Maratha Community Gets Their Reservation!

by November 20, 2018 0 comments

Devendra Fadnavis

The Maratha community is rejoicing but reservations are not the only panacea.

In announcing his Government’s decision to accept the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission recommendation to grant reservations to the Maratha community in jobs and education, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has opened a Pandora’s Box. While political exigencies may have led to the decision to grant privileges to this traditionally dominant community in the countryside, much like the Jats in western Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and parts of Rajasthan and the Patidars (or Patels) in Gujarat, the domino effect of conceding the demand bears thinking about by all responsible politicians. While it is true that these communities nurse a genuine sense of grievance given the decline in farm incomes over the past few decades compounded by a lack of access to quality education and job opportunities, which has led to a concomitant loss of social status for the current generation, this is by no means a phenomenon exclusive to these communities but a structural issue that impacts all citizens of India in more or less equal measure. Unlike Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, who have suffered well-documented social ostracisation and violent repression, these culturally dominant agrarian communities do not suffer from a comparable disadvantage. Of course, the argument from the pro-quota lot is that comparisons are more apt with the Other Backward Classes (OBC) communities which have been given quotas (albeit with a creamy layer proviso) post the implementation of the Mandal Commission recommendations but that in itself is a highly contentious and controversial discussion.

Of more immediate concern to the BJP Government in Maharashtra is how it will implement Maratha reservations given past judicial pronouncements on the issue of quotas over and above the 50 per cent limit. Its predecessor Congress-Nationalist Congress Party coalition in Maharashtra had also announced reservations for Marathas and Muslims just before the last Assembly election which were struck down in court. The way out being spoken of in Mantralaya, Mumbai, is to introduce a Bill in the forthcoming Winter Session of the State Assembly to create a new, State-specific Backward Classes category in which Marathas will be included for possibly a 16 per cent quota. This will be over and above the current SC/ST and OBC reservation in the State which is already at 52 per cent. Therefore the idea is to add the law, once passed, to the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution as any law in it is non-justiciable. The Supreme Court, however, has held that even laws included in the Ninth Schedule will be open to judicial review to the extent that they must conform to the basic structure of the Constitution. In fine-tuning its strategy to implement quotas to win political support from the Maratha community, however, the BJP has shown it is no different from the Congress when it comes to avoiding the root causes of the sense of diminished status prevalent in these communities clamouring for reservations.

Writer and Courtesy: The Pioneer

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