MARATHA STUDENTS pursuing professional courses in Maharashtra, whose annual family income is not above Rs 6 lakh, may soon be brought under the ambit of the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category, making them eligible for an annual allowance of Rs 10,000. A cabinet sub-committee formed by the government to look into the issue of Maratha reservation is currently considering this proposal.
A government official told The Indian Express that the sub-committee was deliberating on a scholarship scheme for Maratha students, similar to schemes available for EWS students. According to the proposed scheme, Maratha students from families with a household income not exceeding Rs 6 lakh annually will be eligible for a scholarship of Rs 10,000 for an academic year. “The sub-committee is currently deliberating the details of the scheme such as the scholarship amount and the income capping,” said the official, adding a decision was likely in a couple of days. The sub-committee’s decision will then be tabled before the cabinet.
Currently, the state offers two fee reimbursement schemes to EWS students. Under the Rajarshi Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj State Fees Reimbursement Scheme, students whose family income falls below Rs 1 lakh get a reimbursement of 50 per cent of their tuition fees directly into their Aadhaar-linked bank accounts.
Under the Dr Punjabrao Deshmukh Hostel Subsistence Allowance Scheme, those with family income below Rs 1 lakh but whose family owns a piece of land, receive a reimbursement of Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 for hostel facilities.
The proposed new scheme, aimed specifically for Maratha students, comes after the series of Maratha Morchas that rocked the state earlier this year. At least 58 silent marches and road shows were held by lakhs of Marathas in several parts of Maharashtra, with the participants demanding reservation in jobs and educational institutions. A cabinet sub-committee was later formed to look into these demands. The committee is headed by Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil. The other members are Diwakar Raote and Eknath Shinde of the Shiv Sena and Girish Mahajan and Sambhaji Patil Nilangekar of the BJP.
Legal experts, however, said the scheme might be against the constitutional ethos of the country. “If the state government is providing sops to a certain community, it can be challenged in the court of law. The state government will have to then justify on what basis only a certain caste is eligible for the sop,” said a senior lawyer, who did not wish to be named.
According to another lawyer, bringing the Marathas under the OBC (General) category would have been more logical as not all Marathas are economically backward. “However, since the OBC category is more rigorous to get into, the state may have chosen the EWS category. However, the question remains, in every community there are some families which are economically weaker. Why have a scheme specifically for a particular caste,” he said.