Representational Image
Representational Image

Giving in to the demands of the Maratha protesters, the Maharashtra government has paved the way for providing quota in government jobs and educational institutions though the law is yet to be passed in the Assembly. Given the precedence of past legislations providing reservations by different States, the decision of the Maharashtra government is likely to face judicial scrutiny. Meanwhile, similar demands from other communities have grown stronger as the general elections are just round the corner. 

The Maharashtra government has accepted the State Backward Class Commission's report and decided to give quota in jobs and educational institutes to the Maratha community. Chief Minister, Devender Phadnavis, said the reservation will be granted to the community under a new category called 'Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC)’ as per the recommendation of the commission. The politically dominant Maratha community constitutes over 30 per cent of the State's population. 

The community has been demanding quota since long and its agitation in July and August this year took a violent turn even. Whether the new quota would be acceptable to the Supreme Court is a million-dollar question. The Maharashtra government hopes that the tagging of the community as ‘extraordinary and exceptional’ would make it through. However, this will not be the end of the matter. It is a fact that a significant number of Marathas are poor. It has been mainly an agrarian community all along and also lived only on its allied activity. This has led to the neglect of education among them, especially in rural areas. With the growth of families, average landholdings got reduced affecting their incomes. In addition, poor agricultural practices and dismal prices for their produce also dealt a deathly blow to their economy. Farm crisis has gripped them, and the situation is very bad. 

The agitation is similar to that of the Patel-Patidars agitation in Gujarat or that of the Jats in Haryana. The present effort of the Maharashtra government will lead to a divide between Marathas and Other Backward Classes and the restlessness in the society will only grow. Right now, Kunbis are categorised alongside OBCs and this new SEBC category means they will be clubbed with the SEBCs. Will it be acceptable to all? Last time, when the Congress-NCP government moved to provide 16 per cent reservations in government jobs and educational institutions, it was stayed by the Bombay High Court. But who cares? It is a political move and shall remain a political one forever. Does anyone really care for the oppressed sections of the society? They are all just vote banks and nothing more. 

There is always this fear of the Opposition making use of them against the ruling parties. Hence, the political exigency. First you go for Maratha pride and next for Maratha reservations. There are now five major communities in the State - Dhangar, Lingayat, Mahadev, Koli and Muslim - seeking similar reservations and more, in some cases. What will the government do next? This move will only pave for more agitations in every corner of the country. The solution lies in the creation of jobs, not reservations.

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