quota increases the probability of being in a salaried job by 0.4 percentage point.” This is not true for the scheduled tribes (STs) and the effect is minimal or non-existent.

ONE of the reasons for its lack of success among the STs is that the tribal population doesn’t have too many “qualified” people to fill up the available public sector posts. “Second, STs primarily reside in rural areas while the majority of the salaried jobs are in urban areas, and people are unwilling to move because of traditions, cultural reasons and other fears. However, in the case of both SCs and STs, quotas favour the less-educated people, and not the higher-educated ones. The reason: the latter have access to more lucrative jobs.”

However, other studies have acknowledged these positive impacts, but maintained that the changes are skewed. For example, another study on government jobs found, “Generally, reservation is fairly proportionate to the required percentage in Group C and D jobs, but unsatisfactory in the case of A and B category jobs.” In other words, lower categories of jobs accounted for the bulk of the jobs reserved for the SCs and STs—some say the figure is as high as 95 per cent. In fact, the fulfilment of the quotas fell extremely short in the higher categories.

Economics of reservations
On the whole, reservations, and possibility of more and better jobs, didn’t really improve the lifestyles of the SCs and STs. In both, the monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) didn’t change much. But there was an exception—the cases of less educated SCs. In this specific category, the living standards showed positive changes. As the study on public sector jobs said, “It makes sense that the less educated experience the gains in MPCE since it was the less educated who experienced the gains in probability of having a salaried job.”

Thanks to quotas, school enrollment of male children increased among the SC families; surprisingly, they had little impact on the education of the girl child. The policies had “significant and negative impact on probability of being a child labour for male child” and “significant and positive impact on probability of being a child labour” on female child. The latter was witnessed even among the ST families. It can imply that once it becomes easier for the males to get jobs, the parents focus on the male’s education, and not child labour. The opposite is true for the girl, who may pitch in with work to make of up for the loss of her brother’s income.

Politics of quotas
Studies have shown that although a certain percentage of seats in the Lok Sabha, State assemblies and other elected representatives are reserved for SCs and STs, the results are not too effective. Thus, “there is a problem of low participation, less articulation, less assertiveness and less independence of SC/ST representatives than their colleagues belonging to high castes,” revealed one study. The question of qualitative representation exists, which may stem from the fact that even reserved seats have substantial proportion of high-caste voters, and the latter’s support is required to win the election. So, the SC/ST legislator is dependent on the traditionally powerful sections.

THE counter to this is the rise of political parties, which represent the interests of the lower and backward castes. This shows that reserved seats have done their jobs; the lower and backward castes have formed new power centres that regularly clash and engage with the erstwhile elite groups. More importantly, in the unreserved constituencies, the SCs, STs and similar castes vote tactically and strategically and can make the difference between a win and loss for any candidate. Thus, the former are wooed by the latter.

Although it’s too early to reach specific conclusions, experts believe that the Dalits and Jats voted tactically in the first few phases of the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. The former backed Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party and later decided not to support the BJP, which was unable to get them job reservation in the State. As happens with most things in India, the social structures penetrate into politics and make themselves visible in terms of economic demands. Reservations and quotas are the economic manifestations of this complex process.

– by ALAM SRINIVAS

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