Mumbai: In a major step in attempts to grant quotas for the restive Marathas, the Maharashtra State Commission for the Backward Classes on Thursday submitted its final report to the state government, holding that Marathas are a “socially and economically backward community”.
Panel submits report, Marathas a step closer to getting quotas
The findings of the report have not been made public by the Commission or the state government but soon after it was submitted by Commission chairman Justice (retired) M.G. Gaikwad, state chief minister Devendra Fadnavis told a public meeting in Ahmednagar that the government would complete the legal formalities in the next 15 days so that the quotas are in place by 1 December.
Fadnavis, who was addressing a campaign meeting for elections to the Ahmednagar municipal corporation, urged various Maratha organizations to call off a proposed agitation later this month and told them to “celebrate getting quota on 1 December”.
A senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) minister, who was part of the government’s push for Maratha quotas and who requested anonymity, confirmed to Mint that the report “conclusively favours quota”.
A favourable report would go a long way in establishing a 16% quota in education and government jobs for Marathas who account for 32-35% of Maharashtra’s nearly 115 million population. Maharashtra currently offers a 52% quota to different castes and social groupings. This is now set to increase to 68% to accommodate Marathas, since other social groups like the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes (OBC) have supported Maratha reservation with the rider their own quotas should not be disturbed.
A legal expert and advocate of Maratha quotas, who did not want to be named, said the government was likely to create “an additional category of special backward class” for Marathas. But he added the state government would have to be “mindful of the Supreme Court ceiling of 50% on reservations”.
Maharashtra chief secretary D. K. Jain told reporters that the government had received the report and that it would study it.
“The report would have to be taken up by the state cabinet which will decide the future course of action,” Jain said.
A Maharashtra BJP legislator, who did not want to be named, said the Commission’s report would most likely be taken up for discussion during the winter session of the state legislature beginning 19 November.
“In August, the chief minister had assured the Maratha community that all legal procedures would be completed by November-end and if needed, a special sitting of the state legislature would be held. The legislature is meeting for the winter session and the next logical step is adopting the report,” added the BJP legislator.
The submission of the report by the Commission follows a prolonged legal process as well as an unprecedented Maratha mobilization that began in August 2016.
In September 2014, the then Congress-Nationalist Congress Party government in Maharashtra issued an ordinance giving 16% quota to the Marathas. This was challenged in the Bombay high court which struck it down in November 2014. By this time, the BJP-Shiv Sena government had assumed office and in December, it passed an Act giving quotas to Marathas. After the Act was stayed by the Bombay high court in July 2015, Marathas took to the streets in protest.