MARATHA QUOTA DEMAND
Copyright infringement not intended
Picture Courtesy: Mirror Now
Context: Maratha activists ended their hunger strike after meeting with the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Activists were protesting for reservation for the Maratha community in jobs and education, a long-standing demand that has seen several agitations in the past. The CM assured them that the government would look into the issue within a month.
- The Marathas, historically known as a "warrior" caste, constitute a significant portion of Maharashtra's population, mainly comprising peasant and landowning groups. They have held political dominance in Maharashtra since the state's formation in 1960, with many Marathas occupying the position of Chief Minister. However, economic challenges have affected middle- and lower-middle-class Marathas.
Demand for Reservations
- The Maratha reservation demand has a significant historical backdrop, tracing its roots to the early 1980s when a leader of the Mathadi Labour Union, led the first protest rally. This marked the beginning of the movement for Maratha reservation.
- The Maratha Kranti Morcha (MKM) played a crucial role during the years 2016-18 by organizing massive protests across Maharashtra. These protests included a series of rallies, some of which were peaceful, while others witnessed violence and several alleged suicides. The MKM became the face of the Maratha reservation movement during this period.
Trigger for Current Agitation
- The key trigger for the current phase of agitation is the Marathas' desire to be reclassified as Kunbis, which would make them eligible for benefits under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) reservation category. This reclassification is seen as a way to circumvent legal challenges.
- In 2019, the Bombay High Court upheld the Maratha quota but reduced it to 12% in education and 13% in government jobs, aligning it with the recommendations of the State Backward Class Commission.
- The Supreme Court's landmark ruling in 2021 was a turning point. The court struck down the Maratha quota under the state's Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC) Act, 2018, primarily due to it breaching the 50% reservation cap set in the 1992 Indra Sawhney (Mandal) judgment.
Supreme Court's Role
- The Supreme Court played a pivotal role in the Maratha reservation issue. Its May 2021 ruling invalidated the Maharashtra law providing reservations to the Maratha community, citing the violation of the 50% reservation cap. This ruling significantly affected the status of Maratha reservations in the state.
- Despite the Maharashtra government's efforts to seek a review, the Supreme Court upheld its earlier decision. This prompted the state to consider filing a curative petition to address the issue.
- The government announced the establishment of a commission tasked with assessing the "backwardness" of the Maratha community, aiming to gather data to support their claims for reservation.
State's Position on Current Agitation
- The current phase of agitation gained intensity after violent clashes between the police and protesters on September 1. These clashes led to a widespread mobilization in support of the hunger strike, drawing attention to the urgency of the issue.
- The government responded to the protests by issuing Government Resolutions (GR). These GRs included provisions related to caste certificates for certain members of the Maratha community. One GR was based on a Cabinet decision from September 7, while another referred to an older GR from 2004, which promised reservation to eligible Maratha-Kunbis and Kunbi-Marathas.
- Despite these efforts, Jarange-Patil remained dissatisfied, arguing that the new GR did not fully address his demands. The Chief Minister requested time to address the legal complexities surrounding the issue, which ultimately led to the conclusion of the hunger strike.
Arguments in Favor of the Maratha Reservation
Social and Economic Backwardness
- Supporters of the Maratha reservation argue that a significant portion of the Maratha community faces social and economic challenges. They contend that Marathas, particularly those in rural areas, often struggle with poverty, lack of access to quality education, and limited employment opportunities.
- Reservation, in this view, is seen as a means to uplift the socio-economically disadvantaged members of the community.
- Advocates for the Maratha reservation point to historical disadvantages that the community has experienced. They argue that factors such as land division, historical agrarian issues, and changing economic dynamics have led to a decline in the prosperity of many Marathas.
- These historical injustices, according to proponents, necessitate affirmative action in the form of reservation to address the community's challenges.
- Another argument in favour of the Maratha reservation is the desire for improved political representation. Proponents argue that reservation in education and government jobs would not only uplift the socio-economic conditions of Marathas but also empower them politically.
- Increased representation in these sectors could enable Marathas to participate more actively in decision-making processes and advocate for their community's interests.
Arguments Against Maratha Reservation
OBC Share Concerns
- Opponents of Maratha reservation include OBC (Other Backward Classes) organizations, which strongly object to the idea. They argue that providing reservations to Marathas would likely reduce the existing quota allocated to OBCs. Since OBCs already receive a lower reservation percentage in Maharashtra compared to the national average, they contend that further reduction of their share would be unjust.
- OBC leaders emphasize that their communities also face socio-economic challenges and should not be made to share their limited quota with the politically and numerically dominant Marathas.
- Critics of Maratha reservation point to the 50% reservation cap set by the Supreme Court as a fundamental concern. They argue that exceeding this cap could compromise administrative efficiency and create complexities in the implementation of reservations.
- The 50% cap is based on the principle of maintaining a balance between providing affirmative action and ensuring efficient governance. Exceeding this limit, critics contend, may undermine the intended purpose of reservations and result in legal challenges.
- Another argument against the Maratha reservation is the existence of the 10% quota for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), introduced by the central government.
- Critics view the EWS quota as an alternative approach to addressing economic disadvantages without considering caste-based reservations. They argue that the EWS quota is intended to provide opportunities to economically disadvantaged individuals, regardless of their caste or community, and that Marathas could potentially benefit from this quota without the need for additional caste-based reservations.
- Concerns arise about the overlap and potential duplication of benefits between EWS and caste-based quotas.
Challenges in Addressing the Maratha Reservation Issue
- Staying within the 50% reservation cap, as mandated by the Supreme Court, presents a significant legal and administrative challenge.
- Balancing the demands of the Maratha community for reservations with the need to respect the reservation cap is a complex task. Finding a solution that satisfies both legal requirements and the aspirations of the Marathas is a key challenge.
- The strong opposition from OBC organizations to the Maratha reservation poses a challenge. OBCs, who are already receiving a lower reservation percentage in Maharashtra compared to the national average, fear further reduction of their share.
- This opposition can lead to social tensions and conflicts within the state.
- The Maratha reservation issue involves navigating intricate legal and constitutional complexities.
- Questions about the definition of "backwardness," the concept of the creamy layer (excluding affluent individuals within reserved categories), and the interpretation of the 50% reservation cap add layers of complexity to the matter.
- Addressing these legal intricacies while making a fair and just decision is a formidable challenge.
- The Maratha reservation issue has contributed to political divisions and polarization within Maharashtra. Traditionally, Marathas have aligned with certain political parties, while OBCs have supported others.
- This polarization can complicate efforts to find a consensus-based solution and may lead to political conflicts that affect governance and policy-making.
Addressing these challenges requires a delicate balance between respecting legal boundaries, accommodating the aspirations of the Maratha community, mitigating opposition from OBC organizations, and promoting social harmony within the state.
Way Forward in Addressing the Maratha Reservation Issue
- Conducting a comprehensive and data-driven survey of the Maratha community's socio-economic backwardness is imperative. This survey should aim to collect quantifiable and contemporaneous data that reflect the challenges faced by the community.
- Establishing a strong factual basis for the reservation demand is essential in building a compelling case.
- Achieving political consensus among various parties and communities is vital to finding a balanced and sustainable solution.
- Engaging in constructive dialogues and negotiations with political leaders from different backgrounds can help build support for a resolution that respects the interests of all stakeholders.
- While pursuing a resolution, it's crucial to ensure adherence to legal principles and directives, particularly those set by the Supreme Court. The state should work closely with legal experts to explore legal avenues that align with constitutional provisions and court rulings.
- Striking a balance between social justice and legal constraints is essential.
Review and Dialogue
- The issue should be subject to ongoing review and continued dialogue with all relevant stakeholders. This includes engaging with OBC organizations and other communities that have concerns about the impact of the Maratha reservation on their existing quotas.
- Regular consultations and open communication can help address grievances and build consensus over time.
- The Maratha reservation issue is a multifaceted and contentious matter in Maharashtra, with far-reaching consequences for politics, governance, and social justice. A resolution will require careful consideration of legal, social, and political factors to address the concerns of both the Maratha and OBC communities while upholding principles of fairness and equity.
Must Read Articles:
RESERVATION SYSTEM: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/reservation-system
Q. Considering the ongoing Maratha reservation issue in Maharashtra, how can the state strike a balance between addressing the socio-economic concerns of the Maratha community and ensuring that the existing reservation framework, including the 50% cap set by the Supreme Court, is upheld?