India: Hundreds of thousands hit the streets, demanding jobs, education

People gather to take part in a protest organised by the Maratha community in Mumbai, India, August 9.
Saturday, August 12, 2017

More than 200,000 protesters marched through Mumbai, disrupting traffic and straining the railway network, to press their demands for quotas in government jobs and education.

Rising unemployment and falling incomes are driving farming communities across India to redouble calls for reserving jobs and education, especially for the underprivileged Maratha community in western India.

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

Some businesses and schools were shut due to the big march in south Mumbai, India's financial and entertainment capital. Traffic also came to a halt in many parts of the business district, while protesters jammed suburban trains.

Maratha, a predominantly farmer caste, accounts for nearly 35% of western Maharashtra state's 123 million people. Many in the community feel that they are lagging behind.

India’s constitution includes a system of affirmative action for people from the lowest castes to help them overcome discrimination. The Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that reserved jobs and college seats could not exceed a 50% quota, a limit that Maharashtra has already reached.

Virendra Pawar, a spokesperson for the Maratha Revolutionary Front, said the protesters were also demanding higher prices for farm produce and loan waivers for poor farmers.

[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]