The violence related to the Jat reservation agitation does not augur well for the upcoming Happening Haryana investors’ summit.
As large mobs of reservation seekers attacked commercial, residential and government properties, indulged in rioting, arson and loot, and attacked members of other communities in some places to vent their anger for not being provided reservation in jobs, little did they realise that their actions would only harm their employment prospects.
The violence, which left 18 people dead, 200 injured, and led to destruction of property worth nearly 20,000 crore rupees has, according to trade organisations, severely damaged the confidence of people to invest in the state.
“Let alone think about investing in the state, the violence has even made traders – whose properties were spared – wonder when and if at all they should reopen their establishments or seek business opportunities in safer areas elsewhere,” said Praveen Khandelwal, president of the Confederation of All India Traders.
More than the harm caused to over a thousand buildings in the state, the manner and scale of violence has shattered the confidence of the people and traders, he said. “The way the agitators were also able to block rail and road traffic has made the people fearful.”
Noting that the need of the hour was to revive businesses through the quick disbursement of compensation and insurance claims, he said only this could restore investor confidence in a time of crisis.
Political blame game
A blame game has already begun over the violence, which originated at Rohtak, the hometown of former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and where BJP wrested four of the eight seats in the last assembly polls, including the one where state Finance Minister Captain Abhimanyu, also a Jat, had won. Incidentally, Abhimanyu’s residence was among the many properties attacked over a nearly seven km stretch in the town by mobs, which were surprisingly selectively in picking their targets. Hooda’s bungalow was spared.
The BJP has blamed the Congress for fanning the quota violence, with an audio recording, ostensibly of a conversation between Virendra Singh, a former advisor to Hooda, and Khap leader Captain Man Singh, as proof. In the recording, Singh is allegedly heard urging the Khap leader to organise similar protests in Sirsa with the help of the Indian National Lok Dal and its student wing, Indian National Students’ Organisation, if need be.
On the other hand, many are also pointing to a widening chasm between the ruling BJP dispensation in Haryana as the reason behind the violence.
It is no secret that Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, Haryana’s first non-Jat CM in 18 years and who is from Rohtak but had contested the assembly polls from Karnal, has many opponents. Since he was handpicked for the job by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in October 2014, Khattar has had to battle resistance from both within and outside the BJP.
Khattar’s rule has seen an increasing alienation among the Jats. One important reasons has been the job transfers and postings; many Jats found the plum postings or those in prime districts going to people of other castes. As it were, the Jats were not particularly pleased to see Khattar get the throne of Haryana, and recent events are a testimony to this.
Development and investment take a hit
Many Jats, particularly in Sonepat, Jhajjar and Rohtak, had voted for the Congress, while those in Sirsa, Hisar and Fatehaband had voted for the INLD in large numbers. The BJP had romped home primarily riding a wave of support along the more economically advanced districts falling on the Grand Trunk Road (NH-1) such as Panchkula, Ambala, Kurukshetra, Karnal and Panipat, and areas south of Delhi, such as Faridabad, Gurgaon, Mahendragarh and Rewari.
When one looks at the pattern of violence it becomes clear that it was primarily confined to areas that figure low on the development index of the state. In fact, the Haryana government had about a year ago unveiled a plan of action to promote the development of the districts not falling along the main development corridors of NH-1 and NH-2 that pass via Faridabad and Palwal, heading toward Agra, and NH-8, which connects Gurgaon to Jaipur. The idea was to promote equitable growth around the state. This concept, which is still in a nascent stage, has taken a big hit due to the violence.
The situation does not augur well for the upcoming ‘Happening Haryana’ investors’ summit, set to begin from March 7. Khattar had visited Japan and China over the past year to seek foreign direct investments in the state and had returned with many promises. He had also told the chief executive officers of 12 leading companies in Chennai earlier this month that his government would soon unveil its new Labour and IT policies to give a boost to the industrial sector and to improve employability to the youth in the state.