By B.K. Chum in Chandigarh
Last week’s two happenings in Haryana hit the media headlines. One was the Jats agitation for job reservations in government services. The other was the abduction and gang-rape of a 23-years old pub employee of Gurgaon’s Sahara Mall who was on her way home after midnight duty. Besides being a law and order problem, the Jats agitation also has its political overtones. On the other hand, the gang-rape case shows unchecked deterioration of law and order and the government’s failure to improve the functioning of the police. The incident also reflects the cultural and social shift taking place in industrial hubs and developing cosmopolitan centres like Gurgaon.
Jats job reservation agitation does not concern Haryana alone. It needs to be seen in broader perspective. Recurring almost at yearly intervals for the past few years, particularly between the crop sowing and harvesting period when farmers are relatively free, the reservation agitation has been taking place in the north-western region states particularly Haryana and UP which have sizeable Jat population. The mode usually adopted by the agitators is rail and road blockades. This not only causes inconvenience to thousands of commuters but also hits the economy and often leads to violence and clashes between the agitators and the police.
Politicians with feet of clay dread drizzle. They are usually reluctant to question the logic behind the storms generated by reservation demands. The Indian Constitution had initially provided reservations for the deprived classes like scheduled castes and backward classes for ten years. These were later extended arguing that these were still needed for the uplift of society’s economically and socially weaker sections. However, reservations have, over the years, been exploited by those who had already been benefited by the statuary provision thereby creating vested interests for their continuance. For instance, there has been increasing number of cases where the beneficiaries occupying high positions have used reservations for promoting their own kin and favourites at the cost of the more deserving underprivileged.
Politicians also support reservation demands to build caste and community-based vote banks. Although all political parties vociferously condemn casteism, they select their candidates for elections keeping in view the candidates caste and community and the composition of the caste and community of their constituencies. This encourages caste and community-based polarization in the society as is happening in Haryana. The Jats demand for reservations has opened floodgates for other communities with the Rors, Bishnois, Brahmins, Rajputs, Punjabis and Banias also now demanding job reservations.
No doubt, Haryana has got some respite by the Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s tactful handling of the Jats three-week long job reservation agitation resulting in its postponement for six months. But the ruling party’s problems will not be over unless its leadership finds a lasting solution of the knotty problem. Jats being the Congress’ important vote bank in Haryana, the party would not like to annoy them. On the other hand, it cannot afford to appear an adversary of other castes by rejecting their job reservation demands.
One way to overcome its dilemma is that the government builds public opinion against caste-based reservations through two measures. One, it makes economic criteria instead of caste and community as the basis for reservations. Two, the state government should make public the percentages of different communities in state government’s services. As the ratio of Jats share in the services is said to already far exceeds the ratio of other communities, making publish of the information will deprive the agitation of its logic and will force its sponsors to review their stand.
Now about the case of gang-rape of Gurgaon’s 23-year old pub employee.
Briefly, the facts are: the woman, mother of a child, was gang-raped by seven youths while on her way home in a taxi after her midnight duty. Her brother who was accompanying her and the taxi driver contacted the police personnel on duty in the area for help. Finding no response they contacted the police station of the area. The police failure to apprehend the culprits evoked public protest. The police later ordered that no woman should be allowed to work after 8 pm. The order further enraged the people. After a couple of days, Gurgaon Police Commissioner K.K. Sidhu said that women could work at any time, even night shifts, without fear. He, however, said employers have to provide transport to women employees who work at night. Though it was a welcome order but the incident virtually admits the inefficient and lax functioning of the police.
The rapid development and changed social environment of the country’s industrial and commercial centres, including Gurgaon, have made them hubs of criminal gangs and serious crimes like rapes and murders. The Haryana police have also failed to check the overall deteriorating law and order in the state as indicated by the incidents of jail breaks, prisoners escape and killing of undertrials being taken for court appearances. The state government will have to undertake a major surgical operation to improve the functioning of the police and restore the peoples confidence in the force.
As a wise man has said “Peace is the skillful management of conflicts and contradictions of the society.” (IPA Service)