This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Down To Earth. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The Desperate Conditions Which Have Pushed The Jats To Demand For Reservation

More from Down To Earth

By Down To Earth:

Note: This article has been republished from Down To Earth.

1
55-year-old Azad Jat, Baghpur village.

5The Jats are a formidable community in Haryana. The expanse of their green crops extending as far as the eye can see reinforces their formidability and prosperity. It seems to be a comfortable life for the dominant caste of Haryana that steered the country’s Green Revolution. The reality, however, is different and not too difficult to figure out. A normal conversation with any member of the Jat community in the state is sufficient to highlight how the once prosperous landed community is today struggling to keep afloat.

Jat farmer Manoj Dabbas, a resident of Haryana’s M P Majra village, shows a fresh bullet wound on his waist and says, “The police can kill us if they want to, but we will not stop protesting till the time we get reservation in government jobs.” Dabbas claims he got the bullet wound on February 21, when his community was protesting for reservation. The Jat community in the village, which was the epicentre of the February protests, says that while Dabbas was lucky to be alive, another resident, Krishna Singh, was killed by a bullet allegedly fired by the police that pierced through his temple.

In fact, the village in Jhajjar district, where over 70 per cent population is Jat, is still guarded by the paramilitary forces that were rushed to the state after the protests broke out in February.
During the state-wide protests, the community blocked national highways, destroyed public property and even disrupted the water canal that feeds Delhi, precipitating a political crisis for the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) government in Haryana and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre. The protests that claimed more than 30 lives emanated from a long-standing demand of Jats to get a backward class status.

The demand was first floated in 2009 by Adarsh Jat Mahasabha, a social organisation, and there have been regular demands for the Jat reservation in government jobs ever since. In 2013, a year before the national elections, the United Progressive Alliance government approved the inclusion of Jats in the Central Other Backward Classes (OBC) list for nine states in north India, despite the National Commission for Backward Classes recommending against it.

A year later, in March 2014, the Supreme Court struck down the decision, stating that the commission’s advice was binding and the government had no valid reason to go against it.

Growing Desperation

Residents of M P Majra village are still mourning the death of Krishna Singh. They are also hopeful that the February protests will be enough to persuade the state government to include them in the OBC category. The conversations also highlight their belief that only reservations in government jobs can save them.

Twenty-five-year-old Majra resident Vinay Singh explains the reason for his frustration. He says despite having a Masters degree in computer application, he is unable to find a job.

“I have spent a considerable time in Gurgaon hunting for jobs. In the end, I realised that even though I am qualified, private companies will not hire me because of their biases against people from rural areas. This is the reason we are demanding reservation in government jobs,” he says.

2
(L to R) Sandeep Khatri, Dharam Singh and Pradeep Khatri, Ismaila village.

So what made this prosperous agrarian community so desperate for jobs? “It is because we have very little land left today,” says Vinay. He explains that most people in the district sold their farmland to industries who promised jobs to the people in return—a promise that was never fulfilled.

“In 2005, more than 10,100 hectares (ha) of farmland was acquired under Reliance special economic zone (SEZ) with the promise of jobs to every family of the region. The project reduced our landholdings considerably, and not a single company has started work in the SEZ till now,” says Rajneesh, a software engineer and younger brother of Krishna Singh.

The SEZ paid Rs. 22 lakh per acre (0.4ha) to the farmers but the project never came up. Recently, the company returned the land it took from the government but reportedly made a fortune by leasing out the land they directly bought from the village farmers to another company. Residents say that on the one hand, private companies are making money on land acquired from the community, and on the other hand, their youths are not getting jobs. Yogveer Singh, a 65-year-old farmer, says his son, like Vinay, is looking for a job after acquiring an engineering degree. The farmer has already sold a substantial part of his land to a private company to fund his son’s education.

“My two sons were employed as watchmen in a company that closed down because of non-compliance with pollution control norms. Since then they have been looking for jobs. They are okay with both farming and working in the city. But farming is no more viable because we have little land left and the input cost has shot up substantially. Nobody is willing to employ them,” says Yogveer. He adds that even for getting subsidies for fertilisers, they have to stand in the queue for days while the private companies make profits by leasing out land that was originally theirs. The situation has become so desperate that the region witnessed riots over access to fertilisers last year. Yogveer, as a result, justifies the Jats’ demand for reservation in government jobs.

3
14-year-old Rahul Singh is a student of Class IX, Ismaila village.

Residents of Baghpur, another Jat-dominated village in Jhajjar district, give one more reason for the demand—eligible bachelors in the village are not getting brides because of their economic condition. “I want to get married,” says 27-year-old Baghpur resident Ashish Dhatka. “But that will happen only when I have a job to supplement the earnings from our marginal farm.” The village has a long list of such people and all of them are small farmers. “Many of us remained unmarried because there were fewer women due to female foeticide,” says 42-year-old Karamveer Singh. “But the new generation will remain unmarried because we do not have enough farmland or jobs,” he adds.

High input costs of crops and weather fluctuations in recent years have crippled the agrarian community in Haryana. “In an ideal situation, we can earn a profit of Rs. 30,000 from each hectare of wheat crop. But our farm productivity takes a hit every year either because of unseasonal weather, pest attacks or because of delays in crop procurement by the government.”

“In the past 10 years, we have lost the capital we had. In fact, most of us have debt that we cannot repay,” says Arun Kadyan, another Jat farmer from Baghpur. According to the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), Haryana has the country’s lowest spending on productive assets in agricultural households. This is because households earn more from non-farm sources than from farming.

People in Baghpur highlight yet another reason for the failure of farming in the region. While the water table in the village has increased substantially in the recent past, it is largely saline water. “Sonipat, Jhajjar, Rohtak and all the other Jat-dominated districts where protests took place have the salinity problem,” says Arun.

In such a situation, livestock has provided food security to marginal and small farmers in the region. Each household has more than one cattle. “I had 1.4 ha of land, out of which 0.8 ha cannot be used because of high salinity. This has increased dependency on the two buffaloes I have. I now sell 16 kg of milk to sustain my family,” says 55-year-old Bijendra Singh. Selling milk is normally frowned upon in the region, but the difficult times have forced many to do so. “We believe it is not honourable to milk our cattle for money. But we are desperate,” he says.

4
33-year-old Manoj Dabbas, M P Majra village.

Rohtak highlights another peculiar problem. After the success of the Green Revolution, most families in the district started educating their children—with the hope of a better life. In Ismaila, declared the state’s model village, Jats have reconciled with the fact that agriculture will not be sufficient to sustain their next generation. But they have an immediate threat: the huge investment made in educating children is not fetching the return. Pradeep Khatri, along with his two brothers, sold 0.4 ha of land in 2010 for Rs. 69 lakh to construct a house and fund the education of his children. “We are all trained teachers without a job. We sold the land so that we can invest in the education of our children. We are, however, worried that even they might end up without jobs like us. This is the reason we are demanding reservations,” says Pradeep.

“I have been farming since the past 20 years but today I am not able to pay a fee of Rs. 2,000 per month for my son’s education,” says Jagbeer Singh, 42, who owns just 0.4 ha of land. His son, Rahul Singh, a 14-year-old boy studying in an English medium school, too believes that reservation will open new avenues for him. “I don’t want to farm. It doesn’t give enough cash to my family. I want to join the Army or a government job, so I need the reservation in government jobs,” says Rahul.

Photographs by Vikas Choudhary.

You must be to comment.

More from Down To Earth

Similar Posts

By Down To Earth

By Down To Earth

By Down To Earth

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below