Jats in wonderlessland

Crisis of Haryana’s dominant castes mirrors India’s challenge: Lack of good jobs.

Written by Christophe Jaffrelot , Kalaiyarasan A | Updated: March 10, 2017 12:37 am
Jat protest, Jat agitation, Jat quota stir, jat protest OBC status, OBC status jats, Haryana jats protest, Haryana jat quote stir, Jats employment, business opportunities jats, india news Jat community members during their agitation for reservation near Pataudi in Gurugram on Tuesday. (PTI Photo)

The Jats of Haryana are demonstrating again for OBC status, almost one year after the violent agitation of January 2016 that resulted in the death of 20 people. This time their shows of strength are more peaceful, but the scale of their mobilisation reflects intense sentiments and motivations, like in the case of the Patels, Marathas and Kapus who have been similarly on a war path for the last couple of years.

So, why are the Jats of Haryana agitating? After all, they have benefitted from land reform and the Green Revolution, like those of West UP and Punjab for decades. Indeed, the Indian Human Development Survey (IHDS), done by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) in collaboration with the University of Maryland, shows that in 2011-12, the annual per capita mean income of the Jats of Haryana (the only Jats we’ll consider in this article), Rs 59,182, was second only to the non-Brahmin forward castes, Rs 71,086 (the Brahmins, who are traditionally not very high in the social hierarchy of Haryana got only Rs 56,913). This income is much higher than the state’s average, Rs 39,606 and, of course, of the OBCs (Rs 31,099) and the Scheduled Castes (Rs 20,158). But these figures need to be disaggregated by quintiles. In fact, 23.4 per cent of the Jats corner 62.5 per cent of the caste’s income. This means the income of this elite group amounts to a substantial Rs 1,59,430. The following quintile is also above the state’s averages since these 17.6 per cent of the state’s Jats, who receive 15.8 per cent of the caste’s income, get a mean income of Rs 52,629. At the bottom of the pyramid, 21.5 per cent of the Jats of Haryana do not earn more than 4 per cent of the caste’s income with a mean income of Rs 11,191 — half the average income of the SCs!

If we consider income as criteria, these data certainly demonstrate that castes are now differentiated along class lines. This is particularly true of the dominant castes, like the Jats, the Marathas or the Patels because of the increasingly neat urban/rural divide. Traditionally, these caste groups worked as farmers. Some of them still do well in this capacity, but agriculture is not, comparatively, as remunerative as city-based occupations since the economic liberalisation of the 1990s. In Haryana, the growth rate of agriculture (3.3 per cent) has been three times less than that of industry (9.5 per cent) and almost four times less than that of the services (11.8 per cent) over the last decade (2000-2010).

As a result, jobs have become scarce in the countryside. According to the National Sample Survey, the growth rate of jobs in agriculture has been negative (-3 per cent) between 2004-05 and 2011-12, whereas it has been slightly positive in other sectors. The only economic activity that has recruited a lot of labour is construction (6 per cent), but the Jats’ sense of caste pride and dignity does not allow them to take to such jobs. This is only one of the handicaps of the Jats in the labour market.

There are others. Like most of the dominant castes, many Jats have not been able to take advantage of new opportunities in non-agricultural sectors because of their lack of education and entry barriers to business erected by the traditional business communities. With an average of 5.90 years of education, Jats lag behind the forward castes. Certainly, this figure is higher than those of the OBCs and Dalits. But OBCs have almost as many graduates (5.4 per cent) as the Jats (5.8 per cent) and, more importantly, OBCs and Dalits benefit from quotas. As a result, the Jats have the lowest percentage of salaried people in Haryana (11 per cent) — and the highest percentage of people whose major source of income is cultivation (67 per cent). Only 2.5 per cent of the Jats have a government job — against 12.5 per cent for the SCs. Whether it is mobility in education or in employment, the data shows that the Brahmins and the non-Brahmin forward castes have benefited the most from economic liberalisation, suggesting that Jats had not been able to compete with them in admission for universities and top notch jobs in view of their educational backwardness.

In addition, the difficulty for the Jats in diversifying economic activities is being attributed to strong entry barriers built by the traditional business communities. The Jats don’t have the required skills and access to business networks. Even the upwardly mobile Jats could not enter businesses that are associated with agro-business such as trading grains and vegetables. Besides, real estate booms which benefited considerable sections within the Jats also led many to perceive that while they gained short term wealth by selling their land, they still have lost out to others who benefited from economic liberalisation in the long run. Last but not least, Jats, as dominant castes, have lower social perceptions of the status of certain jobs such as construction and petty business, that prevents them from further diversifying their economic activities.

The Jats’ demand for quotas is therefore the outcome of several factors: One, Jats are affected by the decline of agriculture vis-à-vis other sectors (all the more so as the average size of land holdings is shrinking from 3.1 ha in 1983 to 0.8 ha 30 years later); two, partly because of their rural background and their lack of education, they cannot compete with the groups that have benefitted the most from economic liberalisation (in particular those who have become businessmen whose per capita mean income was 5.6 times more than the cultivators at Rs 2,12,567); three, while many Jats are still doing well, this caste group is divided along class lines with average farmers lagging behind those who still have large landholdings or who have migrated to the city after selling their land at a very good price.

Besides these socio-economic factors, subjective variables must be taken into account, including the Jat notion of social order. Jat peasant leaders, including Charan Singh and those of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, had inherited a sense of caste pride and social hierarchy. As a result, they hardly defended the Dalits against economic or social injustice. For them, the landless were not included in the category “kisan”. But today, Dalits benefitting from reservations have reached power centres like the bureaucracy and have better education because of quotas. Meanwhile, the Jats themselves are losing the status of “kisan” as they lose control on land. The Jats whose social status was linked to landholding and economic position are now feeling a sense of loss as both are declining and their anxieties are further fuelled by the relative mobility of the OBCs and Dalits.

Thus, the declining average size of land holdings, unprofitable agriculture, lack of jobs and low scope for economic diversification have pushed the Jat youth and farmers to the street. The Jat elites could use their sentiments and build solidarities across party lines and mobilise them. However, the crisis of the dominant castes is more moral than social — as evident from the relative affluence of the Jats of Haryana. It is a reflection of one of the main challenges for India today: The lack of good jobs.

Jaffrelot is senior research fellow at CERI-Sciences Po/CNRS, Paris, professor of Indian politics and sociology at King’s India Institute, London. Kalaiyarasan is faculty at Institute for Studies in Industrial Development, New Delhi

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App now

First Published on: March 10, 2017 12:10 am
  1. K
    Kannan
    Mar 11, 2017 at 1:01 am
    To whomever wrote this article. This is one of the meaningful and logical interpretation of facts based on data. It's hard to find such compelling evidence based articles these days. Thanks to authors.
    Reply
    1. R
      Ranjan sapra
      Mar 10, 2017 at 5:24 am
      The author might have added that the collapse in real estate values in northern India has also contributed to the frustration of the jats. As long as the prices were high, they lived off the land by selling parcels of it. Under the depressed market conditions, that is no longer feasible. The notebandi has aggravated this crisis.
      Reply
      1. S
        Shailesh sharma
        Mar 10, 2017 at 1:33 am
        Again it prooved reservation on the basis of cast is not panacea. We can hope government will amend this, its need of hour to give reservation on the basis of income.
        Reply
        1. S
          Sidd
          Mar 10, 2017 at 4:32 pm
          We jaat People are victims of the hate politics done by BJP ...They are pretty similar to Britishers ...They think only they can rule ...They know the right ways , so to be in power they are ready to do any kind of politics ... They are trying to divide people by any means possible ... Hindu -muslim...jats non jats ... lt;br/gt;They are just doing that in Haryana , deliberately trying to create riots by trying to push jats to the limit ...lt;br/gt;This has to stop ...This party will divide this nation into something worse than indo-pak
          Reply
          1. K
            K SHESHU
            Mar 10, 2017 at 2:19 pm
            The reservation is being used pretext for every y y y
            Reply
            1. A
              ak
              Mar 10, 2017 at 1:44 pm
              Can you not stand on your own legs ? without a handout ? lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Nope.. Dy PM Deve Gowda does not have reservations ..
              Reply
              1. A
                Ali Raza
                Mar 10, 2017 at 3:58 am
                Who reads this firangi bigot. Bet he has a job at JNU.
                Reply
                1. A
                  Ali Raza
                  Mar 10, 2017 at 3:59 am
                  You are an .
                  Reply
                  1. A
                    Arvind
                    Mar 10, 2017 at 6:38 pm
                    What is the education level of Jats in Haryana ? Caste cannot define your prosperity in the world any more.
                    Reply
                    1. A
                      Amol
                      Mar 10, 2017 at 6:18 pm
                      Pointing out particular one party(BJP) is wrong my dear, rather than blaming political parties and politician we should focus on other aspects of the problems.
                      Reply
                      1. G
                        G V
                        Mar 10, 2017 at 7:51 am
                        There should not be any further conversation of reservation. It must be freezed altogether as it is.
                        Reply
                        1. A
                          Anuradha Kalhan
                          Mar 10, 2017 at 12:49 pm
                          Interesting !lt;br/gt;Jat angst also has something to do with the kind of jobs being created in the so called organised sector for high school and technical skilled workers ( Maruti Suzuki case in point) as well. High work intensity and maximum insecurity. Wages may be higher than in the informal employment but not so high as to be life transforming for the skilled workers.The end of illusions is the beginning of this strife which will spread and grow.
                          Reply
                          1. M
                            Mahender Goriganti
                            Mar 10, 2017 at 2:09 am
                            Islamic express has one goal to find a way to speak about the same issue with double tong depending on its usefulness to sell its cast creed, communal political agenda.lt;br/gt; lt;br/gt;Easiest target is Hindu practices but not zillion kinds of Abrhamic practices and sects since their beliefs and divisions and how they are practiced and even wars with them themselves and with others in the name of pagans, Satan etc. .
                            Reply
                            1. O
                              Ob_Server
                              Mar 10, 2017 at 9:57 am
                              It is the same story across the world. Previously dominant groups grow jealous of the progress of formerly oppressed groups.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;It happened in America 150 years ago when poor whites hated it when black slaves became free and poor just like the whites, when Patels hate uppity Dalits in today's Gujarat or Tamil Vanniyars can't tolerate a Dalit romancing a Vanniyar girl.
                              Reply
                              1. S
                                saurav
                                Mar 10, 2017 at 9:45 am
                                This situation is prevalent all along the Ganges-yamuna basin among the agrarian society,whose land holding has decreased over the year.As we have still 50% of potion based on agriculture while its contribution to GDP has reduced to 15%.So what we need today is the complete overhauling of our reservation policy.It should reach to the needy one ,those who have had been left.Some one from the same family is getting reservation even in their third generation,while for other it has still not reached.Need to look beyond politics,otherwise we will not be able to reap the dividends from large young potion and the thriving democracy.
                                Reply
                                1. P
                                  Pinna
                                  Mar 10, 2017 at 4:33 am
                                  Its not Jats are at the receiving end in Haryana. It is their greed for freebies which tag along the reservation. Everyone wants reservation in India. Even, Meira Kumar, daughter of Union Minister Jagjivan Ram, took advantage of reservation. Devyani Khobragade, whose dad was a Chief Secretary in Maharashtra State Urban Development, took advantage of "being dalit". The list is long and endless. The time is ripe to at least remove from the creamy layer from reservation.
                                  Reply
                                  1. R
                                    RR
                                    Mar 10, 2017 at 5:19 pm
                                    Though jats are facing these problems division of society based on caste is highly prevailing across our country especially in north india.only educated families in sc/St groups are aware about the benefits they get from the government.still below poverty line families are there who are discriminated by superior groups without knowing about there reservation benefits .I am supporting the caste based reservation system
                                    Reply
                                    1. R
                                      Rakesh Katyal
                                      Mar 10, 2017 at 5:38 am
                                      The author is rather poor in his analysis. Many of them sold of their land and could not put their earnings into good use. Now that money is drying up. Secondly though they are educated most donot want to take private sector jobs. They are jobless by choice. Is the author trying to say w of india must get government job ? Really such poor articles are running the narrative in the press.
                                      Reply
                                      1. S
                                        Sasi
                                        Mar 10, 2017 at 1:29 am
                                        come on ... do you think jobs are grown on trees and plants to give them whenever needed? There is aprocess to get job.. educate first then attend interviews and finally selection.. you need to work hard.. This article claims to get free jobs for early dropouts from school.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;First make matriculation mandatory for any social security benefit for an adult.. then everyone will put effort for that fear.. or else everyone will be a school dropout to gt free money..
                                        Reply
                                        1. S
                                          SP
                                          Mar 10, 2017 at 6:29 am
                                          The w quota system should be reworked to exclude those who already have achieved economic and social mobility. The communities which have money should be allowed to set up educational insutions on their own the way minorities are allowed. Even among minorities caste data should be captured so that the backward castes get benefit. Educational backwardness, low share in organized sector, social backwardness and economic backwardness should be handled separately. A simple catch-all mechanism is to give preference to those whose parents are not college educated.
                                          Reply
                                          1. S
                                            SUNIL
                                            Mar 10, 2017 at 12:42 pm
                                            unfortunately, afterMANDAL ,this country is not democratic. what is ruling is castocracy. right or wrong. MANDAL has divided this nation vertically. the hate towards OBC S in other castes who do not get any reservation or financial support is clearly visible on peoples face. all these movements for reservations are another reaction. this is becoming more dengerous for indian democracy.
                                            Reply
                                            1. Load More Comments