None can forget the scene of August 2015 when thousands of people (mostly youth) belonging to Patel Community marched on the streets of Ahmedabad. Their leader, Hardik Patel, led the agitation for reservation. The agitation claimed the lives of about ten people and hundreds were injured. Many vehicles were also set on fire. After that the Kapu Community in Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) started similar agitation for reservation under the leadership of Mudragada Padmanabham in February 2016. They also demanded inclusion in OBC category. That agitation also turned violent and even a train was set on fire. Similarly, the Jats in Haryana crippled the life all over the State for ten days now. The demand was for seeking reservation, but it turned violent in the initial days only. More than 19 people were killed and the State witnessed loss of more than Rs 50,000 crore in those days.
The question is why this sudden upsurge for reservation by Patels in Gujarat, Kapus in Andhra Pradesh, Marathas in Maharashtra and Jats in Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh? What are the demographic equations of these communities, which are pressuring them to raise the demand for reservation with such force? Prior to searching the answer of this question we need to understand the employment opportunities available in the country—both in public and private sector.
The issue of reservation is not new. Whether Patels or Jats, they are regarded as from well-to-do communities. Even then they are agitating for reservation. One argument is that the youth of these communities find no future in farming due to changing scenario and growing urbanisation. Majority of the youth want to migrate to cities in search of employment. But the major problem witnessed there is insufficient wages in private sector. According to Economic Survey of 2014-15, the hike in wages in rural areas was 3.6 per cent, whereas the inflation rate was 5 per cent, which had jumped to 20 per cent in 2011. The daily wage of an ordinary labourer in 2011-12 was Rs 249 per day and in big institutions it was Rs 388 and Rs 679 and Rs 945 in public sector. This naturally generated the urge for a job in public sector. This urge in Haryana is stronger because there is huge imbalance in sex ratio there. The first priority for the father of a daughter is to find a suitable boy who has good income. Therefore, the parents of the boy wish that their son gets a government job.
But the problem is that the government jobs are gradually reducing. Look at these figures to understand the situation. There are hardly 17.50 crore jobs for the population of 120 crore. Therefore, these communities feel that they can secure a job through reservation channel. This is the root of the entire agitation. But the path is not smooth. The Supreme Court has issued strict directions in this regard many times. It even rejected the review petition filed by government regarding to reservation to Jats. On the other hand, the communities listed under OBCs are becoming restless because of the fear of inclusion of other castes in their category. The coverage of reservation cannot be hiked as the Supreme Court has capped it at 49 per cent. Therefore, experts feel the issue of reservation will continue to be flare up time and again. n