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Row brews over Maharashtra government’s move to scrap promotion quota

The abrupt decision has left employees belonging to those categories angry, and Congress ministers in the three-party ruling coalition fuming at not being consulted.

A row is brewing in the Maha Vikas Aghadi ruling coalition over the May 7 government resolution (GR) scrapping 33 per cent reservation in promotions for those employed through quotas in the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, Vimukti Jati and Nomadic Tribes and Special Backward Classes categories.

Energy Minister Nitin Raut, who met Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray earlier this week to express his objections to the scrapping of the promotions, said on Friday that the Congress would launch a state-wide agitation demanding immediate withdrawal of the GR.

The abrupt decision has left employees belonging to those categories angry, and Congress ministers in the three-party ruling coalition fuming at not being consulted.

Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar has called a meeting of all ministers on Monday to discuss the issue.

The decision to scrap the nearly two-decade-old policy came two days after the Supreme Court judgment quashing the quota for the Maratha community.

The 33 per cent reservation in promotions for SC/ST/VJNT/SBC was introduced on April 25, 2004 by then then Sushilkumar Shinde government through a Government Resolution. It gave 13 per cent reservation to SCs, seven per cent to STs, 3 per cent to Vimukt Jati, two per cent to special backward class and rest for VJNT.

Those who joined state government service on April 25, 2004 or before were entitled for promotion as per their seniority and those joining after April 25, 2004 were to get promotion as per the date of joining.

However, the Bombay High Court struck down the GR in 2017. Last week’s GR issued by the general administration department cited the Bombay High Court decision to scrap the promotion quota. With this, the government has done three flip-flops on the issue amid escalating tensions over uncertainty on the Maratha quota.

In March, the government issued a GR saying that all promotion would be done on the basis of merit. After an outcry over this, they issued another GR giving 33 per cent promotion to SC/ST/VJNT/SBC groups. The third U-turn was on May 7, scrapping the policy once again.

Bharat Wankhede of the SC/ST/VJNT/SBC government and semi-government employee and officer association said, “The doors have been closed on us. This is injustice. We have approached ministers like K C Padvi, Nitin Raut and Varsha Gaikwad. I also met Congress leader Chandrakant Handore and asked him to help us. After the matter was struck down by the High Court, it is being heard in the Supreme Court.”

Minister Raut told The Indian Express that he met CM Thackeray on the issue. He said that Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar has organised a meeting on this Monday to find a solution.

Raut said the Congress would bring pressure “from all corners” of the state against the move to scrap the quota in promotions. Raut heads the SC morcha of the Congress. He held a video conference in which former MP Bhalchandra Mungekar, former minister Chandrakant Handore, AICC secretary Sampat Kumar, ST cell chief Manoj Bagdi and senior Congress leader Bhai Nagrale participated.

The May 7 GR had raised hopes in the open category that the latest government decision would clear the way for their promotions. A joint secretary who earlier served in the general administration department said hundreds of posts in Mantralaya were vacant because the
government’s Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court against the 2017 HC judgment is still pending.

“In Mantralaya, 30 posts of joint and deputy secretaries are vacant from 2017, 75 posts of under secretary, 200 posts of section officer and 300 posts of assistant and clerk are vacant from 2017 and there is unrest is the open category and many have retired without promotion. These will be filled up now,” the joint secretary said.

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