Maratha quota demand untenable

Maratha quota demand untenable

Navi Mumbai: Maratha Kranti Morcha protesters pelt stones at police personnel during their statewide bandh, called for reservations in jobs and education, in Navi Mumbai on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. (PTI Photo) (PTI7_25_2018_000230B)

The Maratha reservation agitation has been revived again, this time with threats of greater violence. The earlier rounds of the agitation had also disrupted life with hartals and rasta rokos in Maharashtra, especially in regions where the Maratha community is dominant. In fact, the community is dominant in the entire state and it has historically held sway in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the state. It has no legitimate claim for recognition and acceptance as a backward community and for reservations in education and employment. Other communities like the Jats and the Patels have also made claims to be recognised as backward communities deserving reservation in Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. These are also major communities that are economically and socially strong, and their claims are as weak as that of the Marathas. Some of these agitations have also been very violent and much loss of public and private property has taken place during the agitations. 

The previous Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra, led by Prithviraj Chavan, had actually announced a 16% reservation for the Marathas and 5% reservation for Muslims in education and employment. This was a political gesture after the Congress had fared badly in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. But the order was struck down by the court on various grounds. The claim of the Marathas could not be accepted, as the procedure to determine the backwardness of a community had not been gone through. In any case, the Supreme Court has set a ceiling of 50% for reservations but the reservations then proposed by the government would have taken the limit to 73%. This was not legally sustainable. But the government had taken the decision only to be seen as supporting the cause of reservation for the Marathas. Even that did not help it in the next elections. 

The decision to launch the agitation now is also politically motivated, because the Lok Sabha elections are approaching. The BJP is under some pressure in the state because its ally, the Shiv Sena, has been estranged. The agitationists may have thought of putting some more pressure on the government with the quota demand. But there does not seem to be any way in which the demand can be accepted. The Marathas have been a land-owning community, but the returns from farming have declined over the years. The state is among those that have seen a high number of farmer suicides. Enough jobs are not being created in the industry and services to absorb educated youth. This is the setting that has given rise to the agitation, but reservations are not the remedy for it.

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