Responses to the Jharkhand Bandh’s call for local reservation in government jobs are conflicting

On Saturday, reactions to a 48-hour bandh called by the Jharkhand State Students’ Union (JSSU) to seek 100 percent local hiring preference were mixed. Although there were occasional reports of road blockades and disruption, many regions throughout the state experienced tranquilly.

Despite taking to the streets, demonstrators in Ranchi failed to impose the bandh since the city’s public transit system was unaffected. Vegetable markets at Kokar-Lalpur Road and Naga Baba Khatal were still operational in the city. Agitators tried to construct a road roadblock using burning tyres in Namkum, a neighbourhood outside of Ranchi, but the police quickly took them down.

Kishore Kaushal, the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) in Ranchi, reaffirmed that no suspicious occurrences took place in the region. He declared that under no circumstances would the state of law and order be disturbed. The whole area was subject to extensive security measures, with police officers and judges posted at strategic positions. CCTV cameras were used to carefully watch the incident.

The bandh, however, significantly affected daily life in the districts of Dumka and Sahibganj. The Dumka protest was led by Chhatra Samanvay Samiti, which resulted in road blockades, the closure of schools, colleges, and businesses. However, businesses including banks, government offices and gas stations were open.

Protesters also flocked to the streets and stopped many routes in Hazaribag, Dhanbad, and Bokaro. The bandh had little to no impact on citizens’ everyday life, nonetheless.

A JSSU leader named Devendra Mahto declared the bandh successful on its first day and said it will continue on Sunday. If the government didn’t reverse its 60-40 recruiting strategy, he threatened an ongoing protest campaign. In order to solve this issue, Mahto criticised the Jharkhand government for allowing foreigners to compete for government positions and emphasised the importance of the bandh.

Initially promising an employment strategy based on the 1932 “khatiyan” (land settlement), the administration, according to Mahto, instead implemented a pre-2016 employment policy that reserves 60% of posts while leaving 40% accessible to everyone. The descendants of those who lived in the area before 1932 would have job options if that year were the cutoff for the domicile policy.

Mahto also said that they had spoken to 72 MLAs, including 42 from the governing parties, and 13 MPs in order to get their support for their protest against the 60-40 job strategy. They claimed to have received vociferous opposition to the scheme. According to Mahto, job postings were nevertheless still made using the 60-40 split.

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