Amid quota stir, Jaipur-Agra highway remains blocked for sixth consecutive day

Five OBC communities are demanding a separate 12% quota within the OBC category in government jobs and education

Published - April 27, 2023 03:36 am IST - JAIPUR

Protesters have been camping in tents after blocking a 1-km stretch of
NH-21 near Arauda village since April 21.

Protesters have been camping in tents after blocking a 1-km stretch of NH-21 near Arauda village since April 21. | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The Jaipur-Agra national highway remained blocked in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district for the sixth consecutive day on Wednesday, as protesters demanding 12% separate reservation for a group of Other Backward Class (OBC) communities refused to vacate the road. The Congress government in the State has agreed to look into their demands.

As many as five OBC communities have mobilised with the demand for a separate quota in government jobs and education. Hundreds of people agitating for reservation have been camping in tents after blocking a one kilometre stretch of the National Highway 21 near Arauda village with stones since April 21.

The protesters, belonging to the Saini, Kushwaha, Mali, Maurya and Shakya communities, have demanded 12% quota within the OBC category, proportionate to their population, which is estimated to be 1.50 crore. They claim the present reservation available to them is inadequate as most of the families are from the Below Poverty Line (BPL) category and their children are unable to secure gainful employment.

The agitation took a serious turn following the death of a 48-year-old man belonging to Saini community, whose body was found hanging from a tree near the protest site on Tuesday. The family members have refused to accept the body and demanded compensation and a government job. The body has been lying in a mortuary without an autopsy.

While traffic on the highway has been diverted via different routes several kilometres prior to the protest site, the district administration has suspended mobile Internet services in the region to check the spread of rumours and prevent the situation from deteriorating. The protesters had blocked the highway at the same place with the similar demand in June 2022 as well.

A delegation of protesters, led by Phule Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti’s convener Murari Lal Saini, met Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot at his official residence here late on Tuesday. The delegation was asked to hold discussions with the State OBC Commission’s Member-Secretary, with whom a meeting has been scheduled for May 1.

Mr. Saini said no decision on calling off the agitation or vacating the highway had been taken by the people of the OBC communities, who were staying put at the protest site. Other demands of the protesters include the formation of a ‘Luv Kush Welfare Board’, and hostel facilities for children from OBC communities.

Mr. Gehlot, who belongs to the Mali community, has called upon the protesters to end their agitation, while pointing out that Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge had written a letter to the Prime Minister seeking the inclusion of caste in the next Census. “The OBC communities should keep patience. All their just demands will be accepted,” the Chief Minister told reporters in an informal interaction.

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