Maratha Reservation Issue

Context

  • The Bombay High Court has upheld the constitutional validity of reservation for the Maratha community in education and government jobs in Maharashtra, but directed that it be slashed from the present 16 per cent to 12 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.

Details about the issue

  • The Maharashtra government has accepted the State Backward Class Commission’s report and decided to give quota in jobs, and educational institutes to the Maratha community, Chief Minister said.
  • The reservation will be granted to the community under a new category called ‘Socially and Educationally Backward Class’ (SEBC) as per the recommendation of the commission, he said.
  • The politically dominant Maratha community constitutes over 30 per cent of the state’s population.
  • The state cabinet has accepted the backward class commission’s report for Maratha reservation.

Maratha dynasties

  • Most Marathas are Marathi-speaking but not all Marathi-speaking people are Marathas.
  • The Maratha conquests in Western, North, and South India in the 17th and 18th centuries led to the migration of large sections of the Maratha population into those parts and also established a host of Maratha dynasties across the country.
  • The Gaekwad dynasty which ruled the Baroda princely state, the Scindias (Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia is a direct descendant), and Bhonsles of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, are examples of powerful Maratha dynasties that have settled outside Maharashtra.

Constitutional provision related to reservation

  • Under Article 15 (3) of the Constitution, any special provision may be made for women and children belonging to all social groups transcending caste, religion etc., for their advancement and welfarein all fields.
  • Under Article 15 (4), special provisions may be made for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward class and for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. The “advancement” meant here is again in any field. This sub-clause (4) of Article 15 was inserted by an amendment in 1951.
  • Article 16 (4) permits the state to make any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class, which, in the opinion of the state, is not adequately represented in the services under it.
  • The expression “backward class” in this sub-clause is interpreted by the Supreme Court to mean “socially and educationally backward” as is specifically mentioned in the sub-clause (4) added later to Article 15.
  • Article 46 directs the state to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the “weaker sections of the people”, particularly of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes and also directs the state “to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation”.
  • Article 335 states that the claims of the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration in the making of appointments to the services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union and of a State.

Need of the hour:

  • The government will have to expand the economic aspect and create fresh opportunities so that people, especially young people, who leave agriculture are absorbed in non-farm sectors.
  • It is time that India made a critical assessment of its affirmative action programmes.
  • The government should consider the economic, political and social wellbeing of the community and make a balanced decision.
  • Problems of these castes should be addressed through government schemes and programmes.
  • Progressive steps should be taken to ensure that poorer section among the backward communities get the benefit of reservation system.
  • The policy of reservation should be gradually phased out after it serves its purpose.