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Why are Marathas across Maharashtra angry, restless?

State plans to fill 72,000 vacant posts ahead of polls, youths feel they will lose out on opportunity

mumbai Updated: Jul 25, 2018 01:17 IST
Surendra Gangan
Surendra Gangan
Hindustan Times
Marathas,Sardar Sarovar Dam,Gujarat
Members of Maratha community protest at Bajirao road in Pune on Tuesday. (HT PHOTO)

Why are the Marathas, who constitute 32% of the state population and have called for a bandh on Wednesday, out on the streets?

One reason is their demand for reservation is pending for more than two decades. With the approaching elections, Maratha youths feel the time to get a quota in government jobs and education is running out. Moreover, the recent announcement of the BJP government to fill 72,000 posts in the state is making them feel they will lose out on an opportunity to get a government job as the quota is not in place.

The demand for reservation in government jobs and education for Marathas was first moved in May 1993, but it went nowhere as the Maharashtra State Commission for Backward Class submitted at least two reports against it, stating the community was not socially and economically backward. The demand was revived ahead of the 2009 Assembly elections. The Congress-NCP government hastily granted 16% quota to Marathas ahead of the 2014 assembly elections. It was challenged by petitioners on similar grounds, leading to the Bombay high court (HC) striking it down.

The demand was revived in a major way as Marathas staged agitations following the rape and murder of a minor girl from the community in Kopardi in Ahmednagar in July 2016. As the silent marches were being taken out in the state, the first demand of the community was to scrap the Scheduled Castes and Schedule Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. (The accused in Kopardi rape case were from scheduled castes). Soon, the demand for reservation took centrestage.

Experts and community members, however, have been saying that the situation has changed over the years. “The unrest and violent ways to vent it out is unfortunate, as no reservation can be given until the court gives its verdict,” said Sadanand More, a Maratha scholar, adding the report of the incumbent backward class commission is likely to be positive as the status of the community has changed over the years. “This time, the study will be more scientific and serious with more relevant documents being submitted before the commission. The socio-economic condition of the society has also changed,” he said.

The agrarian crisis prevailing for over a decade and poor irrigation facilities are making it difficult for farmers to rely on agriculture. Maratha community, which is largely dependent on agriculture, is feeling the pinch. “Be it Patels’ agitation in Gujarat or Jats’ protest in Haryana, the stir didn’t happen recently. The Sardar Sarovar dam has largely benefited Patels in Gujarat, while Jats too have seen prosperity in the past few decades. This was not the case with Marathas in Maharashtra, which is leading to unrest,” said Hemant Desai, political analyst.

Wary Maratha outfits want the recruitment to 72,000 posts to be put on hold till a decision on their quota is taken. When the Rane committee claimed the Marathas account for 32% of the state population, the detractors said that about 50% of them are Kunbis, who are already covered under Other Backward Classes and enjoy the benefits. The petitioners who moved the HC against reservation had challenged the government claim of backwardness of the community.

While community leaders feel the commission was taking longer than expected owing to government’s casual approach towards the demands, the state said it was doing everything possible. “Nobody can do anything more than what we have done for the reservation,” said revenue minister Chandrakant Patil, who is also the head of the committee appointed to deal with the issue.

First Published: Jul 25, 2018 01:03 IST