Maharashtra: Dhangar reservation demand gains momentum

Maharashtra: Dhangar reservation demand gains momentum

File Photo for representation

Ahead of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly elections,  the demand for reservation for the Dhangar community is gaining momentum.

As of now, the Danghar (shepherd community) get reservation under Vimukta Jati & Nomadic Tribes (VJNT) category of Maharashtra - but the demand is to place it under the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category.

The ball is largely in the court of the Central government even as cutting across party lines,  the major parties have agreed to the demand for ST category. 

Dhangars hail from the Western Maharashtra and Marathwada regions of the state and account for nearly 9.5 per cent of the state's total 11.25 crore population.

Politically, they are significant in four Lok Sabha seats of the total 48 - Baramati, Madha, Solapur and Satara. In the 288 seats of Vidhan Sabha, they play a significant role in 30 to 35 seats.

The Dhangar Welfare Association had been spearheading the agitation for reservation in ST category in Maharashtra  - as the "Dhangad" get a reservation in other parts of India,  in SC category.  A topographical error Dhangar (Dhangad) has led to the problem and they get a reservation in VJNT category in Maharashtra. The total reservation for ST is 7 per cent.

Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Rashtriya Samaj Paksha founder and animal husbandry and fisheries minister are trying to address the issue and had apprised the prime minister's office. 

The issue had also come up for discussion during the monsoon session of Maharashtra legislature with Opposition parties Congress and NCP blaming the government for its inability to provide reservation.

On 11 August,  in the temple town of Pandharpur in Solapur district,  NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi are expected to attend a fair of the Dhangar community organised by Federation of Maharashtra Dhangar Samaj.

On Monday,  the Dhangar Vivek Jagriti Abhiyan,  through a protest in Aurangabad,  is going to reiterate their demand for reservation.

It may be recalled, the government had commissioned a report on the various demands of the Dhangar community,  which was carried out by Tata Institute of Social Sciences. The report was forwarded for legal action and till then,  Fadnavis has asked schemes of Tribal Affairs Department to be made applicable to Dhangar community. Another step was to strengthen and increase the scope of Ahilyabai Holkar Mahamandal.