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India benefits protest leads to water crisis in capital

Published 21/02/2016

Police use water cannons to disperse protesters from the Jat agricultural community in New Delhi (AP)
Police use water cannons to disperse protesters from the Jat agricultural community in New Delhi (AP)

More than 16 million people in India's capital are facing a water crisis as a result of violent demonstrations in northern India over government benefits, which have left at least 10 dead.

Protesters have damaged equipment that brings water from Munak canal in Haryana state to New Delhi, depleting the capital's water supply.

New Delhi gets about 60% of its water from the neighbouring state.

Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi's chief minister, announced schools in the capital would be closed on Monday, and also ordered the rationing of water to people's homes.

At least 10 people have been killed after Indian security forces fired on protesters since the week-long protests turned violent on Friday, according to Yashpal Singhal, the state's top police officer.

Another 150 protesters have been injured in clashes in various parts of Haryana.

Sporadic violence was reported in Haryana on Sunday, with protesters setting a bank ATM and bank records on fire. Mr Singhal said no major incidents of violence were reported in the state.

He also said paramilitary forces and irrigation engineers are trying to restore the water flow from Munak canal to New Delhi.

The protesters, members of the lower-caste Jat agricultural community, are demanding benefits both at federal and state levels, including guaranteed government jobs or university places.

Talks on Friday between community leaders and state government representatives failed to lead to an agreement.

The protesters are demanding 27% government job quotas or university spots for their community.

India's constitution includes a system of affirmative action for people in the lowest castes to help them overcome discrimination. The government has expanded the number of groups, including the Jat, qualifying for quotas.

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