The Bombay High Court stayed then Maharashtra government’s (Congress-NCP) decision to give 16 per cent reservation to Marathas in public services and educational institutions. The HC also stayed state’s decision to provide 5 per cent reservation to Muslims in public services, but allowed them reservation in education. After over 67 years of independence, we are unable to overcome the reservation policy. Before this announcement, Maharashtra had 52 per cent reservation, which had crossed the limit set at 50 per cent by the Supreme Court. With these fresh reservations, the total percentage of reservation in the state has gone up to 73 per cent. A Public Interest Litigation was already filed, claiming that the Marathas are not a poor and backward caste. Marathas are the richest people in Maharashtra, but on the other hand, there seems to be no argument against the 5 per cent reservation for Muslims, because most of the people agree that this community is poor and consist of deprived people. The main controversy erupted over reservation for the Marathas. Just to please Maratha vote bank, this rule was passed by previous government. Marathas are rich, politically powerful and dominant caste in the state. Most powerful politicians in the state belong to the Maratha community. 10 of Maharashtra’s 18 chief ministers have been Marathas including the first CM, Yashwantrao Chavan.
Since the birth of Maharashtra in 1960, a majority of legislators belong to the Maratha community. The community also controls educational institutions, developmental boards and 168 out of the 200 sugar cooperatives in the state. It is no surprise then that people tend to believe it is a rich and powerful community which does not need any reservation. The tragedy of this community is that only 137 Maratha families are the dominant players in state politics. The disparity is so wide, that the rest of the Maratha community isn’t rich or powerful. The reason is that, there are 96 clans and most are backward and poor. The Kunbis, known as poor tillers, form a large part of this community. The problem within the Marathas is that Maratha politicians have failed to uplift their community. They failed to deliver for the community and most of all them are poorest in the mainstream. As a result, Maratha politicians encounter growing bitterness and want to appease their community by announcing reservation in employment and education. The politicians have in a hurry ignored the most pertinent issues. It is clear that the social stratification and economic distress faced by the Marathas engaged in agriculture is unlikely to be meaningfully addressed merely by demanding OBC status for the community. We can’t forget that Maharashtra is primarily an agricultural economy. Many agricultural peasants and small-time farmers have been reduced to labourers. There are many Marathas among them. Even Brahmins in Maharashtra are living an average life, but no one has so far thought of giving them reservation or considerations, as they are the actual minorities.
On June 25th this year, the state cabinet approved a proposal to provide them reservation. Then there was a dispute on whether or not to issue a government order or promulgate an ordinance to provide for the quota. The proposal for providing reservation to Marathas and Muslims gathered dust in the corridors of power for well over a year. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons that the Congress-NCP nominees were defeated in the Lok Sabha polls by a huge margin.
It is a really good decision by the court. Political parties are dividing the people on such useless issues. What was the need to declare reservation? Basically, reservation should not be there for general people. Let the new generation come with their own charisma instead on depending upon such tactics. By offering such quotas, the Government wants to gain cheap popularity but at the same time the candidates, instead of competing, takes undue priviledge which is not good for the youngsters. No Government should try to offer such quotas. There has been some limit to populism. Politicians can go to any limit to get votes. Reservation is a magic formula for this purpose. Everybody wants ‘shortcuts’ through reservation and nobody pleads for merit or efficiency. Making it a country of intellectual pygmies! Who cares?