Mumbai: Days after the Central government introduced 10% quota for the poor in the general category, the Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra reached out to the Other Backward Classes (OBC), Nomadic Tribes, Denotified Tribes, and Special Backward Classes, doling out sops worth 736.50 crore. The Maharashtra Cabinet on Tuesday approved an assistance of 736.50 crore for a range of schemes for these communities, in a move that underlines the Bharatiya Janata Party’s attempt to strike a balance between the upper castes and the middle and lower castes.

In November last year, the BJP-led government introduced 16% quota in education and government jobs for the upper caste Maratha community. Also, the schemes for which assistance was approved on Tuesday were similar to the various programmes that the Fadnavis government had announced for the Maratha community before the quota was introduced. For instance, the government had decided to facilitate zero-interest loans for the youth belonging to the OBC and Special Backward Classes to promote entrepreneurship. Also, students of these communities would be provided hostel accommodation on demand. Both these schemes are being implemented for the economically backward youths and students, including those from the Maratha community.

Ram Shinde, minister for the OBC portfolio created two years back by the Fadnavis government, told reporters at a press conference that grants worth Rs.736.50 crore would be released for various state-owned corporations to implement a range of schemes for the OBCs, Nomadic Tribes, Denotified Tribes, and Special Backward Classes. Shinde denied the sops had anything to do with the forthcoming elections. “We formed the special OBC portfolio two years back when there were no elections. There has been a systematic effort to address the concerns of all social sections and these schemes are part of that ongoing programme."

He also claimed that the BJP-led governments at the Centre and in the state had done much more for the OBCs and other backward classes in the last four years than the 15-year-long rule of the Congress-NCP combine in Maharashtra.

Shinde said a grant of 250 crore would be given to the Maharashtra State Corporation for the OBCs to facilitate financial assistance to the OBC youth to promote industrial entrepreneurship. Similarly, the Vasantrao Naik Corporation for the Denotified and Nomadic Tribes would be given an assistance of 300 crore for a range of schemes for these communities, Shinde added. However, this assistance of 300 crore would be given over a period of three years. Under this programme, youths would be given individual loans up to 0 lakh and group loans between 10 and 50 lakh to promote entrepreneurship. These loans would be interest-free for those who repay them in time and an interest of 4% would be charged for delayed repayment, Shinde said.

The government had decided to extend the Savitribai Phule Scholarship Scheme, named after OBC icon and social reformer Savitribai Phule, who pioneered education for OBC women in Maharashtra, to female OBC students. At present, the scholarship scheme is implemented for female students belonging to the Denotified and Nomadic Tribes and Special Backward Classes.

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