Date
24 January 2017
Residents collect water from a tanker in Delhi after protesters seized a canal that supplies most of the water to the capital. Photo: Reuters
Residents collect water from a tanker in Delhi after protesters seized a canal that supplies most of the water to the capital. Photo: Reuters

Caste protests leave 10 mln in Delhi without water

Indian army troops have taken over a canal after protesters sabotaged it, leaving more than 10 million people in the capital Delhi without water.

It will take three to four days before normal water supply can resume to affected areas, BBC News reports, citing Keshav Chandra, head of Delhi’s water board.

Sixteen people have been killed and hundreds hurt in three days of rioting after protesters from the Jat community, angry at caste job quotas, seized Munak canal, which flows through the northern state of Haryana.

Schools were closed in Delhi, a city of 16 million, which draws 60 percent of its water supply from Munak canal.

People had managed to save water and tankers had been dispatched to affected areas of the city but these were not be enough to make up for the shortfall.

The protesters have set up road blocks and are refusing to budge.

“We don’t trust them. Let’s get something in writing. Let them spell it out,” one demonstrator who refused to be named told the BBC.

Protesters rampaged through barriers and an army curfew and there were reports of troops opening fire in Rohtak and Jhajjar districts.

The land-owning Jat community is relatively affluent and has traditionally been seen as upper caste.

They are mainly based in Haryana and seven other states in northern India.

The Jats are listed as upper caste but the demonstrators have been demanding inclusion in caste quotas for jobs and education opportunities that have been available to lower castes since 1991.

In March 2014 the Congress-led national government said it would re-categorise Jats as Other Backward Castes, opening the way to government job quotas.

But India’s Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that the Jats were not a backward community.

As jobs have dried up in the private sector and farming incomes have declined, the community has demanded the reinstatement of their backward caste status to enable them to secure government jobs.

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