A bill providing 16 per cent reservation to Marathas in government jobs and educational institutions, under a new, independent category called Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC), was unanimously passed by both Houses of the Maharashtra State Legislature on Thursday. With the passage of the Bill, the total reservation in the state will rise to 68 per cent.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who tabled the Bill in the State Assembly and Council, said: “Based on the recommendations, conclusions and findings of the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission which analysed quantifiable data, the government has decided that the Maratha community is socially and educationally backward, and entitled to reservation benefits and advantages enshrined in Articles 15 (4) and 16 (4) of the Constitution.”
The government underlined that the 16 per cent reservation for Marathas would be in addition to the existing 52 per cent reservation for different sections in the state.
Explaining the rationale for creating a separate category, Fadnavis said: “Enlisting Marathas… under the OBC category would have led to a catastropic scenario. It would have led to unwarranted repercussions.” He thanked all political parties for displaying unprecendented unity to ensure smooth passage of the Bill.
Challenges ahead: legal scrutiny, implementation
If the Bill providing for 16% reservation for Marathas passes the inevitable test of judicial scrutiny, it will mean increasing the total reservation in Maharashtra from 52% to 68%. That would be way above the Supreme Court’s stipulation that it should not exceed 50%. Clearly, political parties irrespective of ideologies are reluctant to resist pressure from the state’s dominant community — the Marathas represent an estimated 30% of the population — especially keeping in mind the national and state polls next year. If this is translated into policy, implementing it is where the challenges lie, with job creation both in the manufacturing sector and by the government at a low ebb and with rapid urbanisation. It remains to be seen whether the targeted gains in terms of electoral backing by the community would be enduring when faced with such challenges.
The Maharashtra State Reservation (of seats for admission in educational institutions in the state and for appointments in the public services and posts under the state) for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018, clearly states that the benefits will be confined to government jobs and educational institutions — including private educational institutions other than minority educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the state.
The quota will not extend to Marathas who are not in the creamy layer, or to elections to village panchayats, panchayat samitis, zilla parishads, municipal councils and municipal corporations etc.
Earlier this month, the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission had submitted its report which said the Maratha community is socially, economically and educationally backward. Fadnavis on Thursday also tabled the Action Taken Report (ATR) on the MSBCC’s recommendations for Maratha quota in government jobs and education.
The Marathas constitute 33 per cent of the state population and have been, politically, a dominant class for over six decades. According to the the MSBCC’s report, the percentage of Marathas below poverty line was 37.28 per cent, higher than the 25 per cent base; the percentage of those with small and marginal land-holdings among Marathas was 62.78 per cent, much higher than the base 48.25 per cent which is considered for social-economic backwardness.
If more than 30 per cent families live in “kachcha houses” (mud houses), the community is considered socially backward. In the case of Marathas, this was up to about 70 per cent. The grading for education (post Class X and Class XII) also showed Marathas lagged behind the national average literacy index. The community registered the highest number of suicides, especially in the agriculture sector. This was considered an important aspect of the socio-economic crisis in the community.
Although the Marathas have demanded quotas for two decades, their campaign gained momentum since July 2016 following the Maratha Kranti Morcha taking to the street through 58 silent rallies. The second phase of the agitation saw violence and eight suicides across the state.