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  • 2 quit Maharashtra panel: ‘Govt wants us to gather data to back Maratha quota’ | Mumbai News

2 quit Maharashtra panel: ‘Govt wants us to gather data to back Maratha quota’ | Mumbai News

IN WHAT HAS triggered resignations in the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission, a quasi-judicial authority, the Eknath Shinde-led government has asked it to “ascertain existence of exceptional circumstances and or extraordinary situations in the context of Maratha community justifying exceeding of the limit of 50% reservation as laid down in the judgements of the Supreme Court.”

The Terms of Reference, appended to a letter by Shinde to MSBCC Chairman, on November 13 , is being interpreted by some members of the Commission as almost asking it to obtain data to justify quota for the Maratha community. Two of its nine members resigned in just the last week, one more said he was contemplating resignation — all of them complaining of “growing interference”.

One member, Balaji Killarikar, who resigned recently, cited the “biased” and “agenda-driven” functioning of the panel. Laxman Hake, who too stepped down, pointed towards the growing “interference” from the government as the reason for his  resignation. Another member, Justice (retired) Chandralal Meshram told The Indian Express he was also contemplating resignation. “We are not government servants. We are not supposed to work based on government orders. I have yet not made a decision, but yes, I am thinking about resigning. I will discuss with some seniors and take a call in the next two-three days,” he said.

A fourth member, who did not wish to be named, told The Indian Express that in the December 1 meeting of the commission, the dissenting members disapproved collection of data only on Marathas, and instead pushed for collecting data of all communities. “The government wants a report from the Commission on a pre-decided assumption that Marathas are backward. This is an independent commission, which will collect and analyse the data and only then a conclusion on the backwardness of the community will be drawn. How can the government ask the commission to give data to include a particular community into backward classes?” the member said.

The ToR also asked the panel to “collect fresh quantifiable and other data and information and also scrutinize and inspect the data and information collected in the past…for determining the social and educational backwardness of Maratha community and their inclusion in the last of backward classes, by applying the criteria and parameters determined as above”.

Festive offer

In this context, the fourth member also pointed out that the earlier report of the commission under Justice (Retired) M G Gaikwad on the backwardness of the Maratha community was not accepted by the apex court. “It isn’t fair on the government’s part now to dictate to us what they want to hear,” he said.

In his letter to the Chairman of the Commission dated November 13, Chief Minister Shinde requested the panel to examine the request  for inclusion of the Maratha community as a backward class. Attached to his letter, the detailed 10-point Terms of Reference require the panel to determine the criteria and parameters to ascertain social, educational and economic, backwardness and to define exceptional circumstances and or extraordinary situations to be applied for reservation benefits.

The protests led by Manoj Jarange Patil for Maratha reservation and the relentless pressure on the government from the community had forced it to entrust the task afresh to MSBCC. But another member of the commission said the state only sought the commission’s stamp to cross the 50% reservation mark. He was referring to the situation that has arisen after the five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court had in May 2021 struck down Maratha reservation for having breached the 50% ceiling as specified in the Indra Sawhney judgement in 1992.

In his resignation letter, Killarikar said that “to resolve the situation, it is better to have a comprehensive caste-based socio-economic survey of Maharashtra state which will enable every section of society to realise their own socio-economic status”. He also said that Maratha and backward classes need to be informed honestly, with authentic and reliable information, apart from vote politics, as regards to their claim of reservation and other similar demands.

The Opposition parties in the state have been constantly demanding the state government to work with the Centre for raising the reservation ceiling above 50%. With BJP at the Centre, and in alliance with the NCP (Ajit Pawar faction) and Shiv Sena (Shinde faction) in Maharashtra, the state government has, for the first time, expressed willingness to jointly work with the Centre for granting reservation to Marathas.

Deputy Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Devendra Fadnavis had, in the past, said the government will study the Bihar caste survey procedure. But no one from the government talked about raising the 50% reservation ceiling.

The Maratha agitation in Maharashtra led by social activist Manoj Jarange Patil forced the state government to speed up the process of granting OBC certificates to Marathas. It has led to protests from OBCs who have warned of agitation if their share of reservation is reduced. The state government’s curative petition in the Supreme Court regarding Marathas reservation is pending and it needs the data on backwardness of Marathas in the state from the commission.

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