Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Explained: Maratha quota — the agitation, the politics


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Indra Sawhney Judgment

Mains level: Quota debate

The Supreme Court has referred to a Constitution Bench the question of whether states can exceed the 50% limit on quotas that were set by a nine-judge Bench in the landmark Indra Sawhney vs Union of India (1992) case.

Practice question for mains:

Q.The quota policy for OBCs needs an urgent revisit. Comment.

Marathas and their ‘backwardness’

  • The Marathas are a politically dominant community who make up 32% of Maharashtra’s population.
  • They have historically been identified as a ‘warrior’ caste with large landholdings. Eleven of the state’s 19 chief ministers so far have been Marathas.
  • While the division of land and agrarian problems over the years have led to a decline of prosperity among middle- and lower-middle-class Marathas, the community still plays an important role in the rural economy.
  • The discontent in the community was a spillover into protests and unrest until the quota was announced.
  • The second phase of the protest saw a spate of suicides. The backward Marathwada region was the worst affected by the protests.

What was the case?

  • A Bench of the SC heard a batch of petitions challenging reservations for Marathas in education and jobs in Maharashtra.
  • The petitions appealed a 2019 Bombay High Court decision that upheld the constitutional validity of the Maratha quota under the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, 2018.
  • The Bench also heard a petition challenging admission to postgraduate medical and dental courses under the quota in the state.

Earlier Bombay HC ruling

  • The Bombay HC ruled last year that the 16% quota granted by the state was not “justifiable”, and reduced it to 12% in education and 13% in government jobs, as recommended by the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission (MSBCC).
  • The Bench ruled that the limit of the reservation should not exceed 50%.
  • However, in exceptional circumstances and extraordinary situations, this limit can be crossed subject to availability of quantifiable and contemporaneous data reflecting backwardness, the inadequacy of representation and without affecting the efficiency in administration.
  • The court relied heavily on the findings of the 11-member MSBCC, which submitted in November 2018 that the Maratha community is socially, economically and educationally backwards.

Existing reservation

  • Following the 2001 State Reservation Act, the total reservation in Maharashtra was 52%: SCs (13%), STs (7%), OBCs (19%), Special Backward Class (2%), Vimukta Jati (3%), Nomadic Tribe B (2.5%), Nomadic Tribe C (3.5%) and Nomadic Tribe D (2%).
  • The quotas for Nomadic Tribes and Special Backward Classes have been carved out of the total OBC quota.
  • With the addition of 12-13% Maratha quota, the total reservation in the state went up to 64-65%.
  • The 10% quota for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) announced by the Centre last year is also effective in the state.

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