Maratha Reservation: A Critical Analysis

The Bombay High Court on the basis of a report submitted by the Maharashtra State Backward Classes Commission has upheld the Maharashtra government’s decision to extend reservation in education and employment to the Maratha community. But it reduced the proposed quota from 16 per cent to 12 per cent in education and 13 per cent in government jobs.

Possible Impacts of the Judgement

  • The reservation to Maratha Community takes the quantum of reservation in the state of Maharashtra to cross the cap of 50 per cent set by Supreme Court in the case of Indra Sawhney. This is bound to be challenged in the Supreme Court.
  • The verdict may again renew the demand across the country. Communities such as Patidars in Gujarat, Jats in Haryana and Kapus in Andhra Pradesh have been demanding quotas on the basis of claims similar to those of the Marathas. State governments would be forced to reconsider their demands afresh.
  • The numerically strong, socially dominant and politically powerful intermediate castes can now push for reservations to forward their economic interests. They may threaten the government with consequences if their demands are not upheld.

The political mobilization was a large contributing factor for the Maharashtra government to give in to the demands. This is against the constitutionally-mandated policy and purpose of caste reservation, anchored by a moral argument for fair representation of historically marginalised castes and communities in educational institutions and the bureaucracy.

The reservations were introduced to provide more equitable access to scarce resources in education and employment. Of late it is said that Reservation has proved to be one of the ineffective strategies in providing social equality, justice and opportunity.

Why the Marathas were Adamant?

  • Marathas are a predominantly agricultural community which benefited significantly from the Green and White Revolutions. But the structural transformation of the Indian economy, especially the declining importance of agriculture and water shortages affecting productivity. This has made the once economically dominant community increasingly vulnerable.
  • Further lack of opportunities for good education and employment has led to the anxieties.
  • As a result, Marathas were ill-prepared to shift towards urban, formal sector livelihood opportunities.
  • Reservations were seen as a tool to address these anxieties.

Why Reservation was said to be ineffective u addressing its stated objectives?

  • Due to the lack of educational and employment opportunities reservations instead of reducing caste discrimination has unintentionally sucked out hope. Those who benefit from it and those who do not, everyone feels cheated. As a result, Indians remain bound to each other in mutual contempt in the name of caste.
  • Further, those who break the ceiling and enter portals through reservations continue to suffer from low self-esteem, and, problems of asserting themselves in public life. The inequalities, indignities and unfairness are being replicated. The suicide case of Payal Tadvi a young doctor from the backward community in Maharashtra is a classic example of this.
  • Further Reservations are now being seen as a tool of economic empowerment rather than social empowerment. The recent instance of providing reservations to Marathas for the economic crisis shows the reservation idea as envisioned by the constitution-makers has been derailed.

It is also said that rather than creating more opportunities for everyone reservations are just serving the interests of few empowered sections among backward communities. Hence reservations have failed to succeed in driving India towards becoming a more equitable society.


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