Huge protest in In­dia

Marathas de­mand jobs, help in wake of fall­ing farm in­come

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

NEW DELHI — A huge protest rally led by Marathas, a po­lit­i­cally pow­er­ful group in In­dia’s fi­nan­cial cap­i­tal Mumbai, hit the city on Wed­nes­day, de­mand­ing quo­tas for Marathas in gov­ern­ment jobs and ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions, amend­ments to sched­uled caste and sched­uled tribe Acts as well as farm loan waivers.

While or­ga­niz­ers put the num­ber of par­tic­i­pat­ing pro­test­ers at more than 2 mil­lion, In­dian me­dia re­ports es­ti­mated the num­ber of peo­ple at the rally at be­tween 600,000 and around 1 mil­lion.

Ac­cord­ing to NDTV, around 900,000 peo­ple marched on roads in sup­port of the de­mands and as­sem­bled at Azad Maidan, Mum- bai’s large pub­lic park.

Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties said they did not ex­pect such a huge crowd to as­sem­ble.

Ma­ha­rash­tra Chief Min­is­ter Deven­dra Fad­navis said on Wed­nes­day his gov­ern­ment sup­ports af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion poli­cies for the dom­i­nant caste.

“We are go­ing to con­sti­tute a cab­i­net sub­com­mit­tee for reg­u­lar in­ter­ac­tion with Maratha rep­re­sen­ta­tives,” Fad­navis told the state’s leg­is­la­ture.

Wed­nes­day’s show of strength marked the end of a se­ries of protests staged by the Maratha com­mu­nity to press its de­mands.

“To­day’s show marks the cul­mi­na­tion of a year­long protest by the Maratha com- mu­nity,” or­ga­niz­ers said. “We car­ried out protest marches in 57 dif­fer­ent places across the state in the past one year.”

The Maratha com­mu­nity con­sti­tutes a third of Ma­ha­rash­tra’s pop­u­la­tion and the ma­jor­ity of them de­pen­dent on farm­ing for their liveli­hood.

In­creas­ing un­em­ploy­ment and fall­ing farm in­comes are lead­ing In­dian farm­ers to call for in­creased quo­tas and loan waivers.

“We are de­mand­ing the gov­ern­ment comes for­ward to help us,” said pro­tester Atul Maitre. “Mere rhetoric from top politi­cians in gov­ern­ment didn’t do any­thing. Now they have to take con­crete steps to save us and our fam­i­lies.”

Agri­cul­ture has suf­fered a huge set­back in re­cent years in In­dia due to droughts and floods.

With In­dian farm­ing in cri­sis, peo­ple as­so­ci­ated with it are forced to look for other means of mak­ing a liv­ing.

In In­dia, quo­tas for lower castes and eco­nom­i­cally weaker sec­tions are guar­an­teed con­sti­tu­tion­ally.

SHAILESH AN­DRADE / REUTERS

Peo­ple gather to take part in a protest, or­ga­nized by Ma­ha­rash­tra state’s Maratha com­mu­nity, to press their de­mands for re­served quo­tas in gov­ern­ment jobs and col­lege places for stu­dents, in Mumbai, In­dia, on Wed­nes­day.

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