The Special Committee that was assigned the turbulent task of studying the characteristics of the Maratha Community in Maharashtra finally came up with their report. They have stated that the Maratha Community is largely socially and educationally backward in the state. It also concluded that the community is eligible for reservation. The Commission appointed consists of a number of experts from a number of fields and was headed by the retired Bombay High Court Judge.
Marathas have demanded reservation in job-related and educational institutions in the state for a very long time. Last year, the state saw some of the largest mobilizations of the people of the community in Bombay. The resilience and the conviction shown by the community in peacefully putting forward their demands and needs have finally met with success. Marathas shall be included in a separately formed group known as the ‘Socially and Educationally Backward Class’ (SEBC). Almost 16% of reservation has been given to them in job and education, only within the state jurisdiction. Marathas constitute almost 32% of the total population of the state. Out of these, around 25% of the Marathas living in the state have been found to be backward in social and educational terms. So, they are the rightful recipients of the reservation system.
A separate column has been made because the Maratha community could not be accommodated either in the Schedules Castes or Tribes or the Other Backward Classes that was formed after the Mandal Commission in 1989. This shows that the community does not fit with the requirements of the existing commissions and therefore, a new commission had to be constituted in order to accommodate them. The new commission made stresses on social and educational backwardness. If we were to look at this term, Marathas are not socially backward. Marathas have a very high social status in the state and have been one of the most important and dominant communities in the socio-political setting of the state. When a community is said to be socially backward, it means that the community has been dominated over by the castes lying in the upper-strata. In the caste system, only the Brahmans situate over the Marathas. However, the Brahmans have never really practiced any kind of exploitative ritual over the Marathas. The Marathas are one of the socially respected classes in the state.
The other important term in the Commission is educationally backward. This can be claimed to be plausible. The community was politically active until the rule of Shivaji Maharaj and then the Peshwa Empire. However, as the state was being taken over by the British and monarchy as a way of life decreasing, the Marathas who owned huge stretches of land turned to agriculture. Thus, a major chunk of the Marathas, especially those residing in the rural pockets became farmers.
Agriculture in Maharashtra has not been very fruitful. This has taken a serious hit on the livelihood of the Marathas. Thus, it was not bringing a good source of income for the farmer but they were getting buried more and more with losses and debts. They have remained deprived of opportunities as their families were stuck doing agricultural activities for decades. Thus, not the ‘educational’, but the ‘social’ backwardness of the community still remains a dilemma and a contentious issue.
Another major policy issue that the state must address before implementing the Commission is the filtering of the actual deserving recipients of positive affirmation. As mentioned earlier, it is only 25% of the 32% population of the Marathas living in the state are socially and educationally backward. Therefore, they should be the rightful recipients of reservation. Almost 99% of these are the farmers by professions. A major chunk of these reside in the rural pockets of the state. Although there might be Marathas falling in this category that live in the urban cities like Mumbai, Thane and Pune, they usually have a family or extended family in the village. Their purpose of migrating to the cities is for employment. This group of people should also not get neglected.
Finally, if I was to give some suggestions to this move made by the government, a better way of going about this would have been to introduce positive affirmation for the farmers as a community and not the Marathas. This would have given the state the opportunity of including all those farmers who are equally hit but belong to some other caste. However, politics is blinded by caste and religion in this country. Any political party will look at the policy of appeasing a caste-bound community even in its welfare measure. The move to introduce reservation for Marathas has also come just a year before the state of Maharashtra goes to polls again. This has been a carefully crafted and deliberate move by the government, or rather the political parties. Nevertheless, if the policy is implemented properly and all the anomalies removed, and if it is able to benefit the 25% of the Maratha population, we can consider it to be success.
Picture Credits : dnaindia