Monday, April 15, 2024

10% Maratha Quota Gets Cross-Party Backing In Maharashtra Assembly

Mumbai:

The Maharashtra Assembly today unanimously passed the Maratha Reservation Bill, a legislation that will grant a 10 per cent reservation for the Maratha community in both education and government jobs. The Maharashtra State Socially and Educationally Backward Bill 2024, once enacted, will undergo a thorough review after a decade of implementation.

The decision follows a comprehensive report submitted by the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission, based on a survey covering nearly 2.5 crore families. This survey meticulously explores the social, economic, and educational backwardness faced by the Maratha community in the state.

According to the report, the Maratha community constitutes a significant 28 per cent of Maharashtra’s population. “The survey has been conducted on nearly 2-2.5 crore people. On February 20, we have called a special session of the assembly after which Maratha reservation will be given according to the law,” said Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. 

The urgency for the passing of the bill was spurred by the hunger strike by Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange, who commenced his protest on February 10. Mr Jarange’s persistent demand for a special legislative session to discuss the Maratha quota issue gained momentum, culminating in the recent tabling of the bill.

The primary objective of the new legislation is to address the economic struggles experienced by the Maratha community. The survey reveals that 21.22 per cent of Maratha families are below the poverty line, exceeding the state’s average of 17.4 per cent. Additionally, 84 per cent of Maratha families do not fall under the ‘progressed’ category, making them eligible for reservation as outlined in the bill.

The survey also indicates that 94 per cent of farmer suicides in Maharashtra involve Maratha families.

Historically, attempts by state governments to introduce reservations for Marathas have faced legal challenges, with previous efforts being struck down by courts. However, the persistence of protests and the political significance of the Maratha community have led to repeated revivals of this sensitive issue, given that the community constitutes a significant portion of Maharashtra’s population.

Mr Jarange today said it does not matter if the Maharashtra government grants 10 or 20 per cent reservation as long as the quota comes under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category and is not separate.

“The government is giving us what we don’t want. We want a reservation in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category, but they are giving us a separate quota instead. If the government doesn’t discuss and implement the draft notification on the reservation for blood relatives of Kunbi Marathas, we will decide on the course of the agitation tomorrow,” the activist said, as quoted by news agency PTI.

“A separate reservation outside the OBC category might pose legal challenges, as it could exceed the 50 per cent reservation cap,” he added.

The Maharashtra government recently issued a draft notification allowing Maratha individuals to claim affiliation with the agrarian Kunbi community. According to the notification, if a Maratha person can provide documentary evidence of belonging to the Kunbi community, their blood relatives would also be eligible for Kunbi caste certificates. The Kunbi community falls within the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) category, and this move has been met with both support and opposition.

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