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Maharashtra's Maratha Reservation Proposal

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November 20, 2018

Why in news?

Maharashtra Cabinet recently ratified a decision to grant reservation to the Maratha community under a newly created, independent category.

Who are the Marathas?

  • Marathas are a Marathi-speaking, politically dominant community in Maharashtra.
  • Since the formation of Maharashtra state in 1960, 11 of its 18 chief ministers have been from the Maratha community.
  • They make up about one-third of the population of the state.
  • Historically, they have been identified as a warrior class with large land-holdings.
  • Division of land and agrarian problems have led to a decline of prosperity among middle-class and lower-middle-class Marathas.
  • Nevertheless, the community still plays an important role in the rural economy.

What is the rationale for the recent decision?

  • Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission (MSBCC) submitted a report on the Maratha community.
  • It highlighted that the community was socially, economically and educationally backward.
  • It found that nearly -
  1. 37% of Marathas were living below the poverty line
  2. 62% own small and marginal land holdings
  3. 70% live in kutcha houses
  • Compared to other communities, the study found educational backwardness amongst the Maratha community after standards X and XII.

Is the decision justified?

  • The SBCC’s reported findings of Marathas backwardness do not go well with the available data.
  • As with Jats in Rajasthan and Patels in Gujarat, Marathas do enjoy a socio-economic status closer to that of the forward classes/castes in Maharashtra.
  • Besides, there is no reason to argue that Marathas face any social stigma that calls for affirmative action.
  • So the reservation demand is less an acknowledgement of social backwardness from a politically powerful community.
  • The relative inability to move up the economic ladder drives the sections of these dominant communities demand for reservation.
  • The lack of adequate employment opportunities amid a sluggish agrarian economy is a case.
  • So it is more a call for the accrual of welfare benefits to the less well-off sections among the community.

What is the quantum of reservation being planned?

  • Maratha community leaders have demanded 16% reservation but the government has however not taken a decision on that.
  • A Cabinet subcommittee constituted to implement the quota will fix the quantum.
  • At present, the total reservation in the state is 52%, of which the larger quotas are for SC (13%), ST (7%) and OBC (19%).
  • The rest being for Special Backward Class, Vimukti Jati, Nomadic Tribe (B), Nomadic Tribe (C) (Dhangar) and Nomadic Tribe (D) (Vanjari).
  • The quotas given to the Nomadic Tribes and Special Backward Class, in fact, have been carved out of the total OBC quota.

What are the challenges?

  • Category - The Maratha Kranti Morcha, which led the reservation agitation, had initially demanded a quota under the OBC category.
  • OBC groups had been expressing fears that the new quota would include Marathas within the existing OBC share.
  • OBC groups have thus been threatening an agitation as Nomadic Tribes and Special Backward Class also have their quotas within the OBC share.
  • Shares - Meanwhile, the OBCs want their 19% share raised to 27%.
  • The Dhangar (Shepherd) community demands that they be moved from the OBC to the ST category.
  • Also, Muslims have intensified their demand for a 5% quota in the wake of the Maratha reservation decision.
  • Total reservation - The Supreme Court had set the 50% cap in 1992 (Indra Sawhney vs Union of India) for reservation in states.
  • Maharashtra’s reservation is already beyond the Supreme Court cap of 50%.
  • Given this, if the demand for 16% is met, the total would become 68%, almost matching the 69% in Tamil Nadu.

What is the government's clarification?

  • The government has said the Maratha quota will not affect the existing reserved sections.
  • It's because the plan is to introduce a new, independent quota, called Socially and Educationally Backward Class.
  • Also, the state argues there is no such provision for a ceiling on quota in the Constitution.
  • On the other hand, the Constitution provides for quota under extraordinary and exceptional cases.
  • This applies when a community’s backwardness is documentarily established.
  • Notably, the Maharashtra government substantiated the quota based on findings of the MSBCC.
  • So it will conform to Constitutional norms.
  • But legally speaking, Tamil Nadu's 69% reservation matter is pending before the Supreme Court.
  • Therefore, a final verdict on whether the state government can exceed 50% reservation remains a question.
  • Given all these, beyond reservation, the State should certainly address the prolonged agrarian distress and lack of adequate jobs.

 

Source: Indian Express, The Hindu

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