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Explained: Maharashtra government’s EWS quota to Maratha community

With the Maratha quota struck down by SC, the government issued a new order on May 31 stating that the Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC) candidates can avail benefits of the EWS depending on their eligibility.

Written by Vishwas Waghmode , Edited by Explained Desk | Mumbai |
Updated: June 5, 2021 8:03:06 am
Members of the Maratha community stage a protest for reservation in Mumbai. (Express Photo: Ganesh Shirsekar, File)

Weeks after the Supreme Court struck down the Maratha reservation, the Maha Vikas Aghadi government issued an order on May 31, stating that eligible candidates from the Maratha community could avail benefits under the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) quota. The EWS quota is open to all those not covered by any other quota and whose family annual income is below Rs 8 lakh.

Why did the government issue an order for something that is obvious?

The government resolution on opening EWS to Maratha candidates came weeks after the May 5 Supreme Court order striking down the Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC) reservation given to the Maratha community.

It was done to correct a procedural anomaly arising out of the SEBC quota enacted by the state in 2018. Soon after this quota came into existence, the Centre enacted the EWS quota providing 10 per cent reservation in jobs and educational institutions to the economically weaker sections in the general category in January 2019.

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Acting on complaints that Maratha community candidates had started availing benefits from both SEBC and EWS, the state government in July 2020 issued an order stating that those availing the benefits of the SEBC were not eligible to get the benefits of the EWS. Instructions were issued to the concerned authorities for ensuring its implementation.

However, when the SC placed a stay on the Maratha quota on September 9, 2020, the state cabinet decided to allow Maratha candidates to avail of EWS category. Sources in the government said that the Maratha leaders and organisations opposed the move at the time fearing that the government was trying to get out of the SEBC quota, and that it would impact the legal prospects of retaining the quota. On account of the opposition, the government was initially forced to put the cabinet decision on hold for some time, and issue an order in December 2020 stating that availing EWS benefits would be “optional”, sources said.

Also in Explained |How Marathas got reservation

What are the benefits given to the Maratha community in the new order?

With the Maratha quota struck down by SC, the government issued a new order on May 31 stating that the SEBC candidates can avail benefits of the EWS depending on their eligibility. It was to make it evident to the Maratha community that these benefits are no longer “optional” for them and they can avail EWS benefits now, said an official adding that all the orders issued for the SEBC have been cancelled.

It further said that the new order would be in force with retrospective effect for candidates who have been selected in the recruitment process before September 9, 2020, but their appointments are pending. The candidates awaiting the appointments are being protected with this clause to ensure that their posts remain untouched, said an official, adding that the “optional” EWS benefits will end with the new order.

The state government has asked the chief secretary to review the recruitment process and compile data on this within the next few days.

The order says the EWS reservation will remain in force for all future admissions in the educational institutes. Officials said it was necessary to put out the order as the legal battle in the apex court on the Maratha quota is a long-drawn process and hence all the measures have been taken to provide EWS benefits to the Maratha community in the near future.

What Maratha leaders say about the new order?

The Maratha Kranti Morcha (MKM) leaders termed it as a ploy by the government to show that it is doing something for the community. “After the SC order, the community automatically is eligible for the EWS category, which is for all economically weaker sections across caste and community who are not enlisted under any other reservation,” said Rajendra Kondhare of the MKM.

The leader further said that the state government decision is a ploy to diffuse the unrest amongst the Maratha community and also show that it was doing something for the community.

Why do Marathas matter in Maharashtra politics?

The government had to issue the orders to pacify the Maratha community, which is a dominant community in the state and no party can afford to ignore it, in wake of the SC striking down the reservation. Marathas constitute 32 per cent of the state population and are a major political force to reckon with in Maharashtra. The community had held 58 silent, but massive rallies across the state between 2016-17 on the reservation and other issues.

Subsequently, in November 2018, the then BJP-Sena government had given the 16 per cent reservation in government jobs and education to the Maratha community under the Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC). A special act was passed by both the houses of the state legislature with the unanimous support by the then opposition parties- Congress and NCP. However, the SEBC reservation was challenged in the Bombay High Court which upheld it but reduced it to 12 per cent in education and 13 per cent in jobs.

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