Days after the State Backward Class Commission submitted its report which said that the Maratha community is socially, economically and educationally backward, the Maharashtra government on Sunday cleared reservation for Marathas under a new, independent category called Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC).
Speaking to reporters after a Cabinet meeting which ratified the decision on Sunday, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said: “We have taken the decision to give Maratha community reservation under the newly created, independent category, Socially and Educationally Backward Class… There is adequate provision in the Indian Constitution to extend reservation to a community, provided its social, educational and financial backwardness is established.”
The decision to classify Marathas as a separate category is an attempt to avoid legal and constitutional hurdles as well as conflict between Marathas and OBCs. “Since Marathas will be considered as a separate category, there is no question of any community losing its share of quota in government education or jobs,” said Fadnavis.
At present, the total reservation in Maharashtra is 52 per cent — 13 per cent for Scheduled Castes, 7 per cent for Scheduled Tribes, 19 per cent for Other Backward Classes, 2 per cent for Special Backward Classes, 3 per cent for Vimukta Jati, 2.5 per cent for Nomadic Tribe-B, 3.5 per cent for Nomadic Tribe-C (Dhangar) and 2 per cent for Nomadic Tribe-D (Vanjari).
While the Maratha community had demanded 16 per cent reservation, a Cabinet sub-committee, which has been constituted to implement the quota, will fix the quantum.
Asked about the Supreme Court’s directive on limiting reservation to 50 per cent, Fadnavis said: “There is no such provision for a ceiling on quota in the Indian Constitution. On the contrary, the Constitution provides for quota under extraordinary and exceptional cases, when a community’s backwardness is documentarily established.”
Pointing to Tamil Nadu, where 69 per cent reservation has been implemented, Fadnavis said: “Although the matter has been challenged, the Supreme Court has not stayed the reservation.”
The Marathas constitute 33 per cent of the state population and have been, politically, a dominant class for over six decades. According to the the State Backward Class Commission’s report submitted on Thursday, the percentage of Marathas below poverty line was 37.28 per cent, higher than the 25 per cent base; the percentage of those with small and marginal land-holdings among Marathas was 62.78 per cent, much higher than the base 48.25 per cent which is considered for social-economic backwardness.
If more than 30 per cent families live in “kachcha houses” (mud houses), the community is considered socially backward. In the case of Marathas, this was up to 60 to 65 per cent.
The grading for education (post Class X and Class XII) also showed Marathas lagged behind the national average literacy index. The community registered the highest number of suicides, especially in the agriculture sector. This was considered an important aspect of the socio-economic crisis in the community.
Although the Marathas have demanded quotas for two decades, their campaign gained momentum since July 2016 following the Maratha Kranti Morcha taking to the street through 58 silent rallies. The second phase of the agitation saw violence and eight suicides across the state.
Hailing the government’s decision, Rajendra Kondane, Maratha Kranti Morcha coordinator, said: “It is a historical decision. The Maratha reservation demand was pending for several decades. The government should now take the process forward and ensure its enforcement at the earliest, after completing the legal and constitutional process.”
Anil Mahajan, head of the OBC Kranti Parishad, said: “Since the government has decided to given Marathas quota under a separate category, we have nothing to complain about. Our concern was that OBC quota should remain intact.”
Congress Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said: “We welcome the government’s decision to endorse the commission’s report and give reservation to Marathas under a special category. But it should ensure that it is enforced in letter and spirit, without any legal challenge.”