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Explained: How a series of setbacks prompted the Maratha community to intensify agitation for quota

The Maratha community is rattled by the recent developments, including the setback of the Supreme Court stay. Here are some of the reasons why the community has decided to intensify its agitation.

Written by Manoj Dattatrye More , Edited by Explained Desk | Pune |
Updated: November 9, 2020 8:31:00 am
maratha reservation, maratha quota law, supreme court stay maratha quota, maratha agitation, maratha kanti morcha, maratha morcha mumbai, indian express explainedThe unrest in the Maratha community over its demand for reservation -- under the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act (SEBC) – has grown after the recent "negative" developments. (File)

Activists of the Maratha Kranti Morcha, who had planned a foot march as part of their Sangarsh Yatra from Pandharpur to Mantralaya in Mumbai, were denied permission for the march on Saturday. The activists were served notices under the Disaster Management Act and prohibitory orders were clamped in the city. The activists then came to Pune in private vehicles and held a meeting with the additional chief secretary.

“At the meeting, the activists were promised a meeting with the chief minister, after which they decided to not proceed to Mumbai,” said Rajendra Kondhare, one of the coordinators of the Maratha Kranti Morcha. In Mumbai, the Morcha, under the leadership of Vinayak Mete, took out a Mashal Yatra to Matoshree, the residence of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

The Sangharsh Yatra and Mashal Yatra are part of the Maratha community’s intensified drive to seek reservation in jobs and admissions. The unrest in the Maratha community over its demand for reservation — under the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act (SEBC) – has grown after the recent “negative” developments.

The yatras and protests reflect the anger among the Maratha community. The community is rattled by the recent developments, including the setback of the Supreme Court stay. It is holding the state government responsible for not doing enough to get the stay lifted,” said Kondhare.

Here are some of the reasons why the Maratha community has decided to intensify its agitation

The Supreme Court stay

The Maratha community, which constitutes 32 per cent of Maharashtra’s population, had been waiting for the final ruling of the Supreme Court on the SEBC Act enacted by the state government. Much to its disappointment, the Supreme Court first stayed the implementation of the SEBC Act on September 9, and then postponed the next hearing by four weeks on October 28. This came as a big jolt to the Maratha community, especially youngsters who were looking to get admission and jobs under the SEBC Act once the Supreme Court lifted its stay.

The court, however, made it clear that those who had availed of benefits under the Act will not be affected. The SC ruling came in response to a bunch of petitions which had challenged the validity of the SEBC Act, 2018. 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram

The state government, under the SEBC Act, had given 16 per cent reservation to the Maratha community in jobs and education. However, the Bombay High Court had, in June 2019, ruled that the quota should not exceed 12 per cent in jobs and 13 per cent in admissions.

“The HC, however, said that the 50 per cent cap on total reservation — imposed by the apex court — could be exceeded only in exceptional circumstances. The 50 per cent ceiling was fixed by the SC in its historic Indira Sahwney case,” said Vinod Patil, one of the respondents of the case in the Supreme Court.

State govt’s ‘lack of seriousness’ questioned

When the Supreme Court postponed the next hearing in the case by four weeks, it came as major setback to the community. All their anger was directed at the state government for its perceived failure to get the stay vacated through coordinated efforts and an effective strategy.

The movement’s coordinators accused the state government of mismanagement and poor coordination. MP Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati, who is heading the agitation for reservation, has accused the state government of “lack of seriousness” in resolving the Marathi community’s demands. He said this can be guaged from the fact that the government’s senior counsel turned up two hours late for the “final” hearing in the case in the apex court. The junior lawyers were also not available.

The community is also upset with the state government for its purported delay in sending a letter to the Supreme Court, seeking the setting up of a constitutional bench. Sambhajiraje has said the government should demand the setting up of such a bench. The “appropriate” demand, he pointed out, was finally made before the Supreme Court on October 28, after which the court postponed the hearing by four weeks.

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Admissions stalled

The delay in deciding the status of SEBC Act has left students from the community stranded, as educational institutes are refusing to give them admission under the SEBC Act. The Maratha community has been requesting the government to use its discretionary powers to ensure temporary admission to students under SEBC Act till the case is finally decided in the Supreme Court.

But the government’s lack of response, and its initial refusal to postpone the MPSC exam scheduled on October 11, has angered the community further. The MPSC exam was finally postponed after the Morcha threatened to hold a state-wide agitation over the issue. So far, only medical admissions have been allowed, and that too without quota. Conducting medical admissions is binding on all states as per the Centre’s policy.

EWS offer rejected

As a way out of the imbroglio, the Uddhav Thackeray-led government had, on September 23, announced that the EWS (Economically Weaker Section) category would be applied for students of the Maratha community. However, a large section of the community openly opposed the move.

Their contention was that if EWS was used for the community, then the SEBC Act will not be upheld by the Supreme Court. Rajendra Kondhare, one of the coordinators of Maratha Kranti Morcha, who had led the protest against government’s EWS offer, argued that EWS quota will be counter-productiveas the SEBC Act, which came into being after extensive survey and study of the community by the Gaikwad Commission, will be rendered invalid.

“The Supreme Court might argue that if the community is already getting reservation benefits under EWS, why is there a need for a separate Act,” contended Kondhare.

Protest against minister

Senior Congress leader and state PWD Minister Ashok Chavan heads the state government’s sub-committee on reservation. He has, however, received flak as the state government allegedly failed to present the community’s case effectively in the Supreme Court.

The Maratha community coordinators have claimed that effective teamwork and a strong strategy to argue the case before the apex court has been missing. Chavan, on his part, said he was ready to resign if the chief minister asked him to do so.

“Chavan should resign and another minister should be appointed,” said Vinayak Mete, one of the coordinators of MKM.

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