Community Marathas’ which comprises of, 30% of Maharashtra’s total population have been recommended 16% reservation by the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission headed by erstwhile Justice M.D. Gaikwad yesterday. The current reservation is 52% with this 16% the reservation in the State would go up to 68%. This has been done without affecting the quota granted to the OBCs (other backward communities). This community have remained socially and economically very backward.

The State Legislature in 2014, passed a bill to grant quota to the community which is totally agrarian. The law to be enacted to this effect was stayed at the Mumbai High Court. The present Government approached the Supreme Court and with no sign of relief, they approached the High Court which asked them to form a Commission and submit a report through them. The Maharashtra Government had referred the issue to the Backward Class Commission in June 2017. This Commission started working on the issue from August 2017. Over a period of 1 ½ years this commission had visited several parts of Maharashtra. They heard grievances of about 2 lakhs people from this community members, followed by a survey of 25000 families. The data from the survey and grievances were put forward by the community members during public hearings and this task took months to complete. They took no risk and ensured that their efforts taken were fool proof so that their provisional claim, doesn’t fail the legal test.

This community form 1/3rd of the total population of 13 crores, owing to arid, barren, agrarian crisis, they have been agitating for the past one year demanding reservation in jobs and education with no means to survive. From 2016-17 they have conducted 50 “mook morchas” (silent marches) across the state demanding for reservation among other demands. The protests took a very violent turn this year in August, when protesters attacked buses, stopped train services, blocked highways in parts of the state. This untoward incident saw a youth commit suicide by jumping into Godavari river in Aurangabad, while another died by consuming poison. Around 194 people were arrested for rioting and arson. Apart from these incidents there were other demands, reservation to be made speedy and at the earliest, waiver of farmer loans, justice in Kopardi rape case (a Maratha community girl around 14-15 brutally raped by three men from the Dalit caste in a village called Kopardi and murdered and thrown on to the paddy fields) and solution to their increasing joblessness.

The secretary of the Commission submitted the report to Maharashtra Chief Secretary Sri. D.K. Jain, on 15th November, yesterday.  The Government will take 15 days to complete the Constitutional process on the report and it would be submitted as a sealed report in the next cabinet meeting. This reservation bill is expected to be passed in the winter session of the Assembly by Sri Devendra Fadnavis Government. Likewise, once agrarian crisis took a toll, the Kapus, Telaga, Balija and Ontari in Andhra Pradesh, Marathas in Maharashtra, Jat in Haryana and Patidars of Gujarat demanded reservation, is notable. After the winter session let us hope that the Marathas’ Community get their dues, after years of struggle, by getting employed under the Reservation Quota.

-VijayaShree Ramesh

The writer is an advocate based in Chennai.