Maharashtra’s OBC communities not happy with HC ruling on Maratha quota
The Bombay high court (HC) verdict on Maratha reservation may lead to simmering discontent among the Other Backward Classes (OBC) in Maharashtra.
The OBCs, who make up nearly 52 per cent of the state’s population, have a share of 32% in the state reservation quota. While the Maratha reservation has not impacted the OBC quota, a majority of these groups and petitioners feel that the HC verdict failed to address central questions raised by their community. Many of these OBC groups have also raised the issue of Marathas-Kunbis, which remains unanswered with this reservation. Kunbis are the peasant class within the Maratha community, who get reservation under OBC category.
The Dhangar community, which comes under nomadic tribe category within this larger OBC quota but was promised reservation under scheduled tribes in 2014, is also likely to be upset.
“I had raised two central questions in this case – how was the quantum of quota decided without carrying out population census of castes and what are the exceptional circumstances that validate granting quota to the community. How do you decide without any exercise that Marathas make up 32% of the population and hence should get 16% reservation? Principally, I am not against granting Maratha reservation but the way it has been done has been ad-hoc and through political connivance across parties,” said Haribhau Rathod, former MP and Congress MLC. Rathod leads the denotified tribes or the Vimukt Jati, who get 3 per cent reservation in the state under the overall OBC quota.
Rathod like most other petitioners challenging the reservation plans to move apex court against the High Court’s decision. He said that he was not convinced that there were “exceptional circumstances” to give quota beyond 50%, a mandatory condition laid down in a 1992 Supreme Court case.
“The Marathas make up majority of the government, the cabinet and benches of the legislature.”
Anil Mahajan of the Mali Mahasangh and the OBC Janjagruti Mahamorcha said, “I congratulate the Maratha community for getting reservation. Our only demand is that the government should now include KunbisMarathas, who have been getting reservation under OBC category in the Maratha category. Socially, Kunbis consider themselves as Marathas, they marry into each other’s families etc not with OBCs. Also, Kunbis make up half the population of Marathas so that quota is for them too,” said Mahajan. He added that OBCs block that gets 19 per cent reservation includes more than 400 castes so Kunbis can free up some of the quota space for others.
By raising the issue of the Kunbis, OBC leaders are clearly pointing to an inherent loophole within the reservation that was validated in the court without directly attacking it.
The reason a direct attack is difficult is that no political party, least of all the Opposition, can afford to take a stance against the Maratha reservation.
The Congress’ newly appointed Leader of Opposition, also an OBC leader, Vijay Wadetiwar, however, also raised the issue of Kunbi- Marathas post the HC verdict, while the other Congress leaders flagged the issue of Dhangar and Muslim reservation. They will have to walk the tightrope given that majority of their leaders and their support base is from the Maratha community.
“In Vidarbha, there are very few Marathas, but a majority is kunbis, who get reservation under OBC. They are however considered as Marathas socially. Now that Maratha reservation is cleared, Kunbis should be included in that quota. Also, the government has hoodwinked Dhangars after promising them reservation,” said Wadetiwar.
The BJP, aware of the discontent about the reservation, has tried to placate OBCs and Dhangars. In the recently concluded state budget, the government announced 21 development schemes on lines of tribals for the Dhangar community with a separate budget. The state also announced building of hostels for OBC students, a special scholarship scheme for OBC girls, a scholarship for OBC students. Taken together, the communities were allocated Rs 1,400 crore in this budget.