Fadnavis Govt Approves Reservation to Marathas After Caste Panel Finds Them Socially, Educationally Backward

Reservation to Marathas After Caste Panel Finds Them Socially, Educationally Backward
Reservation to Marathas After Caste Panel Finds Them Socially, Educationally Backward

In a move that may have larger political ramifications in state politics, the Maharashtra government on Sunday approved reservation for the Maratha community, which has been agitating since last year demanding reservation in jobs and education.

The reservation will be granted to the community under a new category called ‘Socially and Educationally Backward Class’ (SEBC) as per the recommendation of the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission, he said. The politically dominant Maratha community constitutes over 30 per cent of the state’s population.

Speaking to reporters after a cabinet meeting on the eve of the winter session of Maharashtra legislature here, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “The state cabinet has accepted the backward class commission’s report for Maratha reservation.

“Quantum of reservation will be fixed by the cabinet sub-committee assigned to chalk out technical aspects of the bill (granting quota) which will be tabled in the coming session,” he said.

After the commission submitted its report to the government earlier this week, Fadnavis had hinted that the demand for quota would be fulfilled.

The commission’s report on Sunday said Marathas are a “socially and educationally backward class of citizens” with minuscule representation in government and semi-government services.

A socially and educationally backward class can be extended benefits of reservation under Articles 15(4) and 16(4) of the Constitution, and in view of such extra-ordinary and exceptional condition, the state government is liable to take action, the report has said, sources maintained.

Asked whether the proposed reservation for Marathas will cross the 50 per cent ceiling set by the Supreme Court, Fadnavis said the commission has described the condition of Maratha community as “extra-ordinary and exceptional”. “Even though the case of Tamil Nadu, where reservation has crossed 50 per cent mark, is pending in the apex court, it has not been struck down. We are confident of extending reservation to Marathas,” he said.

The Maharashtra government had referred the issue of Maratha reservation to the backward class commission in June 2017. The commission started working on the issue since August 2017.

The state legislature in 2014 passed a bill to grant quota to the community. That law was stayed by the Bombay High Court. The present government had then approached the Supreme Court. With no relief in sight in the apex court, the state government again approached the High Court, which asked it to form a backward commission and submit a report through it.

Over the last 15 months, the commission has visited several parts of Maharashtra and they have heard grievances of around 2, 00,000 members of the Maratha community members which was also followed by a survey of 25,000 families.

The data from the survey was collated with the grievances put forth by the community members during public hearings and this herculean exercise took months to be completed. The commission sources have told News18 that the efforts were taken to ensure that the provision doesn’t fail the legal test.

In the aftermath of the agrarian crisis in the state, the Marathas, who form around a third of the state’s nearly 13 crore population, have been agitating since last year demanding reservation in jobs and education.

Initially, the protesters held over 50 ‘mook morchas’ (silent marches) in 2016 and 2017 across the state pressing for reservation among other demands. The protests took a violent in August this year when protesters attacked buses, stopped train services and blocked highways in parts of the state. This round of violece also saw a youth commit suicide by flinging himself in Godavari river in Aurangabad, while a demonstrator died by consuming poison. As many as 194 people were arrested by the police for rioting and arson.

Apart from demanding a decision on their demands at the earliest, the community members sought a waiver of farmer loans, justice in Kopardi rape case and a solution to unemployment.

Asked about the demand for reservation by the Dhangar community, Fadnavis said the Dhangars are presently in the VJNT (Nomadic Tribes) category and have 3.5 per cent reservation but they want quota under the Scheduled Tribes category. “This comes under the Centre’s purview. We will make the recommendation to the Centre,” he said.

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