DECEMBER 1, 2018, has turned into a historic day for the Maratha community, which forms 32 per cent of Maharashtra’s population, as the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018 took effect, providing 16 per cent reservation in jobs and educational institutions for the Maratha community. The bill — called the Maharashtra State Reservation (of seats for admission in education institutions in the state and for appointments in public services and posts under the state) — was passed in the state legislature on Thursday without any discussions, minutes after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis tabled it.
On Saturday, the government issued a gazette notification for the Act to take effect. Though the chief minister had asked Marathas to celebrate, there was no celebration as 42 Maratha youths died during the agitations.
The political field in Maharashtra is already dominated by Maratha community, which has had the highest number of chief ministers and MLAs since the state was formed in 1960. “It is indeed a historic day for the Maratha community. Our struggle of nearly four decades has borne fruit. We hope that poor Marathas will now be able to improve their lot,” said Vinod Patil, who has filed a caveat on the issue in the Bombay High Court. “The caveat has been filed so that we are intimated about the case. It will help us submit our say. The case will not be stayed without hearing us out,” he said.
“…Even otherwise, we are fully prepared to battle it out and prove our social and educational backwardness in the courts with the help of the (Maharashtra Backward Class) commission’s report,” he said. Two years ago, in the pursuit of reservation, members of the community took out 58 morchas across the state under the banner of the Maratha Kranti Morcha. “The silent morchas were something that Maharashtra and even the country had not witnessed…,” said Rajendra Kondhare and Maruti Bhapkar, coordinators of the Maratha Kranti Morcha.
“Nearly 36 years of struggle of the Maratha community has come to an end… Marathas never gave up as they agitated with patience and silence, and remained stoic…,” said Budhajirao Mulik, who is considered an authority on social issues pertaining to Marathas. Mulik said he had seen the fight for reservation by the Maratha community since 1982, when Annasaheb Patil was at the forefront. “He was the first to bring the plight of Marathas to the forefront nearly four decades ago, but since then the condition of Marathas has only worsened further,” he said.
Mulik runs the Bhutama Charitable Trust, which played a crucial role in carrying out a survey on the condition of the Maratha community. He said as per the information available to him, the Maharashtra Backward Class Commission has pointed out that 93 per cent of Marathas live below the poverty line.
“Our survey, which was submitted to the commission, has highlighted the pitiable conditions that Marathas live in,” he said. Mulik said the commission has apparently stated that 76 per cent Marathas were involved in farming. “The commission has pointed out that only 6 per cent Marathas are in government and semi-government services… we hope the poor among the Marathas will finally get justice,” he said. “The number of Maratha farmers are the highest among those who have committed suicides in the past decade or so,” added Mulik.
“…People think that Marathas are an affluent class because of those politicians… those in cooperative fields and sugar factories who have tons of money… These are only 5-8 per cent of the 32 per cent Maratha population. The vast majority is very poor and lives in pathetic conditions, with no proper jobs and education facilities,” he said.