A survey has found that around 40 per cent of those living in 11 slums in Pune city belong to the “upper caste” Maratha community, which is now pitching for OBC status. The survey report has been submitted to the State Backward Class Commission, whose report is yet to be tabled before the state legislature.
The survey was conducted by the Bhumata Charitable Trust, Pune, led by Budhajirao Mulik, an agriculture expert and an authority on Marathas’ social status. The survey of slums is apparently considered vital by the State Backward Class Commission to prove the social and educational backwardness of the Maratha community. “We have been told by officials of the commission that the survey is significant in view of the demand of the community to grant it OBC status,” said Shankar Tondepatil, who led the survey in slums.
The survey was conducted in Sutardara slums, Kiskindanagar, Jai Bhawani Nagar, Kelewadi, Dattawadi, Janata Vasahat, Upper Indiranagar, Supper Indiranagar, Bhelakewasti, Warje Ramwadi and Kothrud depot area. Tondepatil said that during the survey, they found that 37-40 per cent of those living in these slums were from the Maratha community. “They came to Pune city in search of ‘rozi roti’. They belong to different parts of Maharashtra, particularly drought-hit areas. Also, many are from Maval, Mulshi, Junnar, Khed and Shirur talukas of the district,” he said.
The Maratha families, each having four to nine members, live in ramshackle huts, mud-brick tinsheet houses and in congested alleys. The size of their homes do not extend beyond 300 sqft. “Some were found living in just over 150 sqft rooms,” he said.
Tondepatil said the families have to make do without proper toilets, bathrooms and electricity. The survey found that children instead of attending schools end up as newspaper delivery boys. “It was rare to find a graduate. If one didcome across a graduate youth, then he was searching for a job,” he said.
Many of them ended up working as painters or at vehicle washing centres. Since the Maratha families lack financial support, their children had to be educated in civic or ZP-run schools. To support their families, the women work as helps in nearby buildings. “The men, mostly uneducated, work as watchmen, porters or mathadi workers drawing meagre salaries or no salaries,” the survey found.
Shantaram Kunjir, coordinator of the Maratha Kranti Morcha, said the plight of the Maratha community as revealed by the survey was nothing surprising. “Majority of Marathas are poor and struggling to survive. This is a fact and cannot be denied,” he said.