Explained | Why were Marathas granted reservation?


The M.G. Gaikwad commission report submitted in 2018 concluded that the community had lost its self-esteem, which could be remedied by giving them reservation under the Socially and Economically Backward Classes category.

In November 2018, the Maharashtra legislature unanimously passed the Bill giving 16% reservation to the Maratha community in jobs and education by according them the status of Socially and Economically Backward Class (SEBC).

Marathas are essentially agrarian community — historically identified as warriors — which is politically dominating in Maharashtra. They own over 75% of the land in the State as well as 86 of the 105 sugar factories besides controlling about 55% educational institutions and over 70% of cooperative bodies. Marathas have dominated the political landscape with 12 of the 18 Chief Ministers coming from the community, and over 60% of all the members of Legislative Assemblies of Maharashtra have been Marathas since 1962.

What led to their decline?

Despite the political dominance over the years, subsequent agrarian crisis has led to wide gap among them leading to a decline in financial stability among lower middle class and middle class. It led to the demand for reservation in jobs and education.

Also read | Supreme Court declares Maratha quota law unconstitutional

The Bill came after the community held mammoth ‘silent marches’ across the State demanding reservation throughout 2017 and 2018. The demand was not new and had been pending since 1980s. Several agitations by the community had been held throughout these years, but never as united as the ones seen in those years forcing the political class to move ahead and take firm steps.

What did political parties do?

In the 2009 Assembly election, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) promised Maratha reservation. In 2011, one of the biggest protest rallies at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan was addressed by senior Ministers in the then State government and they promised fulfilling the demand of reservation. After the defeat in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the then Congress-NCP government issued a notification in July awarding 16% reservation to Marathas and 5% to Muslims. The government was, however, defeated in 2014 Assembly polls and the new BJP-led government under the leadership of Devendra Fadnavis enacted a law for the same in the winter session of the legislature, which was struck down by the Bombay High Court. Since then, the demand to enact a new law for reservation was raised.

Also read | Maratha reservation: A timeline of events

A nine-member Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission headed by Justice (retired) M.G. Gaikwad, in its 1,035-page report submitted to the government in November 2018 took into consideration various parameters to recommend reservation. Mr. Fadnavis as Chief Minister had submitted the Action Taken Report (ATR) in Assembly while presenting the Bill for approval of the House.

The Maharashtra State Reservations (of seats for admissions in educational institutions in the State and for appointments in the public service and posts under the State) for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act 2018, as it was called, was later challenged in the Bombay High Court. While the court upheld the Act, it reduced the 16% reservation to 12%.

In Maharashtra, the total reservation was at 52% before the Maratha quota. It includes, SC (13%), ST (7%) and OBC (19%), Special Backward Class (2%) Vimukti Jati (3%), Nomadic Tribe (B) (2.5%), Nomadic Tribe (C) (Dhangar) (3.5%) and Nomadic Tribe (D) (Vanjari) (2%). The addition of 12% Maratha quota took the total reservation to around 64%, which has now been struck down by the Supreme Court.

What did the Gaikwad Commission conclude?

The Gaikwad Commission had concluded that the community needed reservation based on the public meetings and grassroot interactions conducted by experts and institutions with 1.93 lakh representatives, including individuals, gram panchayats, public representatives and organisations.

It found that 76.86 % of Maratha families were engaged in agriculture and farm labour, around 50% lived in mud houses, only 35.39% had personal tap water connections, 13.42% of Marathas were not literate with only 35.31% having primary education, 43.79 % having cleared HSC and SSC.

The Commission also found that 93% Maratha families had an annual income of ₹ 1 lakh and that 37.38% families were Below Poverty Line against the State average of 24.2 %, and importantly 71% owned less than 2.5 acres.

What is the status of women?

The report stated that as Marathas were soldiers and the men were often away for campaigns for local rulers, their women had to adopt the ‘purdah system’ to safeguard themselves from the attacks of rival rulers. This strategy later became a custom as a result of which Maratha women were not allowed to leave home for education too.

Similarly, the widows of soldiers were not allowed to remarry, as it could result in the property being taken over by the new husband, thus leaving the dead soldier’s parents and children destitute. The women had to work in the fields and consequently could not progress.

Another reason for their social and educational backwardness, according to the report, is the prevalence of child marriage and dowry, which came in the way of education of girls. The commission relied on one of the studies which divided the analysis under three heads — social, educational and economic backwardness.

Under educational backwardness, the analysis said that owing to poverty, children from the community, mainly girls, did not get a chance to pursue basic and higher education, as a result of which they could not appear for competitive exams. This has led to their lower representation in government jobs.

The report concluded that the community had lost its self-esteem, which could be remedied by giving them reservation under the Socially and Economically Backward Classes category.

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