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Not a Panacea – On Maratha Demand for Reservations

Context:

In a clear indication of substantial socioeconomic changes occurring in various regions of India, there have been calls for reservation from communities that are traditionally considered politically influential and are not conventionally categorized as “backward.” The demand for reservation by the Maratha community in Maharashtra is a notable example.

Relevance:

GS-2

  • Judgements and Cases
  • Judiciary
  • Government Policies & Interventions
  • Poverty
  • Education
  • Welfare Schemes
  • Issues Relating to Development

Mains Question:

Highlighting the present status of Maratha Community in Maharashtra, provide a rationale behind their demands for reservation. (10 Marks, 150 words).

Status of Marathas:

  • Historically, this community has held significant representation in political positions, with over 35% of MLAs since 1967 and 12 out of 18 Chief Ministers in the state.
  • Additionally, due to substantial land ownership, controlling more than 75% of cultivable land in the state, and a dominant presence in sugar factories, the Marathas have traditionally held economic influence in rural areas.
  • Data from the India Human Development Survey (IHDS) in 2011-12 revealed that Marathas had a per capita consumption expenditure only slightly lower than that of Brahmins.
  • Moreover, poverty incidence among Marathas was comparable to other forward communities and significantly lower than that of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, marginally lower than that of Other Backward Classes.
  • This context explains why the Supreme Court, in 2021, invalidated the 16% quota provided under the Socially and Economically Backward Classes for Marathas in jobs and education.

Rationale Behind the Demand for Reservation:

  • Yet, understanding this demand is not challenging. Despite their relative dominance, there are notable variations within the Maratha community concerning income and educational achievements.
  • According to the IHDS survey, the highest quintile of the community boasted an average per capita income of ₹86,750, while the lowest quintile’s per capita income was only a tenth of this amount.
  • This stark disparity, coupled with the predominantly rural nature of livelihoods among the less affluent Marathas amid the enduring agrarian crisis in the state, has fueled resentment and the call for reservations.

Recent Developments in this Regard:

  • In response to the recent agitation, the Eknath Shinde government yielded to the demands and established a committee, led by Justice Sandeep Shinde, to expedite the issuance of Kunbi certificates to all Marathas.
  • This move would enable them to benefit from reservations as part of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
  • However, tensions have arisen with OBC leaders, including those within the ruling coalition, demanding the government to disband the committee.

Conclusion:

To comprehensively evaluate the implementation of reservations, its outcomes, and to determine which groups merit it based on constitutional provisions, a thorough socio-economic survey across states is imperative. Additionally, it’s crucial to recognize that reservations, given the shrinking proportion of government jobs in overall employment, cannot serve as a sole solution for the upliftment of economically disadvantaged individuals within the Maratha community.


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