Apparent breakthrough follows eight days of violent protests by Jat community in India's Haryana State.
The Indian government places ethnic groups seen as socially or educationally disadvantaged into different official categories, one of which is the OBC category. If the nation’s Jats were to be put in this category, they would be guaranteed unemployment under a quota system that reserves a certain percentage of government jobs to those of OBC status. Jats are an agricultural caste group concentrated in northern India. In Haryana State, they are the predominant caste and therefore enjoy some political influence.
On Sunday, following a meeting between Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Jat leaders in New Delhi, the government appeared ready to address protesters’ grievances. Earlier the same day, Anil Jain, the leader of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in Haryana, told reporters that Jats would be considered for government jobs, vowing to introduce legislation to this effect at the next State Assembly session.
One minister in the Haryana State government confirmed that the government was prepared to meet Jats’ demands for OBC status. "We are committed to granting them the OBC [status]," Haryana Minister Anil Vij told Anadolu Agency.
The week long wave of protests had become a serious headache for the government, which had to deploy the military in certain parts of the state after protesters in some cases attacked government property. "We have deployed the army," Additional Chief Home Secretary of Haryana PK Das told reporters on Sunday, confirming that the total death still stood at 12. Eight state districts of Haryana State, meanwhile, remain under a government-imposed curfew.
The agitation has also badly affected rail and road transport between India’s northern states. According to one Indian railway official, as many as 1,000 trains had been affected so far as a direct result of the Jat demonstrations. "We have suffered a loss of RS 200 crore [2 billion Indian rupees] while 1,000 trains have been affected," Neeraj Sharma, chief public relations officer for India’s Northern Railways zone, told Anadolu Agency. He added: "Important rail routes to the northern states -- like Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Chandigarh and Jammu Kashmir -- have all been affected."