Maratha Quota: Quota should be full proof, we will not take any decision in haste

Pankaj Prasad
Devendra Fadnavis and Eknath Shinde
Devendra Fadnavis and Eknath Shinde

CM Shinde said that the demand for Maratha reservation is a social issue, not a political one.

These days, politics regarding Maratha quota is intense in Maharashtra. Meanwhile, today the government has called an all-party meeting in Mumbai to discuss the issue. Before this meeting, CM Eknath Shinde gave a big statement. He said that the Maharashtra government wants to give quota to the Maratha community. He also said that this quota will be foolproof and will withstand legal scrutiny. However, the government will not take any hasty decision regarding this. He said that the government does not want to deceive anyone.

He said that the government has to tell that the Maratha community is socially and educationally backward. Besides, a consensus has to be reached that this will not affect the quota of other communities. During this, questions were also asked to the CM about the all-party meeting. When asked about these questions, CM Shinde said that the demand for Maratha reservation is a social issue, not a political one. I hope that the opposition parties will give some suggestions and avoid politicizing this issue. He also informed that the state government is providing many facilities and financial assistance to the students of Maratha community parallel to other backward communities. It is noteworthy that an all-party meeting is to be organized in Mumbai this evening.

There is no such decision where two communities come face to face - Deputy CM

Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that the government will try to build a broad consensus to move forward on the issues raised by Marathas and other communities in the meeting. He said that during the meeting the government will address the demands of various communities without politicizing the quota issue. It will also try to reach a decision suitable for the interests of the state.

Deputy CM said that Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has called an all-party meeting today. The agenda of this meeting is to create a broad consensus on the issue of Maratha quota. Many organizations have also raised their demands regarding reservation. During this, Deputy CM was also asked about Manoj Jarange. Let us tell you that Manoj Jarange has been on hunger strike for the last 14 days. He has also stopped drinking water. On Manoj's question, Fadnavis said that the government needs to take a decision in this regard. This decision will be based on legal test. The state government will not take any decision which will bring two communities (OBC and Maratha) face to face.

Maratha reservation activist Manoj Jarange has been on hunger strike for almost two weeks demanding Kunbi status to the community. After the people of Maratha community get Kunbi status, they will be able to avail the benefits of OBC reservation. However, several rounds of talks between Maharashtra government and Jarange on this issue have remained inconclusive.

What is the issue of Maratha reservation?

There has been a long standing demand for reservation in government jobs and education for the Maratha community in Maharashtra. In the year 1997, Maratha Sangh and Maratha Seva Sangh launched a major movement for the first time for reservation in government jobs and educational institutions. The agitators say that the Marathas did not belong to the upper caste but were originally related to the Kunbi i.e. agricultural community.

Talking about the current situation, Maratha community constitutes about 31 percent of the population of Maharashtra. It is a major caste group but still not homogeneous. It includes the former feudal elite and rulers as well as the most deprived peasants. The society has often agitated in the state citing agricultural crisis, lack of jobs and unfulfilled promises of the governments.

In 2018, a bill proposing 16% reservation in education and government jobs for the Maratha community was passed from the Maharashtra Legislature. In the bill, the government declared the Maratha community as a socially and educationally backward class. After being passed in the legislature, the case of Maratha reservation went to court. In June 2019, the Bombay High Court upheld the constitutionality of Maratha reservation, but asked the government to reduce it from 16% to 12 to 13% as recommended by the State Backward Classes Commission.

This reservation got a big blow when in May 2021, the Supreme Court declared Maratha reservation unconstitutional and canceled the law. The court held that the 50 per cent ceiling on Maratha reservation had been breached.