Indian army secures Delhi water supply as protests ease

Protests that damaged property and threatened Delhi's water supply eased Monday, after the army secured a nearby canal, officials said.

They added that the local government had promised to introduce job quotas for the demonstraters, whose protests over caste quotas left millions without water.

The army was deployed to protect water infrastructure in Haryana state next to Delhi after the world's fourth biggest city was hit by water shortages.

Supplies were expected to be partially restored from the Munak canal by Monday evening following repairs on the equipment damaged by protestors, Delhi Water Board chairman Kapil Mishra said.

Members of the Jat community, traditionally a farming caste, have demonstrated for quotas in government jobs and higher education for over a week. Over the weekend they set fire to vehicles, homes, malls and railway stations.

"Great relief for Delhi," Kejriwal said in a tweet after most of the protests were lifted, although sporadic clashes were being reported in some parts of the state.

The Munak canal is a key source of water for Delhi, which has an estimated population of 17 million.

Local news outlets reported that water supplies would be fully restored to Delhi by Tuesday and drinking water was being supplied to affected areas via tankers.

Mishra said there was no "panic situation anywhere," partly thanks to the fact that schools had been shut on Monday to conserve supplies.

Sixteen people, mostly Jats, were killed and over 200 were injured as the protestors clashed with security forces, state home secretary PK Das told dpa.

The Bhartiya Janata Party, which rules at federal and state level, promised that it would introduce new quotas in state-level legislation. The federal government also said it would set up a high-level committee to look into the grievances of Jats.

India has an affirmative action policy which includes quotas for the lowest castes, members of which have benefited under the system for centuries.

Over the years, the government has expanded the quotas to include other communities that are economically or socially disadvantaged.

Jats are largely a well-to-do land-owning community, but say the quota policy is unfair and demand that the benefits be extended to them as well. They constitute about 28 per cent of Haryana’s estimated 25 million population.

In Haryana, authorities were lifting curfews in key towns while protestors removed blockades in several areas, Das said.

But fresh violence was reported again from the Sonipat and Rohtak districts, the epicentre of protests with agitators burning shops and vehicles.

Protestors blocked a key highway to Delhi and some roads in towns were demanding a written assurance that their demands will be met.

"The Jat agitation is not by one organization but by amorphous groups. Only two of the dozen odd groups are still continuing with protests, while the others have dispersed. We are holding negotiations and are hopeful they will call off their protests as well," Das said.

Last update: Mon, 22/02/2016 - 19:33

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