With just two days for the winter session of the state legislature to end, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government in Maharashtra is racing against time to finalise the percentage reservation to be accorded to Marathas. The community has demanded a 16% reservation in jobs and education.
A senior minister, who did not wish to be named, said the government is looking at three options – 12, 14 and 16%.
“The final decision on the quantum of the quota will be taken tomorrow [Thursday] morning,” the minister said.
“If not 16%, we want to fix it at 14%. There are inherent problems in justifying quota in the absence of caste census.” Currently, reservations in Maharashtra add up to 52%, which is more than the Supreme Court-mandated cap of 50%.
The minister said the government is taking into consideration opinion of legal experts, who have suggested fixing the quota at less than 16% to make it “legally more sound”.
The state agreed to the quota demand after the Maharashtra State Backward Classes Commission’s report endorsed the Maratha community’s social, educational and financial backwardness.
“The commission has not recommended quantum of quota. The question is how to justify 16%, as the population estimate of Marathas being around 32% is dated and not verified,” said a senior government official, on the condition of anonymity.
“Further, nearly half of the Marathas come under the category of kunbis (a sub-caste) and already get reservation under Other Backward Classes (OBC) quota,” the minister said.
“If we clear 16 per cent reservation, there will be demands from other groups such as the OBCs to increase their quota on the basis of their population. So, we need to deliberate on this and find a sound basis.”
Delay over the decision, however, meant the government could not table the Action Taken Report (ATR) on the commission’s report on Wednesday.
“The ATR has been finalised in the meeting of the sub-committee late on Wednesday. It will be tabled in the Assembly tomorrow [Thursday],” said Girish Mahajan, BJP minister and member of the cabinet sub-committee.
Another member of the sub-committee and Shiv Sena minister Eknath Shinde said the percentage of the reservation will be finalised in the meeting to be held on Thursday morning. “We have finalised the final draft of the bill prepared by rounds of consultations with legal experts. The percentage of the reservation will be decided in the meeting tomorrow,” he said.
The government had sought opinion from legal experts as well as state’s advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhkoni on the legal aspects of the quota, as it could prove to be legally untenable and pose the biggest hurdle for the new law.
The cabinet sub-committee headed by revenue minister Chandrakant Patil met twice on Wednesday to finalise the draft of the bill. After consulting legal experts on its panel, officials from the law and judiciary department held meetings with Kumbhakoni again, after it found a few technical glitches in it. The government is expected to run the final draft past the experts again before the proposal is brought before the cabinet for nod on Thursday.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had earlier announced that Marathas should celebrate the reservation on December 1, a day after the winter session concludes.
Meanwhile, various organisations representing the OBCs have given a call for a protest at Azad Maidan on Thursday. The organisations have expressed fear of “encroachment on their reservation” owing to the inclusion of Marathas in SEBC.
First Published: Nov 29, 2018 01:05 IST
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