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Rising Demand for Reservation by Dominant Castes
Aug 22, 2017

[GS Paper I: (Social empowerment, Poverty and Development issues)]

Why in News?

On August 10, the Maharashtra government extended educational concessions presently given under the Rajarshi Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj Fee Reimbursement Scheme to the Maratha community.

Background 

  • The Maratha community has been demanding reservation in education and employment and organising silent protests called the ‘muk-morcha’ across the state since August 2016. 
  • The Marathas account for over 32% of the state’s population and dominate the socio-political milieu of rural Maharashtra with the majority involved in agriculture. 
  • Years of low returns from farming, coupled with fractured landholdings and inadequate non-farm incomes have made agriculture an increasingly unsustainable profession.
  • The miniscule representation of Marathas in government and private sector jobs has further added to the feeling of impoverishment in the community. 

Similar demands by other communities

  • There has been a rise in demands for reservation by other castes across the country – the Patel-Patidars in Gujarat, the Jats in Haryana, the Gujjars in Rajasthan, and the Kapus in Andhra Pradesh.

Why the rising demands for reservation?

  • These erstwhile dominant castes are losing influence in agrarian society due to fragmentation of landholding which has lowered their agricultural income. 
  • At the same time, caste groups having reservation have gained from government jobs which have become lucrative due to high pay and job security. 
  • In Indian Society, caste is intertwined with class. Thus caste based reservation offers hope to these classes who are lagging behind in terms of financial status. 
  • The demand for OBC status has also been inflamed by political backing to such demands to gain votes in elections.

Way Forward 

  • Reservation cannot be a panacea to address existing inequalities in society. 
  • Enough job creation, enabling infrastructure and long-pending agrarian reforms like mechanisation of farm activities, consolidation of land-holdings must be undertaken to address the fundamental issues behind such demands for reservation.
  • Other measures such as incentivising start-ups in backward regions, providing more agricultural credit to marginal farmers and promoting skill development among unemployed youths in these communities, can be ways of addressing the issue. 
  • Also, as per the recommendation of National Commission of Backward Commission (NCBCs), a periodic review of existing communities in OBC list must be done to make inclusions/exclusions with changing times.


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