Devendra Fadnavis government weighs quota for Marathas
Mumbai: Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Wednesday appointed a five-member cabinet sub-committee to take up the demand for reservations for the Maratha community.
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and minister for public works department Chandrakant Patil will head the committee, which also includes Girish Mahajan and Sambhaji Patil-Nilangekar from the BJP and Diwakar Raote and Eknath Shinde from ally Shiv Sena. All five are from the Maratha community.
On 9 August when the Maratha organizations held their last march in Mumbai to press for various demands including quotas in jobs and education, Fadnavis had assured them that a cabinet sub-committee would be formed to follow up on the government’s stand in favour of the quota and that the committee would hold talks with Maratha organizations every three months.
The Fadnavis government is pursuing legal and political options to grant quotas to the Marathas, who account for 32-35% of the state’s population. All major political parties in the state have supported the demand, though the organizations of Other Backward Classes (OBC) and scheduled castes and scheduled tribes have warned against accommodating Marathas in the quota granted to these groups (OBCs and SC/ST).
The Bombay high court is hearing a bunch of petitions for and against the quota and the Fadnavis government has filed an exhaustive affidavit in the court making a strong case for Maratha reservation. However, the matter has been referred to the State Commission for Backward Classes which has to take a decision if Marathas could be considered socially and economically backward and deserving of the quota.
“To be honest, it is going to be an arduous legal process to accommodate Marathas in the quota system. The commission for backward classes has a tough task on its hand because whatever decision it takes will have to stand legal scrutiny. But appointment of this sub-committee is a welcome decision because the committee would make sure that the Maratha organizations are always on board and kept in the loop about the progress on their demands,” a BJP minister who is not part of the sub-committee said, requesting anonymity. He said apart from briefing the Maratha organizations every three months, the sub-committee might also be tasked with following the proposal with the commission for backward classes itself.
“There are legal challenges but the government must be seen as doing something and this committee would do that job for the government,” the minister said.
Before it lost the Maharashtra assembly elections to the BJP and Shiv Sena, the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party government had issued an ordinance in September 2014, giving 16% reservation to the Marathas. Some social activists challenged the ordinance in the Bombay HC which struck it down. In December 2014, the BJP-Sena government passed an Act restoring the Maratha quota but the HC stayed the Act in April 2015. In May this year, the Bombay HC said the state government was free to refer the matter to the commission for backward classes.
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