The Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra on Wednesday gave its approval to 16 per cent reservation for Maratha community and 5 per cent reservation for 50 backward Muslim communities in jobs and education in the state.
The move, which comes ahead of the Assembly elections in the state, will benefit nearly 43 per cent of the state’s population — Marathas constitute roughly 32 per cent and Muslims make up 10.6 per cent of the state’s population. With this, the total reservation percentage in the state has gone up to 73, which means seven out of 10 seats in education institutions and government jobs will be filled under quota.
The Cabinet also gave an approval for creating a new category called ‘economically and socially backward category (ESBS)’ under which Marathas will be given reservation. While there had been growing demand for including Marathas under Other Backward Class category, the Chavan government has chosen to create a new category for Marathas altogether. The government also rejected Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission’s contention that the Marathas do not qualify for the reservation.
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The reservations, however, will not be applicable to the creamy layer of the society.
“We have created these quotas keeping in mind that the present 52 per cent reservations are not affected in any way. The reservations are under Article 15 (4) of the Indian Constitution for education and Article 16 (4) for job reservations,” Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said after presiding the Cabinet meeting.
Chavan said the government relied on the report of Narayan Rane committee to clear the reservation proposal for the Maratha community in which the panel had collected empirical data to prove the backwardness of Marathas. The data will be submitted to the Supreme Court in case anyone challenged the reservation, he added.
Interestingly, reservation already exists among OBCs for a section of Marathas known as Kunbis. A cabinet sub-committee headed by Industries Minister Narayan Rane had submitted its report to the government earlier this year in which it had recommended 20 per cent reservation for Marathas in government jobs and educational institutions.
On the issue of reservation to Muslims, Chavan said: “This is not reservation based on religion. This is being given on the basis of the backwardness of the community.” The state has deemed the 50 communities of Muslims as socially backward class and has relied on the reports of the Sachar panel, Ranganath Mishra committee and Dr Mehmood-ur-Rahman committee to give reservations to the community.
Questions are being raised over the legal tenability of the move with the government failing to work out on any empirical data of its own to point out the backwardness of these Muslim communities.