By Nimesh Bansal
The Mumbai traffic can be a nightmare on most days, but something that scuppers even the dabbawalas‘ exemplary efficiency must have been a mammoth event.
Wearing saffron caps and carrying flags, over 9 lakh protesters marched into Mumbai’s Azad Maidan on the 9th of August. The demonstration was the culmination of a series of 57 protests, dubbed as the Maratha Kranti Morcha. These protests were carried over the past year in Maharashtra. Their agenda has fluctuated with time with the current flagship demand being quota reservation in government jobs and education for the Maratha community.
What is the actual problem?
The community feels the politicians have not done much for them. They believe that the Dalits and Other Backward Castes (OBCs) have made huge advances using quota reservation and preferential treatment, leaving the Marathas behind. The Marathas, comprising 33% of the state’s population fear they are in danger of losing their political, social and economic clout and reservation is the only saviour.
There are, however, roadblocks to this demand. The Supreme Court caps job and college reservation at 50%- a limit Maharashtra has already reached. State governments in the past have, however, made use of a loophole to circumvent the Supreme Court order, asking for a reservation on the basis of economic status rather than caste. The previous Congress-led government in Maharashtra too proposed an additional 16% reservation for Marathas citing their economically backward status.
Politicians lend their support
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has expressed his support for the proposal. Fadnavis was quoted as saying, “The High Court has sent the matter to the OBC commission. The state government has asked the commission to submit its report to the high court within the stipulated time so that we can provide reservation benefits to the community.” He added that the Rajarshi Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj scholarship, earlier exclusive to SC/ST students, would now be open to Maratha students.
Only talk, no result?
The Chief Minister remained coy on the group’s demand for government job reservations, promising quotas only in the education sector. The Marathas, however, see this as a vindication of their non-violent and silent march. This might also justify the adage- actions speak louder than words.
It may be a promising start, but the High Court approval is needed before the Marathas can get their wish. The group has now joined the likes of Haryana’s Jats, Gujarat’s Patels, Andhra’s Kapus among others in wanting a slice of the reservation pie. But the Marathas’s peaceful protests may turn out to be the most effective yet.
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