Huge jobs protest brings Mumbai to a halt

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

MUMBAI: At least half a mil­lion pro­test­ers brought Mumbai, In­dia’s fi­nan­cial cap­i­tal, to a stand­still on Wed­nes­day as they pressed their de­mands for re­served quo­tas in gov­ern­ment jobs and col­lege places amid a slump­ing ru­ral econ­omy.

Or­gan­is­ers put the num­ber of pro­test­ers at more than 2 mil­lion and said it was the largest rally ever staged in the city of 20 mil­lion. In­dian me­dia es­ti­mated the num­ber of peo­ple at the rally be­tween 600 000 and about 1 mil­lion.

Ris­ing un­em­ploy­ment and fall­ing farm in­comes are driv­ing farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties across In­dia, from the state of Haryana in the north to Gu­jarat in the west, to re­dou­ble their calls for reser­va­tions in jobs and ed­u­ca­tion.

“Farm­ing is no longer prof­itable and jobs are not avail­able,” said one pro­tester, Pradip Munde, a farmer from Os­man­abad, a town more than 400km south-east of Mumbai. “Reser­va­tion can en­sure us bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion and jobs.”

Pro­test­ers dis­missed as in­suf­fi­cient a pro­posal by the chief min­is­ter of Ma­ha­rash­tra state, Deven­dra Fad­navis, to con­sider grant­ing reser­va­tions to the Maratha com­mu­nity, which is mainly de­pen­dent on farm­ing.

“We are not sat­is­fied with the gov­ern­ment’s prom­ises. The chief min­is­ter hasn’t given any con­crete as­sur­ances to solve farm­ers’ prob­lems,” said Bhaiya Patil, one of the rally or­gan­is­ers.

The protest rally se­ri­ously dis­rupted road and rail traf­fic in Mumbai.

“Many peo­ple couldn’t en­ter the (park) venue as it was packed. We had made ar­range­ments for two mil­lion peo­ple, but we ran out of sup­plies,” said Patil.

The city’s famed “dab­bawalas”, who de­liver packed lunches to peo­ple work­ing in of­fices across Mumbai, sus­pended op­er­a­tions for the day, as did schools in the af­fected area.

Wed­nes­day’s rally was the con­clud­ing protest of a se­ries of 57 marches staged over the past year in Ma­ha­rash­tra by the Maratha com­mu­nity to press its de­mands.

Pro­test­ers, or­gan­ised by Ma­ha­rash­tra state’s Maratha com­mu­nity, press their de­mands for re­served quo­tas in gov­ern­ment jobs and places for col­lege stu­dents in Mumbai on Wed­nes­day. PIC­TURE: REUTERS

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