The state government’s decision to provide 16 per cent reservation to Marathas in jobs and education has drew a sharp reaction from the OBC community, which has demanded that the OBC quota be raised from the current 19 per cent considering that they make up 52 per cent of the state’s population. Under the banner of Other Backward Caste Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti (OBCASS), led by Anil Mahajan, a meeting has been convened in Delhi on August 10.
“Across party lines, OBC leaders, including MPs and legislators from the state, are planning to take up the fight for higher representation of OBCs in jobs and education. In Maharashtra, we get only 19 per cent reservation, whereas we make up 52 per cent of the population,” Mahajan said. “We are not against Maratha reservation. But our objection is to the 16 per cent quota the government has promised the community. How did they arrive at the figure,” he said. “Moreover, 16 per cent quota to the Maratha community cannot be extended without altering existing reservations for other communities. As the matter falls in the Centre’s jurisdiction, the OBCASS has decided to protest in Delhi,” he said, adding that “we will also take up the matter in court”.
After the state government announced its decision to fill up 72,000 posts in the next two years, the Maratha community has been demanding that 16 per cent of these be reserved for the community, pending the final outcome over the quota issue in the Bombay High Court. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had said in the state Assembly on July 20 that his government would provide 16 per cent reservation in government jobs to the Maratha
community. At present, the quota for various castes and communities in the state is capped at 52 per cent – Scheduled Castes (13 per cent), Scheduled Tribes (7 per cent), OBCs (19 per cent); Nomadic, Denotified Tribes and Special Backward Category together at 13 per cent.
“Nobody is against the government’s decision to give the Maratha community reservation. But when the government says that it would provide Constitutional and legal validity to Maratha quota at 16 per cent, it raises a bigger question. How can they accommodate 16 per cent Marathas when the Supreme Court itself has disallowed reservation beyond 52 per cent in states,” said a senior OBC leader from the NCP.
Another aspect being raised by OBC leaders relates to their “right for higher reservation within the existing 52 per cent”. “In the state, OBCs constitute 350 sub-castes. In terms of population, almost 52 per cent are OBCs. Therefore, they have a right to demand higher reservation. The quota should be in the ratio of the population,” said a member of the
OBCASS. While admitting that the Marathas’ agitation for reservation has led to greater consolidation of OBCs within Maharashtra, an activist said, “The Marathas’ assertion has helped them bring 350 sub-communities under one umbrella. They are networking with other OBC leaders, MPs and MLAs in other states to elicit support for their cause.”
A senior official in the legal department said, “We find ourselves in a dilemma. On the one hand, we have to tackle the demand for 16 per cent reservation to Marathas. On the other, any attempt to provide constitutional validity would lead to an outcry among the OBCs to review their existing quota. The SC has already imposed a ceiling not to extend the reservation beyond 52 per cent. The state has already enforced 52 per cent reservation.”