How has Maharashtra argued its case to take reservations from 52% to 62%? | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Maratha quota: How has Maharashtra argued its case to take overall reservations from 52% to 62%?

Feb 21, 2024 07:14 AM IST

Maharashtra passes bill proposing 10% quota for Marathas in government jobs and education, increasing state's overall reservation to 62%.

Mumbai: A bill proposing 10% quota for Marathas in government jobs and education was passed by both houses of state legislature on Tuesday. This is the third attempt in a decade by the state to introduce legislation to provide quota benefits for the Maratha community.

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The bill, Maharashtra State Reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Act 2024, is based on the report of Maharashtra State Commission for Backward Classes (MSCBC), headed by (retired) Justice Sunil Shukre, which conducted a statewide survey on backwardness of Marathas. It submitted its 550-page report last Friday.

An earlier MSCBC panel, headed by retired Justice MG Gaikwad, stated that the Maratha population in Maharashtra stands at 28% and recommended a 16% reservation for the community. Based on those findings, the state passed an act in November 2018, granting 16% reservation to Marathas. However, the Supreme Court struck down in law in May 2021, deeming it as violative of the Indira Sawhney judgment of 1991.

A government official explained the differences between the findings of the Justice Shukre panel and the 2018 Gaikwad study thus: “The survey has been thorough, covering over 25 million households, unlike just 45,000 households by the Gaikwad Commission in 2018. SC had questioned the report at the time, stating it failed to prove the backwardness of the community. The percentage of community members in government jobs was calculated against the open category percent of 48% instead of 100%.

As things stand, reservation in the state is 52%. This breaks down as: 13% for Scheduled Castes, 7% for Scheduled Tribes, 19% for OBCs, 2% for Special Backward Classes, 3% for Vimukta Jati, 2.5% for Nomadic Tribe (B), 3.5% for Nomadic Tribe (C) Dhangar, and 2% for Nomadic Tribe (D) Vanjari. Additionally, there is a separate 10% EWS quota applicable to the non-reserved section of the population, regardless of caste and religion, with an annual income limit of 8 lakh.

With the proposed Maratha reservation, the state’s overall quota percentage goes up to 62%. With the 10% economically backward section (EWS) quota introduced by the Centre in 2019, the entire reservation goes to 72%. “Maharashtra is not the only state to have above 60% reservation. Apart from Tamil Nadu which has 69%, there is 67% in Haryana, 69% in Bihar and 59% in Gujarat. 22 have more than 50%,” chief minister Eknath Shinde said in the assembly.

Maharashtra’s tally grates against the Indira Sawhney V Union Government ruling of 1992 (also known as the Mandal verdict), which upheld earlier rulings in MR Balaji V State of Mysore (1963), capping reservation at 50% in vertical quotas. The court also held this restriction as binding barring “exceptional circumstances”.

The Maharashtra government made its case to introduce 10% reservation for Marathas claiming the community faces “exceptional and extraordinary” circumstances of backwardness. The state also invoked Tamil Nadu’s example, where reservation stands at 69%. The southern state increased quota structure from 41% to 49% in 1971. This went up to 68% in 1980 and 69% in 1990. The arguments presented were broadly consonant with the political discourse now - exceptional circumstances, creation of sub-divisions in existing social strata, and welfare and advancement of backward classes.

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