• Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis announced that the state government will give 16% quota to Marathas as a “social and educationally backward class”.
• In the 1980s, Maratha groups were against caste based quotas and did not want to be identified as “backward.”
• However by the 1990s, the demand for quotas in jobs and education was supported by fringe Maratha groups.
• In the past 10 years, it has gained much traction, with the perception that beside SCs/STs, OBCs have also benefited.
• The Maratha Kunbi sub-caste is included in the OBC category.
• Although the Marathas have demanded quotas for two decades, their campaign gained momentum since July 2016 following the Maratha Kranti Morcha taking to the street through 58 silent rallies.
• The second phase of the agitation saw violence and eight suicides across the state.
• Considering which recommendations from the State Commission for the Backward Classes was asked, which submitted a favourable report on the Maratha community’s demand on 15 November.
• Now, the state government has accepted the recommendations of its report.
Highlights of the news
• The Maharashtra state government had accepted the major recommendations of the State Commission for the Backward Classes, which submitted a favourable report on the Maratha community’s demand.
• The report of the Commission says that the Maratha community is socially and economically backward.
• Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the state government will follow the Tamil Nadu model to give 16% quota to Marathas as a “social and educationally backward class”.
• If the CM delivers on his promise, Maharashtra will offer 68% quota in education and government jobs to benefit Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), Other Backward Classes (OBCs), other minor social groups, and the Marathas.
• The reservation will be given without disturbing the existing quota allocated to the OBCs and SC/STs.
• The CM added that the final decision on Maratha quota will be taken by the end of the two-week-long winter session.
• A ministerial sub-committee has been formed to study the Commission’s report in detail.
• While the Maratha community had demanded 16 per cent reservation, a Cabinet sub-committee, which has been constituted to implement the quota, will fix the quantum.
Current Quota in Maharashtra
• At present, the total reservation in Maharashtra is 52 per cent.
• 13 per cent for Scheduled Castes, 7 per cent for Scheduled Tribes, 19 per cent for Other Backward Classes, 2 per cent for Special Backward Classes, 3 per cent for Vimukta Jati, 2.5 per cent for Nomadic Tribe-B, 3.5 per cent for Nomadic Tribe-C (Dhangar) and 2 per cent for Nomadic Tribe-D (Vanjari).
Constitutional provisions regarding quota
• A fixed percentage of India’s government and public sector jobs are made exclusive for categories of people largely based on their caste or tribe.
• The Constitution provides for creating a special backward class.
• The 1992 Supreme Court ruling in the Indra Sawhney case said that reservations in job promotions are “unconstitutional” but allowed its continuation for five years.
• In 1995, the 77th amendment to the Constitution was made to amend Article 16 before the five-year period expired to continue with reservations for SC/STs in promotions.
• It was further modified through the 85th amendment to give the benefit of consequential seniority to SC/ST candidates promoted by reservation.
• The 81st amendment was made to the Constitution to permit the government to treat the backlog of reserved vacancies as a separate and distinct group, to which the ceiling of 50 per cent did not apply.
• The 82nd amendment inserted a provision in Article 335 to enable states to give concessions to SC/ST candidates in promotion.
• The validity of all the above four amendments was challenged in the Supreme Court through various petitions clubbed together in M. Nagaraj & Others vs. Union of India & Others, mainly on the ground that these altered the Basic Structure of the Constitution.
• In 2006, the Supreme Court upheld the amendments but stipulated that the concerned state will have to show, in each case, the existence of “compelling reasons” – which include “backwardness”, “inadequacy of representation” and overall “administrative efficiency – before making provisions for reservation.
• The Supreme Court in the 1990s had put a ceiling of 50% on quotas, however there is no such provision for a ceiling on quota in the Indian Constitution.
• On the contrary, the Constitution provides for quota under extraordinary and exceptional cases, when a community’s backwardness is documentarily established.
Tamil Nadu Model of reservation
• In Tamil Nadu, in addition to the constitutionally guaranteed reservations to the SC/STs and OBCs, the state government offers quota to several backward and especially backward castes and classes, which has taken the total percentage of quota to 69%.
• Tamil Nadu’s case is still pending before the apex court in the light of the Supreme Court’s ceiling of 50% on quotas.
• The Marathas account for 32-35% of the state’s population.
• It is a dominant caste cluster and is not homogenous.
• It spans the Kshatriya community, which includes ex-feudal aristocrats and rulers as well as the more deprived peasantry.
• According to the State Backward Class Commission’s report submitted, the percentage of Marathas below poverty line was 37.28 per cent, higher than the 25 per cent base.
• The percentage of those with small and marginal land-holdings among Marathas was 62.78 per cent, much higher than the base 48.25 per cent which is considered for social-economic backwardness.
• If more than 30 per cent families live in “kachcha houses” (mud houses), the community is considered socially backward and in the case of Marathas, this was up to 60 to 65 per cent.
• The grading for education (post Class X and Class XII) also showed Marathas lagged behind the national average literacy index.
• The community registered the highest number of suicides, especially in the agriculture sector.
• This was considered an important aspect of the socio-economic crisis in the community.