Water crisis looms for New Delhi after fatal protests in Haryana

New Delhi faces a water crisis after agitators shut a key water supply amid deadly protests about caste-based quotas for jobs and education in Indian's northern state of Haryana, officials said Sunday.

Although police claimed that the protests had been contained, the damage could have repercussions in Delhi, where water treatment plants rely upon water from the Munak canal in Haryana.

Protesters had damaged equipment at the canal during a week of demonstrations by members of the Jat community, who are demanding quotas in both government jobs and higher education for members of their caste, which has historically been made up of farmers.

Haryana surrounds the Indian capital on three sides and the city shares its northern, western and southern borders with the state.

Some of the worst violence came Friday, with angry mobs setting fire to vehicles, homes and railway stations, as well as blocking highways.

Despite curfews and army presence, protesters went on the rampage again on Saturday and clashed with police in the Rohtak, Jhajjar, Jind, Sonipat, Bhiwani and Kaithal districts.

State police chief YP Singhal said 10 people were killed and 150, including police, were injured in the clashes.

"The situation remains peaceful on Sunday and police [are] taking action against anti-social elements," he said.  

But the damage to the water system could have long-term ramifications. New Delhi authorities have already announced water rationing and school closures for Monday.

Federal ministers said police and local agencies were making efforts to restore the supplies.

Meanwhile, in Haryana, key roads and highways remain closed and train services were disrupted amid continuing violence. Jat community leaders said they will continue their agitation until a legislation was passed to meet their demands.

India has an affirmative action policy which includes quotas for the lowest castes, members of which have faced discrimination 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.

Last update: Sun, 21/02/2016 - 12:12
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