After announcing a slew of schemes and initiatives to woo the Maratha community, the state cabinet on Tuesday announced constituting a separate department for the welfare of the restless Other Backward Classes (OBC) community. The department will open officially on April 1, 2017, once the budgetary allocation of about Rs2,000 crore is made. The government is still undecided on who will hold the charge of the department.
The OBCs, who constitute 52% of the Maharashtra population and enjoy 27% reservation in education and government jobs, have been apprehensive that the Maratha community could be included in their category. The massive silent marches by the Maratha community demanding various thing, chiefly reservation, over the past few months, were followed by rallies by the OBC community. They have been insisting their reservation should not be touched while giving the same to Marathas. The move to create a separate department is seen as the BJP government’s way of pacifying any fears they may have. The OBC community includes the Wanjari, Mali, Teli, Dhangar castes, among others. In fact, Kunbi, a sub-caste of Marathas, also gets reservation benefits under the OBC category.
The castes under the OBCs are politically divided, but by and large, they are considered to be as politically influential community as the Marathas.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who had promised the OBCs a dedicated department during the budget session of the state legislature earlier this year, said on Tuesday the move will help the government concentrate on issues related to the community. “The social justice department is overburdened with various responsibilities, including the responsibility of the Scheduled Castes and the handicapped besides OBCs. We have fulfilled the long-pending demand of the communities,” he said.
The OBC community, which enjoys various schemes in terms of scholarships, freeships and hostel facilities for school and college students, have about 24 schemes of the 64 implemented by the social justice department at present. Of the annual budget of Rs12,265 crore, Rs6,725 crore is the outlay of the Scheduled Castes, while the OBCs and VJNTs get about Rs1,900 crore for the welfare schemes. The new department, which is expected to have an outlay of Rs2,000 crore, will have an independent minister and an IAS officer to lead the department. The cabinet has given approval of Rs2.20 crore for recurring and Rs1.50 crore for non-recurring expenses and sanctions to create 51 new posts.
This is not the first time a separate department for the OBCs has been formed. A similar department was created in 1999, but it was shut down in 2001 owing to the overlapping of tasks of the departments dealing with schemes for the SCs and OBCs. The government has claimed that 3.69 crore people in the state belonged to the OBC category, according to the 2011-census. A BJP minister said the decision will help government subside the anger among the OBCs.
“We welcome the decision by the state government for implementing 13th recommendation by the Mandal commission. The independent department will help improve the implementation of the schemes meant for the communities. Of the three demands, two have met by the government, we now expect independent census for the community,” said Sachin Rajurkar, convenor of the OBC Kriti Samiti.
To pacify the agitating Maratha community the state government announced various educational freeships in education for the economically backward students. It recently submitted an affidavit pushing for the reservation for Marathas in education and government jobs.
It had announced to increase the income limit of creamy layer of the OBCs to Rs6 lakh from Rs4.5 lakh in July this year.