Millions without water in Delhi due to caste dispute

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(Concordiensis | J.T. Kim)

After protestors in Delhi sabotaged a water canal which supplied three-fifths of the water to the city, more than ten million citizens are without water.

The lack of water has resulted in chaos in the city, as millions of citizens panic.

In response to the sabotage and subsequent lack of water, the city’s schools have all closed.

Worse still, 16 people were killed and hundreds have been injured in the past three days as riots have swept the city.

The crisis is on-going despite the intervention of the Indian army, which has regained control of the canal and begun repairs.

The army has yet to release a timeline of when water will be returned to the city, but the chief minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal tweeted that the army is “trying to assess in how much time water would reach Delhi and whether any damage had been done to the canal.”

In the aftermath, protestors went on a rampage through the city, despite a curfew enforced by the Indian army.

The protestors were of the Jat caste, which is a relatively affluent and traditionally high caste.

The Indian government, which has officially categorized the various castes into a strict legal hierarchy, recognizes the Jat caste as an upper level caste.

The result of this recognition is beneficial, but the Jats are upset by the fact that they are not included in job and education quotas which are available to the lower castes.

These quotas mean that the lower castes, which have historically been systematically oppressed and impoverished, have opportunities for some amount of social and economic advancement.

Castes which qualify for this are known as Other Backwards Castes (OBC), and the government is required to hire a certain amount of members of these designated castes.

The Jats argue that they should qualify for this benefit, and as job opportunities dried up, they began to press their case.

Their push for qualification as an OBC was approved by the Congress-led national government in March 2014, but the supreme court of India ruled in 2015 that the Jats were not a backwards community, revoking their qualification.

Adding fuel to the fire of this particular situation is the prevalence of the Jat caste in the Indian state of Haryana, in which Delhi is located.

Within Haryana, the Jats make up 27% of voters, and hold a full third of the 90 state assembly seats. Seven of the ten chief ministers of the region hav e been Jats as well.

With their preponderance of regional political power, the ability of the Jats to make their displeasure felt is multiplied.

In response to the complaints and grievances of the Jats, the Indian federal government has agreed to designate a top-level to look into the issue.

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