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Why Jats of Haryana Want Reservation

Feb 24, 2016


I normally do not write on political issues but the recent demand of the Jats of Haryana to be counted as other backward castes(OBCs), is a part of a larger issue that I have been writing about. Hence, this column.

Castes which are categorised as OBCs have 27% reservation in public sector jobs and higher education. The Mandal Commission Report of 1980 had said that OBCs form 52% of the country's population. In comparison, a survey carried out by the National Sample Survey Organisation in 2006 said that the OBCs form 40.96% of the country's population.

Jats form 29% of Haryana's population and own three-fourths of its land media reports point out. As Harish Damodaran writes in a brilliant column in The Indian Express: "The community probably owns three-fourths of agricultural land in Haryana, with the Jat being synonymous with the 'zamindar' just as much as the Bania with the trader."

Given this, why do zamindars actually want reservation? Before I get around to answering this, it is important to understand how Jats ended up owning as much land as they do now.

As Surinder S Jodhka writes in Caste: "One of the most important developmental initiatives taken by the Indian State soon after independence was the introduction of Land Reform legislations. These legislations were designed to weaken the hold of the non-cultivating intermediaries (the so-called landlords) by transferring ownership rights to the tillers of the land."

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And how did this help the Jats? As Jodhka writes: "The Rajputs, traditionally upper-caste and the erstwhile landlords, possessed far less land after the Land Reforms than they had done before. Most of the village land moved into the hands of those who were traditionally identified as tillers of the land, the middle caste groups such as Jats and Gujars."

This essentially ensured that Jats became what sociologist MN Srinivas called a dominant caste in the state of Haryana. As Srinivas wrote: "A caste may be said to be 'dominant' when it preponderates numerically over the other castes, and when it also wields preponderant economic and political power." (As quoted in Jodhka's book).

After land came the agricultural revolution which increased the crop yields and in the process increased the economic power of the Jats. Given their numbers, they already had the political power.

This explains why Jats have dominated the politics of Haryana for more than a few decades.

It also explains why Manhohar Lal Khattar became the first non-Jat chief minister of Haryana in over two decades. And given that Khattar was a first time MLA with little administrative experience, he was caught napping as the movement built up all over the state.

One theory is that the movement was instigated by those not in power in the state. This might very well be true given the scale it finally reached, but it still doesn't do away with the fact that Khattar was caught napping.

Now to answer the question that I had raised as to why do Jats wants reservation.

The Agriculture Census of 2010 points out that the average size of an individual holding in Haryana has fallen to 1.57 hectares. In 1995-1996, the average size of individual holding was at 1.74 hectares, a fall of around 10%. This means that the land holdings in Haryana over the years have gotten more fragmented, leaving a lesser area for every farmer to farm on.

This is in line with the broader trend that prevails in the country. As per Agriculture Census of 2010-11: "The average size of holdings for all operational classes (small & marginal, medium and large) have declined over the years and for all classes put together it has come down to 1.16 hectare in 2010-11 from 2.82 hectare in 1970-71." The situation could have only gotten worse since then. Hence, many more people are dependent on agriculture and farming than should be. This means lower income per capita from agriculture.

In this scenario, the importance of jobs has gone up. Nevertheless, as the Economic Survey released in February 2015 points out: "Regardless of which data source is used, it seems clear that employment growth is lagging behind growth in the labour force. For example, according to the Census, between 2001 and 2011, labour force growth was 2.23 percent (male and female combined). This is lower than most estimates of employment growth in this decade of closer to 1.4 percent."

The jobs which would have moved people away from agriculture and farming have not materialised. Further, with 49.5% of government jobs being reserved (22.5% for SCs and STs, 27% for OBCs) the Jats (as well as others who fall in the general category) have probably found the competition to get into a government job very tough.

It further needs to be pointed out here that the government jobs at lower levels are significantly better paying than similar jobs in the private sector.

As the Report of the Seventh Pay Commission points out: "To obtain a comparative picture of the salaries paid in the government with that in the private sector enterprises the Commission engaged the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad to conduct a study. According to the study the total emoluments of a General Helper, who is the lowest ranked employee in the government is Rs 22,579, more than two times the emoluments of a General Helper in the private sector organizations surveyed at Rs 8,000-9,500."

Hence, the IIM Ahmedabad study "on comparing job families between the government and private/public sector has brought out the fact lower levels salaries are much lower in the private sector as compared to government jobs."

What this clearly tells us is that the reason Jats want to be categorised as OBCs is the same reason why engineers, MBAs and PhDs apply for government jobs at lower levels-they are significantly better paying than similar jobs in the private sector.

Further, what does not help is the fact that Haryana has the worst sex ratio in the country at 879 females for every 1000 males, as per the 2011 census. As Christophe Jaffrelot writes in The Indian Express: "The search for government also influenced by their particularly skewed sex ratio. Parents of girls prefer grooms with stable income - those with government jobs are often their preferred choice. With fewer girls compared to boys in these castes, there is competition in the marriage market."

The Haryana state government has plans of introducing a Bill to grant OBC status to Jats. This won't go down well with 74 other castes who are already categorised as OBCs in Haryana. To them, Jats are the well-off land-owning people who really do not need any reservation. Also, with Jats forming 29% of the state's population competition among the OBC aspirants for government jobs will go up significantly. The situation might become easier for the Jats but not for the castes categorised as OBCs as of now. Hence, be ready for another share of agitations.

Further, any attempt to categorise Jats as OBCs will lead to similar demand from other land-owning castes across the country who are seeing difficult days due to their land-holdings shrinking. In fact, similar demands have already been made by the Kapus in Andhra Pradesh, the Marathas in Maharashtra, the Patels in Gujarat (their leader Hardik Patel is currently in jail) and the Gujars in Rajasthan.

In fact, the Rajasthan government has already passed the Rajasthan Special Backward Classes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions in the State and of Appointments and Posts in Services under the State) Bil, 2015. The Gujars are expected to be the main beneficiaries of this Bill.

In fact, at the heart of all this is an issue which I have discussed multiple times in the past. India has more people in agriculture than it needs. These people need to be moved away from agriculture. This needs the creation of many semi-skilled and unskilled jobs, something which is not happening, given that Indian industry is not exactly known to be labour-intensive. And the social consequences of this economic drawback are now coming to the fore.

Vivek Kaul is the Editor of the Diary and The Vivek Kaul Letter. Vivek is a writer who has worked at senior positions with the Daily News and Analysis (DNA) and The Economic Times, in the past. He is the author of the Easy Money trilogy. The latest book in the trilogy Easy Money: The Greatest Ponzi Scheme Ever and How It Is Set to Destroy the Global Financial System was published in March 2015. The books were bestsellers on Amazon. His writing has also appeared in The Times of India, The Hindu, The Hindu Business Line, Business World, Business Today, India Today, Business Standard, Forbes India, Deccan Chronicle, The Asian Age, Mutual Fund Insight, Wealth Insight, Swarajya, Bangalore Mirror among others.

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20 Responses to "Why Jats of Haryana Want Reservation"


Jun 7, 2019

Jats got land after Hindu Maratha and sikh armies destroyed Mughal nawabs as Jats were their servants to till their land. Eg Banda Bahudur eliminated many Nawabs Like Sarhand etc and gave Their land to servant jats tilling for them. After Independce many Riyasat and nawab lands were also given to these servant tillers as well as Rajput Jagirdar lands.


Gaurav Chaudhary

Aug 28, 2017

There is a very big factual mistake in this article. Jats in Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh have always owned their own land protected by sarv khap armies. It is completely incorrect that they got ownership after land reforms. One basic premise of whole article is wrong.

Now, reason for demand is that while Jats owned land and dominated rural life, government investment in education in rural areas continued to lag behind urban areas. Now, as contribution of agriculture in economic output declined and it has been tough for most jats to transition from farming to take up jobs in private sector. Reason: Lack of public investment in education especially in rural areas. Good education till class 12 has largely been left to private sector which is centred in cities.

Government should invest in providing good educational facilities every where and close the rural- urban divide in education.

But, on both economic and social front, jats have been a dominant community(Haryana and Punjab being only states in India where in villages, social status of Brahmins was found lower than the dominant community: Jats). So whether benefit of reservation under OBC should be extended to jats is tough question.

Like (2)

dilbag singh mohan

Aug 8, 2017

This is wrong to say that after independence , due to land reforms, Jats got land, rather jats lost their land to other caste . Actual problem is, agriculture becoming less lucrative because of various factors. Next reason is , the people who were far behind now have gone aheadwhich becoming an eyesore for them . At present after 6th pay scale , Govt. Jobs are very attractive.
It is highly one sided view to say jats are responsible for loot and arson. It is so called, as named by media 35, , non jats are mainly responsible and can be checked by looking at total FIR lodged in State at that time. So basic reasons are , no.1 reduction of land holding per family , no2 , , agree culture is becoming cosly and less lucrative. No 3 Govt. Job becoming very attractive. Anc no 4 other people are going ahead.

Like (2)

Ashok kumar

Mar 3, 2017

Jaats have right to protest, but they had destroyed theirs own state by their own.

Like (2)


Feb 25, 2016

SC/ST reservations and OBC reservations are two completely different kettle of fish. The former are political in nature and an integral part of the making of India as a nation state. The premise is that being outside chaturvarna the social arrangements of the Hindus will ensure that untouchables are kept out of the system regardless of their merit or wealth. It is therefore a protection against prejudice withput which there would be no place for them in the political, administrative and educational institutions of the country. Please read the London round table conference minutes which preceded the GOI Act of 1935 and of course the Poona Pact of 1932. Contrast this with OBC reservations following the Mandal Commission which is a triumphant assertion of the significance of caste in India and an official stamp legitimising and recognising caste. Ambedkar wanted to abolish the caste system and criminalise its practice. He had to settle for abolition of untouchability in the face of stiff opposition from diehard conservatives and traditionalists like Rajendra Prasad. Now with OBCs seeking caste based reservations the chicken have come home to roost. Even now intellectuals like Kaul are refusing to recognise that the fundamental enemy is casteism and are trying to seek answers in economics for a problem which is socio-politic. Without a cultural revolution which will push out caste into the dustbin of history the nationhood of India is doomed.

Like (1)

Shrinivas Moghe

Feb 25, 2016

I feel that we have developed a nature and habit of running away from the core issue. The issue of reservation for Jats is not about creating more opportunities for the cast in the field of education and government jobs. Had it been so, they would have demanded it at the beginning of land reform era. The core issue is that agriculture is becoming less lucrative. We need to make our agricultural policy which will address the problems in doing farming. With such a huge population and availability of huge land for farming, we need to make optimum use of both. I do not take your view of we having excess people working in agriculture, than needed. With this type of population and land, we should have become food-leader of the planet. But unfortunately, we are the biggest importer of food items. We are definitely on a wrong track. I am told by my many farmer friends, that they are loosing interest in agriculture, because agriculture labor is not available.

And yes, reservation based on economic criteria, is what we will have to adopt ultimately, if we sincerely want to save our country.

Like (1)

Subhash khurana

Feb 24, 2016

Jar menfolk spend most of the time sitting in chopal and smoking hookah and bidi the manual work on the agriculture field is done by woman folk women driving tractors and other agriculture machinery is a common scene in Haryana villages jat men folk main ambition is to enter. Govt job where the work is easy and salaries are good few men educate themselves and try to enter army and police or become patwari revenue official due to job reservations for obc the entry to govt job is difficult and they are seeking reservations so that they can join /get jobs easily and achieve their ambition

Like (1)

JR Kumar

Feb 24, 2016

Well said Mr. Vivek.
I read your columns for such detailed analysis.
JR Kumar

Like (1)


Feb 24, 2016

reservations were never
poverty alleviation program,
and they are still not. it is
a concoction of the jealousy
media unable to see the
silenced communities able to
represent themselves in
modern institutions, who have
given it an economic angle.
the subjugated aliens are
seen in places 'reserved' for
a few communities for
centuries which is still not
digestible to them.

Like (1)

Abhijit Mukhopadhyay

Feb 24, 2016

Excellent analysis and a deep understanding displayed by Vivek Kaul. Kudos to him.

Like (1)
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