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Week-long protests leave millions of people in India without water

Indian authorities worked to restore a main water supply to New Delhi, India’s capital city of 16 million people, today after protesters took control of a key canal over the weekend.

Authorities took back control of the Munak canal Saturday, after Jat protesters disrupted the waterway amid violent protests over job and education access. The water shortage capped week-long protests in the neighboring Haryana state, where Indian forces opened fire and killed at least 12 protesters, the Associated Press reported. Another 150 protesters were injured.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called for New Delhi to ration water, including closing all of the city’s schools and several businesses Monday. The affected canal supplies 60 percent of New Delhi’s water. The head of Delhi’s water board told the BBC that it would take three to four days before the canal is fully functional again.

The protesters are members of the Jat caste, a historically agricultural community, who are protesting a bill introduced by the government that would allow for more job and education opportunities for Other Backward Castes. Other Backward Castes (OBC) is an official term the Indian government uses to describe castes that have been deprived of social, educational and work opportunities.

In March 2014, the Indian government promised Jats, an upper caste and politically influential community, that they would be added to the list of OBC, allowing them more access to government jobs and education. But, a year later, India’s Supreme Court ruled that Jats could not be categorized as a backward caste, a ruling that angered the Jat community. In recent days, protesters reacted by blocking roads, looting and setting fire to public buildings.

On Monday, in an effort to calm protesters, the Jats worked a deal with government officials to receive the “backward” designation.

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